On Friday evening I read a story on Politico titled “Clinton gives her take on Sanders supporters in leaked fundraising recording.” When I first saw that headline, I cringed — this couldn’t be good.
Then I read the opening paragraph of their article:
Hacked audio of a conversation between Hillary Clinton and donors during a February fundraising event shows the Democrat nominee describing Bernie Sanders supporters as “children of the Great Recession” who are “living in their parents’ basement.”
Already struggling with younger voters, and being that Bernie Sanders did very well with that particular demographic, an audio recording of her belittling them could be catastrophic for her campaign at a time when she seemed to be regaining some of her momentum.
But then I read the rest of what she said, followed by actually listening to the audio clip — and I was completely relieved.
In fact, what she said on this recording actually proves this “Bernie or Bust” movement has been mostly wrong about her the entire time.
“There is a strain of, on the one hand, the kind of populist, nationalist, xenophobic, discriminatory kind of approach that we hear too much of from the Republican candidates,” she said. “And on the other side, there’s just a deep desire to believe that we can have free college, free healthcare, that what we’ve done hasn’t gone far enough, and that we just need to, you know, go as far as, you know, Scandinavia, whatever that means, and half the people don’t know what that means, but it’s something that they deeply feel.”
Now, if all you read was Politico’s opening paragraph and that excerpt, it looks fairly terrible for Clinton, right? Somewhat, yes. It’s important to remember that she never promised free college (just debt-free), free health care (she wants to expand the Affordable Care Act to cover everyone) nor did she run on the pro-Scandinavian talking points Sanders often used. So she’s not really saying anything here that she hasn’t already said about her views on these issues.
Then came this next part where she discussed Sanders supporters directly.
“Some are new to politics completely. They’re children of the Great Recession. And they are living in their parents’ basement,” she said. “They feel they got their education and the jobs that are available to them are not at all what they envisioned for themselves. And they don’t see much of a future.”
At that point, the “living in their parents’ basement” doesn’t seem to sound as bad — but it’s still not a good soundbite. The last part about not seeing “much of a future” is clearly an indicator that there might be more to what she was saying than these anti-Clinton propagandists would want you to believe.
Because what she said next is what matters the most.
“If you’re feeling like you’re consigned to, you know, being a barista, or you know, some other job that doesn’t pay a lot, and doesn’t have some other ladder of opportunity attached to it, then the idea that maybe, just maybe, you could be part of a political revolution is pretty appealing,” Clinton added. “I think we all should be really understanding of that.”
Wait, you mean she wasn’t being dismissive of Sanders supporters in the middle of a heated presidential primary? You mean to tell me that she actually said that folks in her campaign needed to be “understanding” of the reasons why many of those supporting him felt frustrated with the fact that many don’t feel that the opportunities they want are there for them?
Yes — that’s exactly what she was saying. When people are frustrated, being part of something like a “political revolution” is extremely appealing. These “populist movements” (yes, even the one supporting Donald Trump) are often driven by people who are angry and frustrated.
Now, if you want to fixate on the fact she used the generic term of “living in their parent’s basement” (though stats do prove children are living with their parents longer), then you’re hopeless. If you’re going to obsess about a saying people use in a generic sense, instead of focusing on the context of what she was saying, then you’re someone who just wants to dislike her no matter what she says or does.
For months, I had these “Bernie or bust” people (and still get some of them continue to pop up from time to time) tell me she’s fake, disingenuous, she lies, she’s no better than a Republican, she’ll say or do anything to get elected and/or that she’s no better than Donald Trump.
Yet here she was on a recording she might not have even known was being recorded, and most certainly didn’t think would be made public, showing disgust about the “discriminatory kind of approach” being pushed by the GOP; the often unrealistic wants of the far-left based upon the realities of government and the truth about the actual progress we’ve managed to achieve despite constant obstruction from the GOP; and telling her campaign staff that it’s important to understand and empathize with the frustrations felt by many of Sanders’ supporters who feel what they were told their lives would be like growing up aren’t what they’re currently experiencing as young adults.
This wasn’t her giving a speech to impress people, or pander to a crowd (as so many of Bernie’s supporters frequently accused her of doing), this was her being brutally honest during a fairly private moment where she called out the bigoted ignorance driving Republicans and discussed some of the reasons why Sanders supporters feel the way they do — and that it was important for those working for her campaign to understand their frustrations and concerns.
I also think it’s important to mention that this audio was released by the Washington Free Beacon, an ultra right-wing website that’s been trying to pit Sanders supporters against Clinton throughout the 2016 election. Which, of course — benefits Donald Trump.
But as I often say, context matters. And when you get right down to the context of what Hillary Clinton was saying in this recording, it actually proves a lot of these “Bernie or bust” folks wrong about the sincerity of her campaign promises, the progressive policies she wants to bring to this country and her desire to empathize and understand the frustrations of many of the young voters who rallied around Bernie Sanders.
And at a time when the Republican party nominated the most dangerous presidential candidate in modern U.S. history, we cannot allow people to divide liberals by pushing out-of-context propaganda that’s clearly meant to divide the left for the benefit of Donald Trump.