The Sexist Hexes, the Rural Furor, and Who Really Cares About Guns

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"I can't wait to get off the stage and call my friend here a sexist and a racist!"

“I can’t wait to get off the stage and call my friend here a sexist and a racist!”

At the first Democratic debate, Hillary Clinton went after Bernie Sanders on the issue of gun control, a rare issue on which she is to his left.  In response to her, Sander said:

“As a senator from a rural state, what I can tell Secretary Clinton [is] that all the shouting in the world is not going to do what I would hope all of us want, and that is keep guns out of the hands of people who should not have those guns and end this horrible violence.”

While trying to replace some of the heat in the gun control debate with light, Sanders did argue that both sides should favor initiatives to “strengthen and expand instant background checks, do away with this gun show loophole,” “deal with the straw-man purchasing issue,” and “address the issue of mental health.”

Martin O’Malley, the third remaining Democratic candidate in the race, then also came after Sanders next on the gun issue.  Sanders replied:

“Here is the point, governor. We can raise our voices. But I come from a rural state, and the views on gun control in rural states are different than in urban states, whether we like it or not. Our job is to bring people together around strong, common-sense gun legislation.”

If you haven’t yet heard, a couple of days later Clinton  attacked Sanders’s initial statement above as being sexist — an attack line that was fully honed by the time of the Democratic “Jefferson-Jackson Dinner” held two week ago in Iowa:

“I’ve been told to stop shouting about ending gun violence. Well, I haven’t been shouting. But sometimes, when a woman speaks out, some people think it’s shouting. But I won’t be silenced, and I hope you won’t be either.”

This short statement wrong or misleading on four counts:

  1. Sanders didn’t direct the admonition against “shouting” to her personally — or even to gun control proponents generally.  As he had said in previous speeches, “We have been yelling and screaming at each other about guns for decades,” and “People on both sides of this issue cannot simply continue shouting at each other.”  It’s an even-handed criticism.
  2. She has pretty much been shouting.  That’s not intended as a criticism; Sanders continually shouts when he speaks about issues on which he has passionate beliefs; so do I much of the time.  She shouts when she wants to emphasize something — and she should.
  3. It is true, so far as I can tell, that women are more likely to be perceived as shouting — although the word usually used is “strident” — when they raise their voices in public.  But Sanders isn’t even really talking here about vocal volume.  He’s talking about the sorts of issue positions one takes on gun control: emotional ones that are passionately shouted (on both sides) versus more considered ones that invite negotiation, which tend to be comparatively understated.  Sanders is obviously not opposed to passionate emotional appeals in politics: it’s part of his stock in trade.  But, on gun control his believe is that it simply doesn’t work: both sides just shut there earns to the other when they yell out their devotion to first principles and tend to overlook what ought to be potentially consensus positions on harm reduction.  (In that sense, it’s much like the drug legalization issue — and very much unlike the Wall Street reform issue, where reform advocates like Sanders can barely get their positions across in the media.
  4. No one in Sanders’s camp is telling gun control advocates to shut up.  They’re saying that the first step here and now is to seek common ground.

Well, the last few days have seen a shift in Hillary’s messaging, based on the themes raised in Sanders’s second quote above.  Now, because he’s used the term “urban,” he’s supposedly racist.  Here’s Hillary a week ago telling — or let’s say “implying” — the story:

“There are some who say that this [gun violence] is an urban problem. Sometimes what they mean by that is: It’s a black problem. But it’s not. It’s not black, it’s not urban. It’s a deep, profound challenge to who we are.”

Huh.  Hillary is saying that “rural” means white and “urban” means black.  It’s true that the terms can be used that way — after all, she does only say “sometimes” it’s “what they mean” — but then she goes right ahead and imputes that view to Sanders, effectively calling him a racist.

But while these terms may connote race, they also have a denotation.  They denote difference sorts of living environments: with differing population density; proximity to resources and to “nature”; and frequency, familiarity, and variety of social interaction — including the need for and likely benefit of armed self-defense and the costs that accompany allowing for it.  These differ depending on where one lives — regardless of race.  The notion that Sanders was not talking about these environmental differences, but was just casually going against everything he has done in his political career and deciding to piss on racial minorities, is absurd.

And then yesterday, this video turned up of Hillary Clinton giving a speech the last time she was running for President.  Guess what she had to say then about gun control?

Oops.  It looks like Hillary is as much of a racist as Bernie is when it comes to gun policy.  (As I see it: not at all.)

Honestly, I think that the people convinced that only Continually Evolving Hillary, rather than Steadfast Consistent Bernie, is electable have no idea whatsoever about what politicians look like to those outside of the bubble of those active in party politics.  They will be the ones to lose the Presidency for Democrats — although they’ll easily and entirely convince themselves that it was all Bernie’s fault for fighting back and making Hillary look bad.  That’s the advantage of being part of the “political establishment”: it’s easy to win arguments against those who are excluded from it.

One other thing to note before we leave: one leading candidate — amazingly, the one who’s position is probably further from the Democratic Party base — actually wants to talk about gun control policy!  The other has now changed the subject not once — but twice!  It makes one wonder how much Hillary really does care about gun policy when she is so intent on changing the topic to dishonest attacks on Sanders for non-existent sexism and racism.  If she cares so much about guns — why not debate the policies?

Maybe she was afraid that someone was going to dig up the above video.


About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose attorney, semi-retired due to disability, residing in northwest Brea. Occasionally runs for office against bad people who would otherwise go unopposed. Got 45% of the vote against Bob Huff for State Senate in 2012; Josh Newman then won the seat in 2016. In 2014 became the first attorney to challenge OCDA Tony Rackauckas since 2002; Todd Spitzer then won that seat in 2018. Every time he's run against some rotten incumbent, the *next* person to challenge them wins! He's OK with that. Corrupt party hacks hate him. He's OK with that too. He does advise some local campaigns informally and (so far) without compensation. (If that last bit changes, he will declare the interest.)