San Francisco Board of Supervisors
San Francisco, CA
Dear Supervisor Campos:
I’ve now heard you say this twice. You said it at the Harvey Milk Memorial March and Vigil on November 27. And you said it at El Rio on Election Night, the night we were all reeling from shock and grief. You’ve said — I’m going to have to paraphrase here — that the reason we lost the Presidential election was that the Democratic Party nominated Hillary Clinton, who was an uninspiring, establishment, Republican-light, business-as-usual candidate.
When you say this, it tells me a few things.
1: You have no idea what it’s like for women participating in political discourse. Millions of women were greatly inspired by Hillary Clinton — and when we spoke about it, we were harassed, trolled, dogpiled on, dumped on with a dumptruck of false accusations, dumped on again with the same accusations every time we said her name, targeted with sexist microaggressions, targeted with openly sexist aggressions and slurs, and harassed some more. Clinton supporters had to form secret groups on Facebook, simply to talk about the fact that we liked our candidate. Millions of women were inspired and enthusiastic about Hillary Clinton — and were silenced. So when you’re analyzing the reasons we lost this election, perhaps you should take that into account. Perhaps you should consider how many people were persuaded not to vote (or to vote third party) by people who insisted that Clinton wasn’t inspiring and the candidates weren’t really different. Perhaps you should consider how many people might have been persuaded to vote for her, and weren’t, because her supporters had to put a lid on their enthusiasm and couldn’t make their case. And when you say Clinton didn’t inspire enthusiasm, that tells me you don’t know how to listen to women. It tells me that because you were personally not inspired by her, because the people in your circle were not inspired by her, therefore nobody was. It tells me that I, a queer woman in your city, am invisible to you.
2: You don’t understand what it’s like for women running for public office. I’m very sorry that you found Hillary Clinton uninspiring. Perhaps you’re not aware of how tightly her emotional expression was policed. And that’s true for any woman in politics: Clinton just got it more because she was running for President. “Smile more! No, not that much. But a little more than that. Would it kill you to laugh? No, not like that, it comes across as derisive. Can’t you be more approachable and friendly? But not too much, when women are too friendly they don’t look like powerful leaders. So look like a powerful leader! But not that much, men find it intimidating. And smile a little more! Maybe just a centimeter.” Hillary Clinton’s emotional expression was critiqued more thoroughly, and more viciously, than anyone I’ve ever seen in public life. And then she was critiqued for being robotic, impersonal, and uninspiring. Of the many sexist critiques of Hillary Clinton, including critiques from the left, this is — well, one of them.
3. You aren’t familiar with Hillary Clinton’s record and platform — or you don’t care about it. When you call her “Republican light,” that tells me you didn’t take ten minutes to look at her campaign website. You didn’t look at her record and planned policy on reproductive rights, global warming, taxing the rich, repealing Citizens United, raising minimum wage, closing tax loopholes on corporations, campaign finance reform, criminal justice reform, education, LGBTQ rights, women’s issues, children’s issues. When you call her “business as usual,” that tells me you have no idea about her extraordinary skills, legendary even among her opponents in DC: her wide-ranging and detailed knowledge of government and policy, her willingness to listen and change her mind, her ability to get things done. Either you don’t know about any of this — which would surprise me, since you’re an elected official in a major U.S. city — or you don’t care about it, and don’t think these skills are important enough to be considered exceptional.
4. You don’t seem to understand that Hillary Clinton won the election. You don’t seem to understand that she won the popular vote, by a considerable amount. You don’t seem to understand that she lost the electoral college, in large part, because of voter suppression; that this was the first Presidential election since the loss of the Voting Rights Act, and it showed up in the results. This surprises me: I know that you must know about voter disenfranchisement, probably even more than I do. But when you insist that Hillary Clinton lost because she wasn’t exciting or progressive enough, that tells me you’d rather grind your personal political axe than focus on the fact that hundreds of thousands of people in swing states wanted to vote for her, and couldn’t.
5. You have no idea about appropriate timing. At El Rio on Election Night, many of us were in deep emotional shock and despair. We were in fear over the world we were facing under Trump — and we were grieving the world we were losing, the world we’d hoped to work for with Hillary Clinton. And you chose that time to tell us that the candidate many of us had fought for, worked for, lost friends and family for, wasn’t someone anyone really cared about, wasn’t worth caring about. You chose that time to grind your political axe. You chose that time to blame the victims — the victims who had busted our asses to keep ourselves, and other people, from being victimized.
I’m told by some of my friends that you’re generally a pretty progressive guy, that you’re mostly a pretty good ally on San Francisco progressive politics. But I can tell you that every time you open your mouth on this subject, it makes me unwilling to support you, or have anything to do with you.