Dear Anna March,

My name is James Ayotte. I’m a resident of Maine and I am a lifelong Democrat. I’m writing to you in response to your recent article ‘Bye Bye Bernie, He’s not fit to captain the Democratic ship if he can’t stop chasing the great white male

Several of the claims you allege in your article need response. Before doing so, I’d like to make it crystal clear that I am in 100% support of the pro-choice movement, defend (not defund) Planned Parenthood, and a woman’s right to choose. All of my critique of your article relating to this is not criticizing this important issue, rather, criticizing the concept of using this stance as a litmus test for who is a Democrat and who is not – and the writing off anyone who doesn’t pass that litmus test. I think this is a really important distinction to make before proceeding.

“Economic populism and what are commonly erroneously and dismissively referred to as “social issues” … are indivisible.”

I agree with this great point. So does Bernie Sanders. He constantly intertwines these two fundamental issues. There’s lots of material for those unfamiliar with his policies to review, so here’s a quick rundown of some examples.

“Sanders has insisted that Democrats have failed to reach these voters, while dismissing the fact that 75 percent of working-class voters of color voted for Clinton, not Trump, last year.”

Your article’s main theme is that he needs to stop chasing the white male, however when you attempt to show support for this claim, you conveniently disregard Secretary Clinton’s numbers with the white working class and focus on the working class voters of color alone. This is a disingenuous distortion of the numbers.

“The Democratic Party, which has a deeply progressive platform”

Where do you think this deeply progressive platform came from? Have you compared the Democrat’s platform to the primary platforms of Sanders’ and to Clinton’s to see which more closely it matches? Sanders withheld his endorsement of Clinton until almost all of his platform was absorbed.

“The Democratic Party should not erase its voters and their clear message.”

Sanders doesn’t advocate for clearing the message, he advocates for embracing the message and pushing it further. (Being too far to the left is a constant criticism of him.) One way to do that is to be as inclusive as possible and pursue the people that Democrats have left behind. There is a reason why Democrats haven’t won the majority of white voters in almost 50 years. Aren’t the causes we fight for as Dems all about including everyone? Why is embracing this concept seen as “chasing the great white male” when they are a part of everyone?

“despite his momentary popularity was trounced in Democratic primaries by 3.7 million votes

This petty comment is beneath civil discourse, and it has no bearing on his vision and ability to lead. He is far from “momentarily” popular (as you admit later in your article). Polls current as of today (5/4/17) show that he is the most popular politician in the country. If he wasn’t as popular as he is, you wouldn’t be spending time and effort trying to tear him down from being the leader of the Dems.

“Sen. Sanders, we are not the party of the great white male — nor should we try to be.”

He never has said he wants to be solely the party of the great white male. But, imagine if the opposite was said? “We are not the party of females”. Or, “We’re not the part of minorities.” Justifiably so, pitchforks would be out in full force, screaming of bigotry and inequality. For an inclusive ideology that we on the left claim to fight for, why is saying that we should be inclusive of and have strong support from white males, in addition to everyone else, an unacceptable stance? And specifically, when it comes to winning elections to implement beneficial policy for all, how is that not common sense politics?

“Democrats should instead focus on translating how inclusion translates into…”

So, now we’re interested in inclusion again? Inclusion of whom exactly?

“The party should focus, as Steve Phillips wrote in The New York Times, on “re-inspiring those whites who drifted to third-party candidates and then focusing on the ample opportunities in the Southwest and the South…”

This is almost word for word Sanders’ entire message. That is exactly why he’s traveling the country with Perez on the Unity Tour and has been pushing for a 50 state strategy for the Democratic party.

“Sanders has most recently set out to define what it is to be progressive by refusing to campaign for Democrat Jon Ossoff in his contested congressional race in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District. “He’s not a progressive,” Sanders told The Washington Post about Ossoff”

Sanders did not say “He’s not a progressive.” He was asked if he is one, and Sanders said “I don’t know if he’s a progressive.” The quote within your link is incorrect.

“Meanwhile, Sanders set off to campaign with Heath Mello, the Democratic nominee for mayor of Omaha, who has a strong anti-choice record including having introduced legislation restricting abortion, and was quick to call Mello a progressive.”

I’m not sure if Mello is a progressive despite his anti-choice record. Perhaps he is not and Sanders was wrong. What defines a progressive? I don’t know the answer, but I do know that there is no one single policy or issue that removes someone from being a progressive or a Democrat. There are no purity tests, especially in rural areas where the level of liberal views are much lower (as you recognize later in the article.)

“While there have been and will continue to be anti-choice Democratic candidates at every level, they are not progressives, and for Sanders to describe Mello as such is wrong.”

What is the significance with the label of progressive? Your article’s point is how he’s unfit to lead the Democrats, but is he unfit because of his use (or lack of use) of an always shifting label game within American politics with the term ‘progressive’?

“It’s not enough to issue a statement for political expediency when your record is full of anti-choice votes, Ilyse Hogue, the organization’s president, said”

Please name Sanders’ anti-choice votes from any of his decades of public service.

“Sanders historically has had a good track record on abortion rights”

There we go. Intellectual honesty that has been missing from most of this article, including the most recent quote above. And by “good track record” you mean “perfect track record” on this subject.

“Since 58 percent of registered Democrats are women and since women overwhelming voted Democratic in this last election, it’s outrageous that women leaders weren’t met with before the unity tour began.”

Are you now proposing that people “chase” votes by altering behavior or a message to acquire those voters? How is this not directly hypocritical of what you’re accusing Sanders of doing with white men?

“Among many other reasons, we represent the majority of Democratic voters and we are leading the resistance. Despite our losses — and let’s make no mistake, the Trump’s win was a huge loss for women in particular.”

Sanders’ entire point is that someone like Trump winning (or Ossoff’s or Mello’s opponents) will be far more dangerous than either of these two candidates.  You recognize the damage that Trump will do, but aren’t willing to apply the same negotiation, compromise, and voting of the “lesser of two evils” in down-ticket races, like with Ossoff, despite his anti-choice voting.

“Chauncey DeVega succinctly captured it, “In total, Donald Trump managed to defeat Hillary Clinton in the Electoral College count because of FBI intervention, voter suppression, low voter turnout and possible Russian interference, in combination with sexism, racism and the fact that too many Democratic-leaning voters switched to third parties.”

Comey clearly was a critical factor along with our broken electoral college system. How many more reasons are necessary before admitting Clinton wasn’t an ideal candidate? How much responsibility does Clinton take for ‘low voter turnout’ and ‘Democratic voters switching to third parties?”

“We persist though we are blamed for her loss”

No one worth their salt blames women (assuming that’s what you meant by ‘we’) for Clinton’s loss. This doesn’t exist on any wide scale at all.

“a swath of revolutionaries who couldn’t get Bernie elected in the primary, some of whom brought you Trump by sitting out the general election or voting for a third party candidate — are more important than we are.”

Clinton failed to meet some voter’s criteria, so they opted not to vote for her. Isn’t that the same thing as you dissenting against Ossoff for not meeting your anti-choice criteria? Additionally – over 90% of Sander’s supporters were to vote for Clinton. This is the norm with any primary and is nothing new. Obama and Clinton were far more divisive.

“We persist though we are told that Sanders and his followers are deciding how much of a litmus test to hold Democrats to before deciding on what level they are going to participate in the 2018 midterm elections.”

This is essential to repeat one more time – are you not exercising the very same style of litmus test with your “full stop” on abortion rights?

“It’s ridiculous.  Every Democrat — indeed, every American — has an ethical obligation to do what he or she can to bring about an end to Trump’s regime and the Republican Congress that’s perpetuating his power and agenda.”

Isn’t this exactly what Sanders is doing in supporting Ossoff, despite his anti-choice record?

“kiss Sanders goodbye and embrace the rest of us.”

“Let’s see you say, “I’m with you, all of you” instead.”

Both of these statements call for inclusion of everyone, including “the great white male.” It’s my belief that language and sentiments throughout your article are divisive, all while you critique someone for being what you allege as divisive. The irony is dizzying. If you truly want equality and inclusion, then everyone means everyone – including white men.

-James (a white male!)


All opinions are my own and not representative of any other organization, company or person other than me. -James

James is resident of Auburn, a member of the Auburn Democrats, the Maine Young Dems, Maine People’s Alliance, and the Communication’s Coordinator of the Androscoggin County Young Dems

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