In declaring that Hillary Clinton is “not qualified” to be president and that she would “destroy the Democratic Party to satisfy her ambitions,” Bernie Sanders and his campaign have crossed a dangerous line. (More)

Dear Bernie Sanders,

I get that you are frustrated. Despite your having won seven of the last eight primary or caucus contests, the media continue to treat Hillary Clinton as the near-certain Democratic nominee. But given the delegate math, she is.

You now have 1079 pledged delegates and need 2383 for a majority. To get there, you need 1304 of the remaining 1977 pledged delegates, or roughly 66%. Because all Democratic primaries and caucuses award pledged delegates in proportion to voting results, you must win every remaining primary by an average 66-34 margin to claim a majority of pledged delegates. Indeed Clinton could lose every remaining primary by a 51-49 margin … and still secure a majority of pledged delegates by June 6th.

That calculation – not ‘establishment bias’ – is why the media continue to treat Clinton as the near-certain nominee. She earned that lead, and you should respect her and the voters who cast ballots for her.

Instead, yesterday you declared this:

“Secretary Clinton appears to be getting a little bit nervous,” he told a crowd in Philadelphia. “And she has been saying lately that she thinks that I am ‘not qualified’ to be president. Well, let me, let me just say in response to Secretary Clinton: I don’t believe that she is qualified, if she is, through her super PAC, taking tens of millions of dollars in special interest funds. I don’t think that you are qualified if you get $15 million from Wall Street through your super PAC.”

That declaration begins with a lie. Hillary Clinton never said you were “not qualified” to be president, despite being asked that question three times on MSNBC. Perhaps you mistook the Washington Post’s characterization of her words for what she actually said: that your inability to answer basic policy questions in your New York Daily News – including questions about breaking up big banks, the centerpiece of your campaign – suggests “he hadn’t done his homework.” But you falsely attributed the words “not qualified” to Clinton, saying “quote ‘not qualified’ unquote” in your speech … and that was a lie.

More’s the point, the fact that you and Clinton disagree on a handful of policy questions does not mean she is “not qualified” to be President of the United States … unless you think the litmus test of “qualified” is walking in lockstep with Bernie Sanders. And perhaps you do think that, but so far 2.4 million more Democratic voters have chosen her than have chosen you.

As if your “not qualified” remark were not bad enough, yesterday your campaign manager said this:

“Don’t destroy the Democratic Party to satisfy the secretary’s ambitions to become president of the United States,” Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver told CNN.

Yes, Clinton literally laughed off that remark in an interview later. But both you and Weaver should know how often women who seek leadership positions are criticized for “ambition,” a characteristic that is routinely praised in men, as Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Orange County CEO Melissa Beck explained for the Huffington Post:

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg has stated that as men become more successful, they become more likeable; women are inversely affected by the same success. The more successful we become, the more words like “bossy” and “shrill” get thrown around. Ambition is seen as a selfish trait in a woman, but an admirable one in a man. I know that my “ambition” has definitely been used to describe me in a negative context.

This forces us to be constantly aware of how others perceive us. We need to make sure that we have enough chutzpah to not get left behind, but are simultaneously the girl next door. It is quite a balancing act! Ultimately, it makes us second guess our decisions and undermines our authority. Learn to recognize this kind of talk, and put a stop to it whenever you can.

In a study of why women are under-represented in leadership, University of Exeter professor Michelle Ryan found that political and corporate culture discourage women from ambition:

“If you do surveys and about the proportion of men and women aiming for the top, you can see differences in their levels of ambition,” Ryan told Guardian Australia.

“But they don’t start off that way. We’ve done the surveys for numerous professions, and whether it’s police officers, surgical trainees, or women in science, men and women have absolutely equal levels of ambition and want to make it to top in equal numbers.

“But while men’s ambition increases over time, women’s decreases. My research suggests that this drop is not associated with wanting to have kids, or to stay home and look after them. It’s related to not having support, mentors or role models to make it to the top, and the subtle biases against women that lead to their choices.”

Whatever Jeff Weaver will claim he meant, his “destroy the Democratic Party to satisfy the secretary’s ambitions” remark fit squarely into that gender-biased meme that as a woman Clinton should renounce her ambitions For The Good Of The Party …

… even as you refuse to say whether you will campaign for down-ballot Democrats and have treated Clinton with such contempt that a quarter of your voters – mostly white men – say they will stay home or vote Republican in November rather than vote for Clinton if she is the Democratic nominee.

When this primary campaign began, I said that I supported Hillary Clinton but would happily campaign for you if you were our party’s nominee. Like my colleague, I am a big-D Democrat who believes in small-d democracy … so I would still support your campaign if you win the nomination.

But remarks like yours and Weaver’s yesterday make that increasingly difficult.

So, Sen. Sanders, please study today’s logo photo. It shows you with your mouth shut. Please practice that pose … and use it while you think carefully about what you’re about to say next.




Photo Credit: Craig Lassig (Reuters)


Happy Thursday!