Recently, a friend accused me of a reporting bias, saying that she didn’t see me reporting on some of the negative things going on from both campaigns (i.e., Hillary Clinton’s and Bernie Sanders’). She thought I was unfairly attacking Sanders’ campaign, especially since I recently posted the “Daily WTF: Bernie Supporters Harassing Superdelegates” article. She wasn’t rude about it, and since we’re both reasonable people, we quickly reached an accord. However, her claim did make me wonder: how biased am I against the Sanders campaign?
If we set bias at a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being completely unbiased and 10 being I will never, ever, ever defend Sanders and will believe any claim against him regardless of the overwhelming evidence contradicting it, I’d personally put myself at somewhere between a 3 and a 5. A 5 are the days that yet another Sanders hashtag is flooding Twitter or someone has gotten on my Instagram feed to tell me to vote for Sanders and smile. A 3 is where I hope to be, where I’m more inclined to side with Hillary but will run down every claim of Sanders malfeasance before believing it.
My Sanders bias is different than my Sanders supporters bias. While I am generally willing to give Sanders the benefit of the doubt – he has a strong record, he’s overwhelmingly consistent on policies, he’s a decent man – I have a harder time extending the courtesy to his supporters. With them, I’d say I have around a 5 consistently, even dipping up to 7 when I see yet another biased Salon article or claim about shadowy media cabals. Since I find that kind of mindset irritating, my hackles raise much more quickly than if I see a Hillary supporter behaving badly.
But let’s get off this fairly arbitrary ranking system. Can I prove how biased I am against Sanders and his supporters? Well, we can look at the articles I’ve posted on this blog.
If you search “Hillary Clinton” or “Bernie Sanders,” you’ll come up with a total of 21 articles that mention either of them. Most of them overlap. I reviewed these 21 articles and tried to analyze what sort of bias they had, deciding on, “Hillary Support,” “Hillary Lean,” “Anti-Hillary,” “Undercurrent of Anti-HRC,” “Bernie Support,” “Bernie Lean,” “Anti-Bernie,” “Undercurrent of Anti-Bernie,” and “N/A.” Though there were 21 articles, I ended up casting 26 votes because I thought some of the articles had more than one bias. You can see the spreadsheet below.
Then I compressed the information into a bar graph. According to my analysis, articles with distinctly Hillary or Bernie support are equal as are articles with Hillary or Bernie leans. However, at least five of the articles had an anti-Bernie undercurrent evidenced by saying he or his supporters claimed certain things or suggestions that he wasn’t quite the candidate he said he was. This undercurrent is in about 19% of the votes. Solid Hillary or Bernie support is about 27% apiece whereas an opinion piece for or against Bernie totals at 46%. So while I will subtly criticize Bernie more than Hillary, he also gets more opinion time. Take that as you will.
Of course, my judgment of how these articles rank is suspect. If I’m about 20% biased against Sanders at all times, that means that an article I consider supportive or completely uncritical could still have shades of disapproval. When I mention him in the article, “Daily WTF: Distrusting Politicians So Completely That You Would Rather Elect Any Other Person – No Matter How Wrong They Are for the Job,” am I subconsciously indicating to readers that Sanders is wrong for the job (despite an explicit statement that he’s not)? Was my “The Implications of a Sanders ‘Whites-Only’ Revolution” article less of a “Bernie Lean” and more of an “Undercurrent of Anti-Bernie”? Since it’s just me analyzing these articles, it’s hard to say. We’d need to get in a panel of people with all different political views, ages, genders, races, etc., and have them exhaustively analyze the results. Tragically, I don’t have the resources for that.
However, if any of you would like to weigh in on these articles and the biases you see inherent in them, I’d love to hear it. If enough people weight in, I’ll release an updated version of this post with the results.
What we can do is look at my priorities, personality, and life experiences, which inform my biases. These three things inform all of our biases, which is why wealthier individuals are often Republican (“fiscal conservative”) and people of color are often Democratic (Democrats historically have championed social issues that benefit people of color.).
So who am I?
- From a working-class family
- Raised in an abusive household
- Extremely proud of (and defensive about) my intelligence
- Mistrustful of men
- Wary of gaslighting
- A research-junky
- Willing to change my opinion based on new information
- Bleeding heart but stubborn
- Non-profit worker
- Civil service worker
- Mental health advocate
- A bulldog for those in need (My favorite description of myself from someone else.)
If you know these things about me, you can start to see why I support Hillary. I think it’s not right that we’ve never had a woman President. I think we have to work hard to change the future. I think we have to be unflinching about reality. I think that people suck but we can do better. I’m not willing to take a man at his word without back-up evidence. I don’t like lofty rhetoric. I resist getting swept up in passionate movements. I hit back at perceived injustices. I value complexity and polite discourse. I will make and learn from mistakes.
These parts of me also inform how I respond to Sanders and his supporters. Sanders’ campaign is predicated on ramping people up and inflaming their passions so that they can rise up and propel him to the Oval Office. He is explicitly calling for a political revolution and encouraging people to get riled up. He believes that our political system is fundamentally corrupt and that only a massive overhaul can change that. This ideology inspires people but it also leads them to jump to conclusions and see the world in black and white. That’s what passion does. How often do we get excited about or angry about a situation, start shooting off our mouths, and then look back and say, “Oh, my God, why did I say that?” It happens.
Hillary’s campaign is not based on ramping people up and inflaming their passions. It’s based on the idea that we need to put the most qualified person into office and that person is Hillary Clinton (You don’t have to agree with the latter part of this statement, but it is what her campaign is about.). People often characterize the two campaigns as, “My head says Hillary, but my heart says Bernie.” This is why Hillary’s more militant supporters will claim that Sanders isn’t as qualified or is simply unelectable – they’ve mentally weighed the balance and found him wanting (This doesn’t mean they’re correct. On the one hand, Hillary does have more diverse leadership experience than Bernie does. On the other, Bernie is an intelligent, capable Congressman with more than 30 years political experience. He is certainly as electable and qualified as our previous Presidents and Presidential candidates.).
Given the difference in inspiration styles – heart vs. head – it seems inevitable to me that Sanders’ supporters would be more aggressive and irritating. After all, they need to start a revolution. They need to forcibly eject people from office. They need to overturn a political system. You can’t do that by being polite or patient.
This does not mean that Hillary’s supporters cannot be aggressive and irritating. The same friend from above will occasionally let me know when Hillary’s supporters are behaving badly, such as a recent spate of sexist comments about Jane Sanders, Bernie’s wife, or Twitter user 2016HillaryGo, who says horrible things about Jane Sanders, Palestine, poor people, etc. They will go on positive Sanders threads just to diss him. They’ll disseminate unscrupulous articles about him claiming he’s being unconstitutional, communist, sexist, treasonous, etc. They certainly exist.
But I don’t see them as often as Sanders’ supporters. And I don’t see my candidate inciting them with her rhetoric or falling for their assertions and making it a part of her stump speech. Surely a part of this is because of whom I choose to associate with and what I choose to read. I use mainstream media for most of my news, choosing a cross-selection of multiple outlets. I unfollow, block, and report users that deliberately spread misinformation. I don’t believe sites that claim to tell the truth or are beholden to the people. I roll my eyes, shake my head, occasionally scold them, and move on. That allows me to avoid the so-called “Hillterites” (because Hillary is secretly Hitler – get it?).
And yet, I cannot avoid the Bernie Bros and the Bernie supporters who are behaving badly. They end up on Fox, NBC, CNN, and Samantha Bee. They trend almost daily on Twitter and Facebook. They hijack almost every positive Hillary thread I’ve seen. Even when I go way, way out of my way to avoid them, turning notifications off of threads, avoiding Salon and the Huffington Post, or blocking users, they still find me. Is it a mainstream media conspiracy? Is it that 20% of bias flaring up? Or is it just that some Bernie supporters like to behave badly, hijack the news, and advance the “revolution”?
I do not want to hate Bernie or his supporters, and I do not want to disenfranchise his millions of supporters who don’t harass, belittle, demean, or generally act like asses. Most of my millennial friends are Bernie supporters, and I respect them a great deal. While some of them may be swayed by the desire to create a “political revolution,” most follow him because of his political record, platform, and vision for this country. Most are well informed about the issues and their complexities. Even when they do support his “political revolution,” it’s done with complete sincerity, an understanding of the hard work needed to make it happen, and a desire to improve this country. I can’t fault them for that.
Here is what I can promise: I will try to see both sides of the story. I will try to give Bernie and his supporters the benefit of the doubt. I will try to emphasize that, even when a few Sanders supporters act badly, it is not all of them. That is what I will try to do on this blog because I envision this blog as a place not just to talk about the things that irritate me but also to spread awareness and fairness in a wider space. It is different from my Facebook account, which is more a stream-of-consciousness look into my personality and life. If a reader feels that I am being unfair to Bernie, let me know. If a reader thinks I’ve overlooked a key part of the issue, let me know. I will do my best to guard against that 20%.
That being said, I must issue a caveat: I am biased. We all are. I have certain priorities. I want to advance them. I cannot rail against a situation I don’t find unfair, and I can’t promote a situation I don’t believe in. But I am willing to listen, to try, and to change. I hope we all are.
* Featured image taken from http://www.cosmopolitan.com/politics/news/a53529/two-feminists-explain-their-conflict-over-voting-for-hillary-clinton/