Come in person but if you can’t watch the livestream here.
The Katie Halper Show Live has been called the best thing ever in the history of Wednesday-night Brooklyn talk shows in front of an intergenerational audience. Every first Wednesday of the month, Halper, her co-host Gabe Pacheco, and engineer in chief Reggie Johnson bring you an audience version of their show. This month’s show features journalist Rania Khalek, associate editor at The Electronic Intifada and co-host of the weekly podcast Unauthorized Disclosure, as well as Felix Biederman and Will Menaker from Chapo Trap House, which some call a podcast, but I call a movememnt. Laugh, Learn, think, get woke, check your priv, fall in love, whatevs, over drinks and food at the lovely Brooklyn Commons Cafe. It’s totally free!
Call me sentimental but I’m a sucker for anniversaries. Take, for example, May 23 2008, when then Senator Hillary Clinton was asked if she was going to drop out of the primary race, given the Senator Barack Obama’s lead in delegates. During an interview with the editorial board of the South Dakota newspaper The Argus Leader Clinton expressed frustration with the way she was being pressured to suspend her campaign. I should add that I don’t find this part of her response inappropriate:
I don’t know I don’t know I find it curious because it is unprecedented in history. I don’t understand it and between my opponent and his camp and some in the media, there has been this urgency to end this and you know historically that makes no sense, so I find it a bit of a mystery.
But things took a turn for the worse when the editorial board asked, “You don’t buy the party unity argument?” to which she responded:
I don’t, because again, I’ve been around long enough. You know my husband did not wrap up the nomination in 1992 until he won the California primary somewhere around the middle of June. We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California. Um you know I just I don’t understand it. There’s lots of speculation about why it is.
Now this may seem like a Joycean or Woolfean stream of consciousness. But buried in it is the following argument:
First of all, I’m not gonna drop out now because it’s May and my husband Bill Clinton didn’t secure the nomination until June in California. Speaking of June and California, by gosh, dontcha know, it was that very month and in that very state when then Senator Robert F. Kennedy and Democratic presidential candidate was shot and killed. So, let’s be honest, my opponent could be taken out any second. And I have to be ready to go to the convention so I can defeat the Republican nominee. It’s really the patriotic thing to do. You’re welcome.
I’m not a presidential historian, but I think it’s safe to say that this was an unprecedented use of the potentially-looming-assassination-of-your-opponent-to-justify-staying-in-a-race. While innovative and trailblazing, murdered-Kennedy-dropping is impolite. It’s impolitic. It’s bad etiquette. It’s the presidential equivalent of wearing white after Labor Day or to another woman’s wedding. Except, I would argue, it’s way worse in that instead of violating a dress code, it exploits the national tragedy that was the murder of Senator Robert Kennedy.
As I was scrolling through Twitter on Wednesday night, I came across a curious statement from Roseanne Barr.
Now, I knew that Roseanne Barr, the funny, often smart and often liberal comedian, actor and star of the TV show Roseanne had what I would characterize as extremist, hawkish and not very nuanced or rational views on Israel. It’s funny because Barr was once extremely critical of Zionism and Islamophobia. I thought she was a PEP, or Progressive Except on Palestine, who blindly supported Israeli policies.
I didn’t know she was in the business of diagnosing Jews.
So, I responded by pointing out that several very Jewy Jews were secular, i.e. not religious, and would not, presumably, have physical reactions to hearing Sacred Words. Some of these Jews are Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, Baruch Spinoza, the influential rationalist 17th century Dutch philosopher, and Theodor Herzl, the Austro-Hungarian journalist considered to be the founder of modern political Zionism.
After Hillary Clinton won four out five states Bernie Sanders released the following statement:
The people in every state in this country should have the right to determine who they want as president and what the agenda of the Democratic Party should be. That’s why we are in this race until the last vote is cast. That is why this campaign is going to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia with as many delegates as possible to fight for a progressive party platform that calls for a $15 an hour minimum wage, an end to our disastrous trade policies, a Medicare-for-all health care system, breaking up Wall Street financial institutions, ending fracking in our country, making public colleges and universities tuition free and passing a carbon tax so we can effectively address the planetary crisis of climate change.
Call me crazy, but if I had to boil this down into a nugget of a take away, I’d say something like, “Sanders vows to stay in the race!” or “Sanders will campaign all the way to the Convention,” or “Sanders will push progressive values and platforms.”
But that’s not the dominant narrative among pundits or headlines.
“It is fair to say that this Democratic contest is effectively over.” – Rachel Maddow on MSNBC
[something similar to what Maddow said that I can’t remember but saw and it was the same idea.] – Lawrence O’Donnell.
“Bernie Sanders’ campaign just dropped a major hint that the race is over.” – Headline, by Matt Yglesias at Vox.
“Bernie statement admits he’s no longer in this to get the nomination.” – Molly Ball, Atlantic political writer, on Twitter.
“Bernie Sanders Surrenders Nomination Fight While Congratulating Clinton On Primary Wins.” –Politics USAheadline.
“Bernie Sanders Campaign Just Conceded Nomination Fight, Congratulates Clinton” – Liberal America headline.
“Bernie Sanders Shifts Focus From Nomination to Influencing Presidential Race.” The Wrap, headline.
Maybe Sanders is reprioritizing. But that’s kind of not the point. The point is what much of mainstream media chooses to prioritize through its framing and coverage. Why, for instance, if Sanders explicitly states that he will stay in the race until the Convention, are the headlines and hot takes focusing on something that is speculative. The media too often deliver speculation as prophecy, declaring some candidates certain comers and others clearly doomed. Sanders has surpassed their predictions and the public expectations they instilled.
The media should at least pretend they aren’t invested in showing Sanders as a lost cause. And they should pretend to be interested in reporting on what Sanders is actually saying. They can posit that Sanders, by not mentioning a victory strategy, really has chosen to stay in the race to push the Democratic Party to be more progressive. But shouldn’t they start by reporting what they actually know? And then decode its significance? Don’t skip over the newsworthy story, which is that Sanders is going to keep on keeping on.
“Who the heck is this curmudgeon?” wondered David Sillen, 72, of Middletown, New Jersey. A semi-retired creative director, Sillen stumbled across an article about “this guy who’s complaining about everything.” When he looked at the man’s photo, he said, “Oh my god, It’s Bernie. It ain’t nobody but Bernie.” Sillen realized the curmudgeon was his former neighbor, schoolyard buddy, school and Hebrew School class mate. The two of them would walk to the James Madison High School in Midwood, Brooklyn, every day.
David also realized, “It wasn’t about being a curmudgeon. It was about Bernie being so passionate about his feelings. And I sat back and said, you know, the guy’s right. He’s really right about this stuff.”
But back to the early days.
Bernie the Athlete: Sillen and Sanders played sports together and he’s still impressed by Bernie’s athletic abilities. Sanders was the captain of the track and cross country teams and, recalls Sillen, “one of the best distance runners in the city. He was more of a guy who led by example… before a meet he didn’t get us all together and give us rah rah talks. Nobody practiced harder than Bernie. Nobody tried harder than Bernie when we were in meets. And most of the time he came in first.” He was also a very good “school yard athlete,” who played “stick ball and punch ball and slap ball and ringolevio.” Sanders was “a good school yard basketball player. He was a very tough rebounder. He was skinny and had long arms.”
Bernie the Mensch: Sillen said, “When I say he was a regular guy he was a regular guy. He was a mensch.” And, unlike others who have made it and left their menschitude behind, Bernie has stayed mensch: “If you were born Jewish and in Brooklyn it was in your DNA to be a Democrat and liberal. A lot of the guys we grew up with who became ultra-successful and ultra-rich — I’m sure left that behind. But Bernie took it to the nth degree, I guess. A lot of us are still liberal Democrats and we support him wholeheartedly.”
Bernie the schoolgirl crush: Given that Bernie was such a mensch and such a great athlete, it should come as no surprise that he was considered a catch. “As a matter of fact we had our 50th high school reunion and when he started running for president we started getting all kinds of emails and texts from girls admitting that had crushes on him.” And why not? “He was a good looking guy. Not vain in the slightest… He was a good student… He was a little on the shy side.”
You can hear the entire interview with David Sillens at Talk Bernie to Me, the new podcast from Babes for Bernie.
You may have seen this “On Becoming Anti-Bernie” piece, which is going around the internets. It’s one of the top three most popular posts on Medium’s politics section, has 1.4k likes, and over 600 comments. But who is the author? Robin Alperstein? She’s a corporate lawyer who specializes in defending hedge funds but also represents the occasional nanny-abusing, jet-setting, Chilean aristocratic Upper East Side couple.
Lest you think I’m bringing up Alperstein’s biography because I can’t rebut the substance of her argument, I’ll go through a mere sampling of its flaws.
Let’s start with one of her bald-faced lies. Alperstein writes that Sanders, “literally pushed his wife away from a lectern (‘don’t stand there!’) on the air.” Actually, Bernie gestured. He never touched her. And there is video. So Alperstein either didn’t watch it (is “lazy and unprepared,” which are literally the words she uses to describe Sanders) or she’s a liar.
Also, as a Clinton supporter, does Alperstein really want to make this election about the relationship between the candidate and his or her spouse. By all means, as a Bernie supporter, I’d be happy to.
But the piece is generally chock full of distortions and myths that persist despite lack of evidence: Sanders hasn’t accomplished anything (which is weird because he has and his nickname is the Amendment King); he never compromises (which is even weirder since Alperstein points to examples of compromise in the same piece); has no foreign policy experience (he has more foreign policy experience than Ronald Reagan or Barack Obama did when they ran for first election, was right on Iraq. And Clinton was wrong on Iraq, but to be fair, her being wrong shouldn’t be limited to that one incident. She’s also been wrong on Libya, Haiti and Honduras, where she legitimized a coup that has rendered the country the “murder capital of the world.”)
The piece also uses glaring double standards. It smears Sanders as “lazy,” while attacking Sanders for his tone. I guess she’s showing instead of telling. So, well played Alperstein. It attacks Sanders on his temperament, which is so important, it has its own “temperament” subsection: “Sanders is crotchety,” Alperstein writes. And, when questioned, he apparently becomes, “testy and sarcastic.” If temperament is fair game, that’s great news for Sanders supporters. Because we can now talk about Hillary’s cold yet fake, awkward yet disingenuous demeanor, yes?
Alperstein condescendingly writes that Sanders “doesn’t seem to have an ‘inside voice’.” Shall we talk about the cadence or volume of Clinton’s voice?
Perhaps my favorite critique is that he gets “red-faced.” I won’t dignify this by responding to it beyond saying talking about a candidate’s physical appearance is not a good look.
OK. Now back to Alperstein. Who is she, you ask? Well, she’s a partner at Becker Glynn. And, according to the website, she specializes in
This month’s show features guests who shatter the myth of the Bernie Bro, the alleged white male millennials, living in their parents’ basements, harassing women online and supporting Bernie Sanders. Leslie Lee, a Black writer and teacher was so frustrated with the misrepresentation of Sanders fans and the erasure of his supporters of color, he created the spot on and very funny #BernieMadeMeWhite hashtag, which went viral. Erika Andiola is a dreamer, organizer and she happens to be a National Press Secretary for Bernie Sanders Campaign for President. Jacob Bridge, a VeteranForBernie and conscientious objector who has organized around LGBT rights, is also far from a Bernie Bro. So, come, learn, laugh, nosh and drink at this live and free talk show! livestream here https://livestream.com/thecommons/events/5125512
Wednesday, April 6 at 6:00 p.m. at Brooklyn Commons (388 Atlantic Ave, Brooklyn, New York 11217)
Leslie Lee III is a writer and English teacher from Baton Rouge, LA who lives in Yokahama, Japan with his wife, Kelly, and their dog, Taco. His writing ranges from essays and articles on politics and Japanese wrestling, to the novel he is working on with his father about Kentucky’s Black coal miners. But according to some sources, Lee does not actually exist. He’s a figment of the imagination. Because he’s both Black and a supporter of Bernie Sanders.
The nice thing about the notion of the unbearable whiteness of being a Sanders supporter is that it doesn’t need to be based in reality. On Saturday, for example, CNN attributed Sanders’ landslide victories in Alaska, Hawaii and Washington primaries to the whitey-mcwhiteyness of the states:
These caucus states — largely white and rural — are the type of places Sanders traditionally does well. In order to win the nomination, he must replicate this success in other, more ethnically diverse states that hold primaries, as he did in Michigan last month. In theory, it’s possible. But the reality is tough.
Likewise, in theory, it’s possible to portray these states as white. But the reality is tough. Because they’re not. Washington state is literally the seventh most diverse state in the Nation. Two (if not three) of the five most diverse counties in the country are found in Alaska, which CNN itself described as “the most diverse place in America,” in an article in January. And Hawaii, according the Pew Research Center,
stands out… more than any other state… when it comes to its racial and ethnic diversity… The Rainbow State has never had a white majority. In fact, non-Hispanic whites, the largest group in most states, account for only 23% of the population, according to 2013 census figures.
But you know the old adage, necessity (to correct irresponsible journalism and media bias) is the mother of (viral) invention. And So, Mr. Lee launched his epic #BernieMadeMeWhite hashtag, mocking the idea that all supporters of Sanders are white. Its debut appearance was:
I decided I would ask Mr. Lee, or @tokyovampires as he’s known on Twitter, about what inspired the hashtag, though merely ignoring it and him would have been a very meta demonstration of the very erasure he’s protesting.
He explained, “The common narrative in this election that Bernie has a ‘minority problem’ or that all his supporters are ‘bros’ is pervasive, and insulting to the POCs [People of Color] and women who support [him].” But, “it hit a peak… when Hawaii, the least white state in the nation, retroactively became white or ‘not diverse’ due to the fact that Bernie won it. So, I started #BernieMadeMeWhite.” And, Lee tweeted to me, “since my real existence as a black person who supports Bernie is ignored… might as well embrace my new whiteness.”
Lee was kind enough to answer some more questions over e-mail, probably out of a sense of solidarity, since I’m a female Bernie bro and don’t really exist either.