Bernie Sanders, Detroit, Women — October 12, 2017 at 10:26 am

UPDATED: Women’s March organizers choose a white man, Bernie Sanders, to headline “Reclaiming Our Time” convention

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When Anne and I went to the Women’s March in Washington, D.C. on January 21st this year, our lives were changed. Not since the Equal Rights marches in the 70s had I seen women rising up and claiming their political voice with such intensity and determination. They gathered there and around the country with their allies to say, “Women will be heard and women will unite in a show of political power and will to reclaim our country.”

We were both excited to learn that the organizers of the Women’s March are holding a national convention just an hour from our house in Detroit. The convention is titled “Reclaiming our Time” and the website is WomensConvention.com. The ticket price is a steep $295 but we’re going because this transformative movement is something we want to be part of and to elevate. Women united together CAN transform America.

This is precisely why I was gobsmacked to learn this morning that the person they chose as their opening headline speaker, kicking off the convention on the evening of Friday, October 27th, is a white man, Senator Bernie Sanders.

I mean no disrespect to Sen. Sanders. I think his participation is terrific and can help bring even more attention and energy to the convention. But the opening keynote speach? By a man? A man who lost his presidential primary to a woman by 3,708,294 votes, no less? THIS is women “reclaiming their time”? Were they honestly unable to find a powerful woman for this most-important opening speech? How does that fit with the stated goals of this convention?:

Tapping into the power of women in leadership as the fundamental, grassroots force for change, the Women’s Convention will bring together first time activists and movement leaders, rising political stars that reflect our nation’s changing demographics, and thousands of women who’ve organized sister marches, huddles, rallies and resistance actions, large and small, since January 2017.

Organizers claim Sen. Sanders was chosen because he “knows how to mobilize a new generation of activists.” Surely he isn’t the only one doing this and surely there are women who ARE. For example, how about one of the other speakers at the convention, Leah Greenberg? Leah co-founded the Indivisible Team who put out the Indivisible Guide that has created an entire movement around the USA of citizens, most of whom are women, who are resisting Donald Trump and the regressive Republican agenda. The Indivisible Team created the most revolutionary citizen’s movement since corporate American created the Tea Party and it’s leaders are millenials, many of whom are fierce women warriors like Leah. You can listen to an interview we did with Leah on The Sit and Spin Room podcast HERE. She’s inspirational.

Again, there’s no reason not to have male allies like Sen. Sanders on the stage during the convention. But for the opening speech to be by anyone but a woman is, frankly, astonishing, particularly given the theme of the convention, “Reclaiming Our Time”.

I’ll be at the convention and I’m looking forward to all of the speeches and the energy we’ll all come away from it with. I just hope that the rest of the program is better thought out than this choice which seems to me to be tone deaf and misguided.

And one more thing: The phrase “Reclaiming my time” is from an African American woman in Congress, the incredible Maxine Waters. Waters is a speaker at the convention. But she is NOT the opening speaker. The privilege was awarded to a white man.

UPDATE: In an apparent response to the vociferous outcry from women all across the country, the organizers of the convention released this statement on Twitter:

We invited many elected officials to our convention that align with the purpose and mission of our existence – to harness the political power of diverse women and their communities to create transformative social change. We are thrilled that Rep. Maxine Waters and Senator Sanders will be speaking at the Women’s Convention. We all know how busy women leaders are, and are grateful for the support of women like Secretary Clinton along with Senators Harris, Warren and Gillibrand. Althought their schedules did not allow them to join us in Detroit the weekend of October 27, they will be fighting for our shared values, organizing and advocacy, as well as grassroots leaders running for and serving in office across the country. We are excited to come together, to unite across our differences and to fight for the future we all believe in.

That’s all well and fine but the fact remains that the Women’s Convention is headlined by a man and he’s a man that many women frankly find divisive to a fault. Don’t believe me? Check out the responses to their tweet and the comments on their Facebook page. Oof.

This post has been edited to remove reference to an article by The Onion from 2007 that was unfair snark on my part.

NOTE: This post has been updated HERE.

  • Amy

    You could argue that the program should be all female, and leave it there.

    The vote totals in the Dem primary are irrelevant. Would you consider Shirley Chisholm (were she alive) unworthy since she lost the primary? Plus the 2016 Dem primary was rigged and manipulated, and caucus states are underreported.

    Indivisible was founded by a group of former congressional staffers — hardly “revolutionary”, they want a return to their flavor of the establishment. Check out DSA for some revolutionary organizing.

    • I consider the vote total relevant insofar as there was another choice if they wanted a national candidate on that stage the first night, one who clearly knows how to organize and has spent her life elevating women in politics. And if you don’t think that the Indivisible movement isn’t a revolutionary force for supporting the progressive vision, you are clearly not paying attention. I haven’t seen anything close to what they have accomplished for this country coming out of DSA.

      • Dan Michniewicz

        The Indivisible mantra is strictly defensive. I figure it won’t exist if/once the Dems retake the federal government. According to it’s manifesto, it really won’t be able to serve its purpose–to defend against trump’s racist, authoritarian, and corrupt agenda–once Trump is out of office. The word “vision” invokes thoughts of positive legislative proposals. As far as I am aware, this is not what indivisible is interested in. Once trump is out of office, i expect all of indivisible’s current energy to partially fall by the wayside into apathy/contentedness while the rest will be absorbed into the Dem party outright.

        One difference between your local DSA chapter and Indivisible is that Huron Valley DSA is knocking doors and visiting places of business with health care resources (information on health navigators and the ACA enrollment period plus free/low cost clinics) while Indivisible’s nation-wide tactic around the ACA is to re-tweet an image about the ACA enrollment period.

        • I’m glad to hear that DSA is doing something. They keep a low enough profile that it’s all but impossible to know about their activities. Kudos on that.

          Your palpable derision of the Indivisible groups isn’t really worth commenting on. They’re in defensive mode now because that’s where most of us are: trying to stop the worst of the worst from happening. Many of the local Indivisible groups in Washtenaw County are working to push for victories in the state legislature, as well, which is important. Some are out knocking doors for the Representative in the 52nd House District, Donna Lasinski, as well. That’s a seat we must hold onto.

          • Dan Michniewicz

            Lol at “palpable derision”. I’m fine with indivisible and those who organize through it. Describing it as a “revolutionary force” is laughable, though. If that were true, would we lable the Dem party itself a revolutionary force? I do, in fact, pay attention to these things, and my understanding is that the there isnt much room on the spectrum between the Dem party and indivisible. And I’m pretty sure I’ll be proven right about it dissolving once Trump is gone and/or Dems are in power.

    • Two more things: First, I am not – and so far as I know, NOBODY is – suggesting the program be “all female”. The opening keynote speech, though? Yeah, that totally should be a woman.

      Second, I don’t care if an organizer used to be a landscape gardener, if they start a transformative national movement, they should be exalted and given big platforms like this. Rachel Maddow started her career as a landscape gardener and look how transformative she has been on the political scene.

  • FishOutofWater00 .

    Looks like Bernie was the highest profile progressive politician to accept the invitation. There’s no doubt that if Gillibrand or Harris, or Warren had accepted that they would have been preferable to Bernie for a key time slot but they did not accept the invitation.

    Perhaps this venue seemed to far left for these high profile women to attend. That’s their choice, but what I see going on is an attack by “centrist” Democrats and independents on Bernie and the women organizers who gave him a speaking spot. It looks to me that this outrage is more leftie bashing by the centrists. This is the kind of divisive politics that gave us Trump.

    • So Congresswoman Maxine Waters whose quote is the basis for the title of the convention and who is a speaker at the convention isn’t important enough to be the choice? Really? Ya lost me there, friend.

      And, honestly, throwing around the phrase “centrist Dem” is just so bloody ridiculous. The vast majority of the pushback on this is not from centrists (who aren’t some sort of evil force, by the way, just one of many Democratic perspectives.) The pushback is largely from feminists who have been fighting battles like this for decades and are sick of this sort of passive sexist bullshit.

  • Gabe

    Chris, the Senator is not just a “white male” he’s the first Jewish person to win a primary state. Don’t degrade his battles.

    You have the most popular senator in the country, one who has fought for Women for ages, and is able to rally a crowd like no one else. Who better to raise the profile of your event.

    I never got the strain of feminism that tells their male allies to go away, feminism is about equality it shouldn’t matter on the gender of the speaker but the quality of the speaker and how well they can promote your message.

    • Someone who isn’t so divisive would be my choice.

  • TranLongmoore

    Democrats should worry more about what candidates stand for and less about what they look like.
    National health care.
    Minimum wage.
    Protecting union jobs by getting out of bad trade deals (agreed to by corporate Dems, by the way).
    That’s how you reconnect the Democratic Party with women. With blacks. With Latinos. With men.
    Instead – let’s just cry some more about political correct appearances and act like we’re doing the world any good, right Chris?
    Politics – on the left and right – has become a field of professional crybabies.

    • Since this is not a partisan convention, what Democrats are doing is pretty irrelevant in this context. (Not in other contexts, of course!)

      • TranLongmoore

        Right.
        The left.
        The democrats.
        Whatever.

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