Commentary Politics

Yes, Progressives, There Is a ‘BernieBro’ Problem

Katherine Cross

Despite the testimonies of many who have been personally targeted by these individuals, a number of white leftist men have queued up to say that the whole situation is an exaggerated ploy manufactured by journalists in the pocket of Hillary Clinton.

For the past few months, would-be supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign have been systematically harassing feminist and anti-racist activists who are even remotely critical of Sanders. These “BernieBros”—as they were originally dubbed, according to the Atlantic, by its associate editor Robinson Meyer—generally rely on two primary arguments. They claim that feminist concerns are a distraction from the work of “real” political change, and that voters and activists of color who raise questions about Sanders’ platform don’t know what’s good for them because Sanders represents the change they actually need. Eventually, Sanders himself responded to condemn the “bros,” saying “We don’t want that crap” in a CNN interview earlier this month.

And yet people still deny their existence, suggesting that Sanders was browbeaten into his declaration by a press corps running with a made-up story.

Despite the testimonies of many who have been personally targeted by these individuals, a number of white leftist men have queued up to say that the whole situation is an exaggerated ploy manufactured by journalists in the pocket of Hillary Clinton. The net effect of this, besides fomenting mistrust of harassment victims, is to absolve the left from any responsibility for its failings, and to pretend that our ideologies inoculate us from engaging in harm.

Recently, investigative journalist Glenn Greenwald doubled down on these ideas in an op-ed for the Intercept, arguing that the entire idea of “BernieBros” was constructed by Clinton supporters to scupper the Sanders campaign.

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Greenwald focused on trying to debunk the individual claims of harassment by writers like the New Yorker’s Emily Nussbaum, claiming that they were either exaggerating about the extent of it or misattributing abusive comments to Sanders’ supporters. He went on to suggest that “pro-Clinton” journalists cited each other’s thinly sourced claims about BernieBro harassment rather than verifying its existence.

Completely absent from Greenwald’s truculent analysis is any real discussion of the leftward critiques of the campaign from those who have found Sanders’ positions on racial and gender politics lacking for someone claiming to head a “revolution.” If he had included it, his article would’ve been impossible to write in its current form. He would have had to contend with a long history of anti-racist and feminist activists being antagonized by overly aggressive, mostly white Sanders supporters, going back far longer than Greenwald supposes—and the targets were not generally white women with press platforms, as he suggests, but often young activists of color.

No mention is made, for example, of the Black Lives Matter protests at Netroots Nation ‘15, which were aimed at Sanders, Gov. Martin O’Malley, and other presidential candidates for their lack of acknowledgement of police violence and mass incarceration; nor of the fact that Ta Nehisi-Coates, a radically minded writer and critic if ever there was one, criticized Sanders for not supporting reparations for slavery—and was inundated with BernieBros for his trouble, several of which he retweeted onto his Twitter timeline as evidence of a structural problem. One wrote: “Your credibility gone, you’ll forever be known as a #Clintonista/just another Village Idiot,” never mind Coates’ scathing critiques of Clinton’s support of carceral policies. Coates later told Democracy Now! that he is planning to vote for Sanders.

Nor is there acknowledgment of how tech journalist and legal analyst Sarah Jeong found herself swarmed by violently angry Sanders supporters after she tweeted criticism of Sanders’ record on race. Despite her position as a confirmed Sanders voter, the abuse—which included rape and death threats—became so noxious and torrential that Jeong had to lock her Twitter account. In his article Greenwald even cites Carl Beijer, a columnist for the Baltimore Post Examiner and one of the prominent leftist men ginning up and justifying harassment against her.

Jeong noted to Quartz that the elevated abuse she faced “is a foreseeable consequence” of people like Beijer “framing my harassment as a moral good.” One of Beijer’s comments on Twitter, posted in defense of a friend he claimed Jeong labeled a “shitposter,” read “you’re an unfunny bougie laughingstock & you failed the bar b/c you’re dumb.” His reply to Jeong’s general critiques of Sanders supporters (of which, I must remind you, she is one): “delete your account you bougie oaf.” I honestly didn’t think anyone used “bougie” as an un-ironic insult anymore.

The same genre of nonsense befell Jamil Smith, former editor at the New Republic, whose critical essay on Sanders was met with a flood of abusive derision that became outright racist. The now-deleted Twitter account of Portland4Bernie accused Smith of “race-baiting.”

Meanwhile, Elon James White, CEO of This Week in Blackness (TWiB!) Media, told the BBC: “I’ve gotten everything from ‘shill’, ‘paid infiltrator’, to flat out having somebody actually call me a N***** in the midst of this.” Imani Gandy, White’s co-host for the TWiB! Prime podcast and senior legal analyst for Rewire, has been facing an ongoing torrent of vitriol from Sanders’ supporters convinced she’s all but a paid-up Clinton staffer.

Even so, Greenwald maintains, “The reason pro-Clinton journalists are targeted with vile abuse online has nothing specifically to do with the Sanders campaign or its supporters. It has everything to do with the internet.”

First and foremost, this ignores the fact that most of the targets I’ve mentioned thus far are not pro-Clinton; they’re either undecided or equally critical of Clinton as they are of Sanders. But secondly, and even more importantly, if we think harassment is the inevitable consequence of online social interaction, it absolves us as individuals from doing anything about it. Even while admitting the abuse exists, Greenwald chalks it up to the inevitable actions of random trolls with no connection to any larger force in the world: the unavoidable waste product of online discussion. In a major article about abuse being faced primarily by women and people of color, Greenwald indulges in one of the most tired forms of apologia for harassment.

All this, in service of concocting a vision of a conspiracy against Sen. Sanders by plugged-in writers and journos who are secretly in the tank for Clinton. Apparently, it’s not harassment, it’s actually about ethics in journalism. Now where have we heard that before?

This rhetoric is by no means limited to Greenwald, however. An activist who spoke to Rewire on the condition that her name not be used described a sustained campaign of harassment and abuse by individuals in the progressive movement that began after Black Lives Matter activists protested at Netroots Nation last summer. Their actions shook up a presidential forum featuring Sanders and Martin O’Malley, provoking dismissive and bewildered reactions from the mostly white crowd, some of whom saw the Black Lives Matter protesters as “ungrateful” for Sanders’ putative radicalism. This was the immaculate conception of the toxic Sanders supporter, who continued to resurface through tweets and social media personas for months.

“Even raising questions is seen as a ‘coordinated attack’ on Sanders’ candidacy or all Sanders supporters,” the anonymous activist said. “These are not just Twitter eggs being annoying on public social media. These include prominent figures who are doing and saying abusive things elsewhere.”

Responses like Greenwald’s, she said, are “infuriating and galling. The victim-blaming is off the charts. Why is it so hard for them to accept that there are problematic people in their tribe?”

“If they care about the progressive movement, this is a terrible move,” she said. “Denying the existence of BernieBros is not helpful to the campaign. It’s shitting on victims. How dare they accuse victims of faking the harassment, being oversensitive, or confusing Republican fakers with Sanders supporters?”

“To their credit, Sanders campaign people are finally acknowledging the problem,” she said. “BernieBro ‘truthers’ aren’t helping them, and that’s also a disservice to all the Sanders supporters who are wonderful and thoughtful.”

“This should be irrelevant, but I’m not even backing either candidate yet,” she continued. “I’m ambivalent about both, although like most Dem voters, I would be happy with either candidate as the nominee. And no, I’m not on the payroll of any campaign or related organization. I just want the abuse to stop.”

Feminist writer Sady Doyle, who is an open and proud Clinton supporter, has also received a great deal of abuse for her trouble. Last week, she wrote with characteristic insight about progressivism’s longstanding inability to tolerate women who speak forthrightly on gender politics. She links the “BernieBro” phenomenon to the fact that progressive men prefer to focus on political struggles that do not personally implicate them, like class issues:

I don’t need to look to Bernie Sanders himself for the question of whether feminism is part of progress. I can get the answer when a young man who calls himself a “secular progressive, against bigotry of all kinds,” with a picture of Bernie Sanders as his banner image, Tweets to call me a “regressive feminazi,” and an example of “sheer female ignorance.” I can get the answer when Shane Ryan angrily asserts that sexism has no influence on this election, that any attempt to address or analyze sexism aimed at Hillary Clinton or her supporters is just an attempt to “turn the discussion away from the political, and toward the personal,” and that sexism, in fact, is not political at all: “Talk about sexism, and at the very least you aren’t talking about politics,” he writes.

This is the crux of the issue, I’d say, and why this is much bigger than Sen. Sanders or the 2016 election. For progressive and leftist men, class politics (and, occasionally, the politics of Western imperialism) often trumps all else, rendering them unwilling to see an intersectional approach as anything other than a narrow-minded distraction. To them, class politics are the fulcrum upon which all oppression is balanced. As they see it, if one were to knock out that fulcrum, all else will come tumbling down—never mind what happened in the Soviet Union.

As long as they pursue this political aim, nothing else matters to the same degree: not rape, not sexual assault or harassment, not the devaluing of women’s work, not online harassment’s unequal impact on women or people of color, not police violence, not de facto segregation or the erosion of voting rights legislation, not abortion, not forced sterilization.

There are a few things that must be said, however. First and foremost: “BernieBro” is a terrible term. For one thing, it obscures a dynamic where white women who support Sanders harass Black critics of all genders. Its jokey tone is also unequal to the seriousness of what it describes. There can be no doubt that the term creates confusion, and it has been deployed in ways that suggest it refers to all Sanders voters, which is both counterproductive and does violence to any empirical understanding of what’s happening here. Remember, this often involves Sanders supporters attacking their own.

Furthermore, it is equally true that Hillary Clinton and her more prominent backers have come to use a very reductive view of feminism in a toxic fashion, one that overwhelmingly centers the experiences of white women. We’ve just come off of a week where former Secretary of State Madeline Albright suggested that women who didn’t support Clinton were among those “going to hell” for not helping other women, and veteran activist Gloria Steinem argued that young women broke strongly for Sanders because “that’s where the boys are” (she followed this up by sharing a few transphobic chuckles with Bill Maher). To say this fell flat with young women—myself included—is an understatement.

Analyzing the origins of this nonsense merits a fuller discussion, some of which is thankfully being had elsewhere. Writer and activist Mikki Kendall, for instance, sees a correspondence between the racist rhetoric that mushroomed around Clinton’s campaign in 2008 and the millennial-baiting that’s now occurring. There is an unwillingness to admit the fact that young women are making genuine arguments against both the implications of such gaffes and the compromises Clinton herself has made throughout her career—supporting war, drone strikes, tough-on-crime policies, accepting the donations of America’s super-rich, and so on.

Clearly, Sanders supporters are not the only ones being reductive, nor are they the only ones refusing to prioritize issues in their support that affect people of color.

But it is important to point out that this does not cancel out or justify the ongoing problem with toxic Sanders supporters and the longstanding leftist faultline it reveals. Leftism harbors many an anti-feminist, and more than a few people who see movements like Black Lives Matter as an anti-revolutionary distraction. These individuals sneer at people for “voting against their interests,” a line used against Black critics of Sanders so frequently that New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow recently inveighed against the phenomenon, which he amusingly dubbed “Bernie-splaining.” Even I have had Sanders supporters tweet “but did you know he marched with MLK?” at me in earnest, after I suggested that the senator should keep improving his racial politics.

The people who throw around “bourgeois” and “liberal” as an insult to any political ethic or idea they dislike; who clamor for a violent revolution that never takes into account the needs of the actual working class or, say, people with disabilities; the folks who think that classism is the one oppression to rule them all; who think sneering at Walmart shoppers is radical praxis? They are an issue that will remain with us long after 2016 has come and gone. In the meantime, however, allowing the narrative of “rich white Clintonista journalists are inventing BernieBros” to go unchallenged merely contributes to a culture of disbelief and silencing around both the issue of online harassment and white, male hegemony in leftist spaces.

It has not escaped my notice, after all, that the people getting hit hardest by these waves of abuse aren’t white men. That means something we should be paying attention to.

Roundups Politics

Campaign Week in Review: ‘If You Don’t Vote … You Are Trifling’

Ally Boguhn

The chair of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) this week blasted those who sit out on Election Day, and mothers who lost children to gun violence were given a platform at the party's convention.

The chair of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) this week blasted those who sit out on Election Day, and mothers who lost children to gun violence were given a platform at the party’s convention.

DNC Chair Marcia Fudge: “If You Don’t Vote, You Are Ungrateful, You Are Lazy, and You Are Trifling”

The chair of the 2016 Democratic National Convention, Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH), criticized those who choose to sit out the election while speaking on the final day of the convention.

“If you want a decent education for your children, you had better vote,” Fudge told the party’s women’s caucus, which had convened to discuss what is at stake for women and reproductive health and rights this election season.

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“If you want to make sure that hungry children are fed, you had better vote,” said Fudge. “If you want to be sure that all the women who survive solely on Social Security will not go into poverty immediately, you had better vote.”

“And if you don’t vote, let me tell you something, there is no excuse for you. If you don’t vote, you don’t count,” she said.

“So as I leave, I’m just going to say this to you. You tell them I said it, and I’m not hesitant about it. If you don’t vote, you are ungrateful, you are lazy, and you are trifling.”

The congresswoman’s website notes that she represents a state where some legislators have “attempted to suppress voting by certain populations” by pushing voting restrictions that “hit vulnerable communities the hardest.”

Ohio has recently made headlines for enacting changes that would make it harder to vote, including rolling back the state’s early voting period and purging its voter rolls of those who have not voted for six years.

Fudge, however, has worked to expand access to voting by co-sponsoring the federal Voting Rights Amendment Act, which would restore the protections of the Voting Rights Act that were stripped by the Supreme Court in Shelby County v. Holder.

“Mothers of the Movement” Take the National Spotlight

In July 2015, the Waller County Sheriff’s Office released a statement that 28-year-old Sandra Bland had been found dead in her jail cell that morning due to “what appears to be self-asphyxiation.” Though police attempted to paint the death a suicide, Bland’s family has denied that she would have ended her own life given that she had just secured a new job and had not displayed any suicidal tendencies.

Bland’s death sparked national outcry from activists who demanded an investigation, and inspired the hashtag #SayHerName to draw attention to the deaths of Black women who died at the hands of police.

Tuesday night at the DNC, Bland’s mother, Geneva Reed-Veal, and a group of other Black women who have lost children to gun violence, in police custody, or at the hands of police—the “Mothers of the Movement”—told the country why the deaths of their children should matter to voters. They offered their support to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton during a speech at the convention.

“One year ago yesterday, I lived the worst nightmare anyone could imagine. I watched as my daughter was lowered into the ground in a coffin,” said Geneva Reed-Veal.

“Six other women have died in custody that same month: Kindra Chapman, Alexis McGovern, Sarah Lee Circle Bear, Raynette Turner, Ralkina Jones, and Joyce Curnell. So many of our children are gone, but they are not forgotten,” she continued. 

“You don’t stop being a mom when your child dies,” said Lucia McBath, the mother of Jordan Davis. “His life ended the day that he was shot and killed for playing loud music. But my job as his mother didn’t.” 

McBath said that though she had lost her son, she continued to work to protect his legacy. “We’re going to keep telling our children’s stories and we’re urging you to say their names,” she said. “And we’re also going to keep using our voices and our votes to support leaders, like Hillary Clinton, who will help us protect one another so that this club of heartbroken mothers stops growing.” 

Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin, called herself “an unwilling participant in this movement,” noting that she “would not have signed up for this, [nor would] any other mother that’s standing here with me today.” 

“But I am here today for my son, Trayvon Martin, who is in heaven, and … his brother, Jahvaris Fulton, who is still here on Earth,” Fulton said. “I did not want this spotlight. But I will do everything I can to focus some of this light on the pain of a path out of the darkness.”

What Else We’re Reading

Renee Bracey Sherman explained in Glamour why Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine’s position on abortion scares her.

NARAL’s Ilyse Hogue told Cosmopolitan why she shared her abortion story on stage at the DNC.

Lilly Workneh, the Huffington Post’s Black Voices senior editor, explained how the DNC was “powered by a bevy of remarkable black women.”

Rebecca Traister wrote about how Clinton’s historic nomination puts the Democratic nominee “one step closer to making the impossible possible.”

Rewire attended a Democrats for Life of America event while in Philadelphia for the convention and fact-checked the group’s executive director.

A woman may have finally clinched the nomination for a major political party, but Judith Warner in Politico Magazine took on whether the “glass ceiling” has really been cracked for women in politics.

With Clinton’s nomination, “Dozens of other women across the country, in interviews at their offices or alongside their children, also said they felt on the cusp of a major, collective step forward,” reported Jodi Kantor for the New York Times.

According to Philly.com, Philadelphia’s Maternity Care Coalition staffed “eight curtained breast-feeding stalls on site [at the DNC], complete with comfy chairs, side tables, and electrical outlets.” Republicans reportedly offered similar accommodations at their convention the week before.

Commentary Politics

On Immigration, Major Political Parties Can’t Seem to Agree on What’s ‘Un-American’

Tina Vasquez

As far as immigration is concerned, neither the Democrats nor Republicans are without their faults, though positions taken at the conventions were clearly more extreme in one case than the other.

Read more of our coverage of the Democratic National Convention here.

Immigration has been one of the country’s most contentious political topics and, not surprisingly, is now a primary focus of this election. But no matter how you feel about the subject, this is a nation of immigrants in search of “el sueño Americano,” as Karla Ortiz reminded us on the first night of the Democratic National Convention (DNC). Ortiz, the 11-year-old daughter of two undocumented parents, appeared in a Hillary Clinton campaign ad earlier this year expressing fear that her parents would be deported. Standing next to her mother on the DNC stage, the young girl told the crowd that she is an American who wants to become a lawyer to help families like hers.

It was a powerful way to kick-start the week, suggesting to viewers Democrats were taking a radically different approach to immigration than the Republican National Convention (RNC). While the RNC made undocumented immigrants the scapegoats for a variety of social ills, from U.S. unemployment to terrorism, the DNC chose to highlight the contributions of immigrants: the U.S. citizen daughter of undocumented parents, the undocumented college graduate, the children of immigrants who went into politics. Yet, even the stories shared at the DNC were too tidy and palatable, focusing on “acceptable” immigrant narratives. There were no mixed-status families discussing their deported parents, for example.

As far as immigration is concerned, neither the Democrats nor Republicans are without their faults, though positions taken at the conventions were clearly more extreme in one case than the other. By the end of two weeks, viewers may not have known whether to blame immigrants for taking their jobs or to befriend their hardworking immigrant neighbors. For the undocumented immigrants watching the conventions, the message, however, was clear: Both parties have a lot of work to do when it comes to humanizing their communities.  

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“No Business Being in This Country”

For context, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and his running mate Mike Pence are the decidedly anti-immigrant ticket. From the beginning, Trump’s campaign has been overrun by anti-immigrant rhetoric, from calling Mexicans “rapists” and “killers” to calling for a ban on Muslim immigration. And as of July 24, Trump’s proposed ban now includes people from countries “compromised by terrorism” who will not be allowed to enter the United States, including anyone from France.

So, it should come as no surprise that the first night of the RNC, which had the theme of “Make America Safe Again,” preyed on American fears of the “other.” In this case: undocumented immigrants who, as Julianne Hing wrote for the Nation, “aren’t just drug dealers and rapists anymorenow they’re murderers, too.”

Night one of the RNC featured not one but three speakers whose children were killed by undocumented immigrants. “They’re just three brave representatives of many thousands who have suffered so gravely,” Trump said at the convention. “Of all my travels in this country, nothing has affected me more, nothing even close I have to tell you, than the time I have spent with the mothers and fathers who have lost their children to violence spilling across our borders, which we can solve. We have to solve it.”

Billed as “immigration reform advocates,” grieving parents like Mary Ann Mendoza called her son’s killer, who had resided in the United States for 20 years before the drunk driving accident that ended her police officer son’s life, an “illegal immigrant” who “had no business being in this country.”

It seemed exploitative and felt all too common. Drunk driving deaths are tragically common and have nothing to do with immigration, but it is easier to demonize undocumented immigrants than it is to address the nation’s broken immigration system and the conditions that are separating people from their countries of originconditions to which the United States has contributed. Trump has spent months intentionally and disingenuously pushing narratives that undocumented immigrants are hurting and exploiting the United States, rather than attempting to get to the root of these issues. This was hammered home by Mendoza, who finished her speech saying that we have a system that cares more about “illegals” than Americans, and that a vote for Hillary “puts all of our children’s lives at risk.”

There was also Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a notorious racist whose department made a practice of racially profiling Latinos and was recently found to be in civil contempt of court for “repeatedly and knowingly” disobeying orders to cease policing tactics against Latinos, NPR reported.

Like Mendoza, Arpaio told the RNC crowd that the immigration system “puts the needs of other nations ahead of ours” and that “we are more concerned with the rights of ‘illegal aliens’ and criminals than we are with protecting our own country.” The sheriff asserted that he was at the RNC because he was distinctly qualified to discuss the “dangers of illegal immigration,” as someone who has lived on both sides of the border.

“We have terrorists coming in over our border, infiltrating our communities, and causing massive destruction and mayhem,” Arpaio said. “We have criminals penetrating our weak border security systems and committing serious crimes.”

Broadly, the takeaway from the RNC and the GOP nominee himself is that undocumented immigrants are terrorists who are taking American jobs and lives. “Trump leaned on a tragic story of a young woman’s murder to prop up a generalized depiction of immigrants as menacing, homicidal animals ‘roaming freely to threaten peaceful citizens,’” Hing wrote for the Nation.

When accepting the nomination, Trump highlighted the story of Sarah Root of Nebraska, a 21-year-old who was killed in a drunk-driving accident by a 19-year-old undocumented immigrant.

“To this administration, [the Root family’s] amazing daughter was just one more American life that wasn’t worth protecting,” Trump said. “One more child to sacrifice on the altar of open borders.”

It should be noted that the information related to immigration that Trump provided in his RNC speech, which included the assertion that the federal government enables crime by not deporting more undocumented immigrants (despite deporting more undocumented immigrants than ever before in recent years), came from groups founded by John Tanton, a well-known nativist whom the Southern Poverty Law center referred to as “the racist architect of the modern anti-immigrant movement.”

“The Border Crossed Us”

From the get-go, it seemed the DNC set out to counter the dangerous, anti-immigrant rhetoric pushed at the RNC. Over and over again, Democrats like Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chair Rep. Linda Sánchez (D-CA) hit back hard against Trump, citing him by name and quoting him directly.

“Donald Trump believes that Mexican immigrants are murderers and rapists. But what about my parents, Donald?” Sánchez asked the crowd, standing next to her sister, Rep. Loretta Sánchez (D-CA). “They are the only parents in our nation’s 265-year history to send not one but two daughters to the United States Congress!”

Each speech from a Latino touched on immigration, glossing over the fact that immigration is not just a Latino issue. While the sentiments were positiveillustrating a community that is thriving, and providing a much-needed break from the RNC’s anti-immigrant rhetoricat the core of every speech were messages of assimilation and respectability politics.

Even in gutsier speeches from people like actress Eva Longoria, there was the need to assert that her family is American and that her father is a veteran. The actress said, “My family never crossed a border. The border crossed us.”

Whether intentional or not, the DNC divided immigrants into those who are acceptable, respectable, and worthy of citizenship, and those—invisible at the convention—who are not. “Border crossers” who do not identify as American, who do not learn English, who do not aspire to go to college or become an entrepreneur because basic survival is overwhelming enough, what about them? Do they deserve to be in detention? Do their families deserve to be ripped apart by deportation?

At the convention, Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-IL), a champion of immigration reform, said something seemingly innocuous that snapped into focus the problem with the Democrats’ immigration narrative.

“In her heart, Hillary Clinton’s dream for America is one where immigrants are allowed to come out of the shadows, get right with the law, pay their taxes, and not feel fear that their families are going to be ripped apart,” Gutiérrez said.

The Democratic Party is participating in an all-too-convenient erasure of the progress undocumented people have made through sheer force of will. Immigration has become a leading topic not because there are more people crossing the border (there aren’t) or because nativist Donald Trump decided to run for president, but because a segment of the population has been denied basic rights and has been fighting tooth and nail to save themselves, their families, and their communities.

Immigrants have been coming out of the shadows and as a result, are largely responsible for the few forms of relief undocumented communities now have, like Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which allows certain undocumented immigrants who meet specific qualifications to receive a renewable two-year work permit and exemption from deportation. And “getting right with the law” is a joke at this point. The problem isn’t that immigrants are failing to adhere to immigration laws; the problem is immigration laws that are notoriously complicated and convoluted, and the system, which is so backlogged with cases that a judge sometimes has just seven minutes to determine an immigrant’s fate.

Becoming a U.S. citizen is also really expensive. There is a cap on how many people can immigrate from any given country in a year, and as Janell Ross explained at the Washington Post:

There are some countries, including Mexico, from where a worker with no special skills or a relative in the United States can apply and wait 23 years, according to the U.S. government’s own data. That’s right: There are people receiving visas right now in Mexico to immigrate to the United States who applied in 1993.

But getting back to Gutierrez’s quote: Undocumented immigrants do pay taxes, though their ability to contribute to our economy should not be the one point on which Democrats hang their hats in order to attract voters. And actually, undocumented people pay a lot of taxes—some $11.6 billion in state and local taxes last year, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy—while rarely benefiting from a majority of federal assistance programs since the administration of President Bill Clinton ended “welfare as we know it” in 1996.

If Democrats were being honest at their convention, we would have heard about their failure to end family detention, and they would have addressed that they too have a history of criminalizing undocumented immigrants.

The 1996 Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act and the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, enacted under former President Clinton, have had the combined effect of dramatically increasing the number of immigrants in detention and expanding mandatory or indefinite detention of noncitizens ordered to be removed to countries that will not accept them, as the American Civil Liberties Union notes on its site. Clinton also passed the North American Free Trade Agreement, which economically devastated Mexican farmers, leading to their mass migration to the United States in search of work.

In 1990, then-Sen. Joe Biden introduced the Violence Against Women Act, which passed in 1994 and specifically excluded undocumented women for the first 19 of the law’s 22 years, and even now is only helpful if the victim of intimate partner abuse is a child, parent, or current/former spouse of a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident.

In addition, President Obama is called by immigrant rights advocates “deporter in chief,” having put into place a “deportation machine” that has sent more than two million migrants back to their country of origin, more than any president in history. New arrivals to the United States, such as the Central American asylum seekers coming to our border escaping gender-based violence, are treated with the same level of prioritization for removal as threats to our national security. The country’s approach to this humanitarian crisis has been raiding homes in the middle of the night and placing migrants in detention centers, which despite being rife with allegations of human rights abuses, are making private prison corporations millions in revenue.

How Are We Defining “Un-American”?

When writing about the Democratic Party, community organizer Rosa Clemente, the 2008 Green Party vice president candidate, said that she is afraid of Trump, “but not enough to be distracted from what we must do, which is to break the two-party system for good.”

This is an election like we’ve never seen before, and it would be disingenuous to imply that the party advocating for the demise of the undocumented population is on equal footing with the party advocating for the rights of certain immigrants whose narratives it finds acceptable. But this is a country where Republicans loudly—and with no consequence—espouse racist, xenophobic, and nativist beliefs while Democrats publicly voice support of migrants while quietly standing by policies that criminalize undocumented communities and lead to record numbers of deportations.

During two weeks of conventions, both sides declared theirs was the party that encapsulated what America was supposed to be, adhering to morals and values handed down from our forefathers. But ours is a country comprised of stolen land and built by slave labor where today, undocumented immigrants, the population most affected by unjust immigration laws and violent anti-immigrant rhetoric, don’t have the right to vote. It is becoming increasingly hard to tell if that is indeed “un-American” or deeply American.