Slurs Betray Bernie’s Progressive Message

Aparna Alankar, Contributing Writer

Paul Song, health-care activist and supporter of the Bernie Sanders campaign, came under fire Wednesday night after he used a slur while speaking at a Sanders campaign rally in Washington Square Park. Song used the phrase “corporate Democratic whore” just seconds after mentioning the former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s name, to national backlash. Clinton’s Communications Director Jennifer Palmieri called on Sanders to disavow the comment. Hundreds took to Twitter to express their own outrage, using hashtags like #DemocraticWhores and #WhoAreYouCallingaWhoreBernie.

Song’s statement was sexist, regressive and at odds with the purported positivity of the Sanders campaign. However, the response to Song’s words represents something more unsettling. The reserved cheers elicited from the rally crowd of nearly 30,000 people, the failure of Sanders and his campaign to immediately denounce the slur and the justifications of the phrase in Song’s public apology all point to an increasingly regressive culture. Though some may masquerade as the vanguards of a liberal revolution, in reality they are invoking schools of thought that attack the concepts of social equality that are central to progressivism. This is not the behavior of liberals and the Sanders campaign should do more to denounce it.

Sanders supporters have too often looked the other way in the face of this kind of behavior. They continue to attack female supporters of Clinton and harass Sanders’s critics, using language similar to Song’s. Last Saturday, a group of 100 Sanders supporters showered Clinton’s motorcade in 1,000 single-dollar bills as the candidate drove to a fundraiser. Howard Gold, organizer of the event, said the protest was a “fun way” to show the absurdities of campaign financing. Many others expressed their own opinions — “people throwing dollar bills as if in a strip club,” said MSNBC’s Joy Ann Reid. It was a poor choice of action after Song’s words on Wednesday, which the Sanders campaign has yet to address.

“Corporate Democratic whore” means something. It implies greed and immorality, but more than anything else, it is tied to gender and women in both politics and the corporate world. Song’s words were about women in Congress, not just anyone in Congress. The implications carried by these types of actions and the support of these types of words are not expected by a campaign on the side of egalitarianism and social equality. A campaign’s supporters do not make the candidate, but every candidate is, on some level, responsible for their supporters. The Sanders campaign should do more to denounce the sexist and misogynistic actions committed in the name of their campaign. Failing to do so only encourages behavior that is dangerous to the progressive and liberal cause.

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Opinions expressed on the editorial pages are not necessarily those of WSN, and our publication of opinions is not an endorsement of them.

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, April 18 print edition. Email Aparna Alankar at [email protected]

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