To the Good Old Girls: Working Class Women Matter on Super Tuesday

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To the Good Old Girls: Working Class Women Matter on Super Tuesday

(Photo: Fortune Live Media/flickr/cc.)

It felt worse to me than any good old boys slap down ever has during my adult life. I went to the California Democratic Party's convention in San Jose this weekend, and I decided I would attend the Women's Caucus and try to say a few words on behalf of Bernie Sanders. I had no illusions about the situation, so grabbing a few moments to speak was my goal. But not only was I excluded from doing so, I also watched the women convening the caucus celebrate what it means to be a wealthy and privileged woman during this campaign season. And I was clearly in a class of working class women not invited to this table.

As a woman who strongly supports Bernie Sanders in this race, my position was dismissed. But it was more than that. I was dismissed. I felt at first annoyed, then sad, then more angry than I have felt in a long, long time. And that sort of anger may well be what makes some voters steer clear of political involvement all together if the Democratic powers that be aren't careful. No amount of superficial reassurance will overcome a genuine disdain for the working class that I experienced in what should have been a friendly crowd.

In an election cycle during which women might have an impact well beyond what I dreamed possible in the past, I witnessed women who ought to know better celebrate their status as the elite class in America. First I signed in to have 30 seconds to speak. I watched my name and my organization recorded first on the list to speak when we came to the the "free speech" section of the agenda. Then after waiting nearly two hours and listening to elitist after female elitist make veiled and not so veiled pitches to me urging me to vote for the elitist presidential candidate with ovaries, I was never called. I went to the woman who initially signed me in and asked if I would indeed have the chance to speak and was waved off. I was literally waved away like I was trash.

I have never, ever felt that as part of the huge and growing number of women who support Bernie's campaign for president. Another woman said to me that she is less interested in breaking the glass ceiling than she is in shattering the class ceiling. I agree, but it was so much more telling to me. I know some of the women I saw and listened to know better than to behave as they did, and that made it all the more painful. They knew better but saw no harm in excluding me. I was of so little consequence in those moments. I felt gut punched and as if we had stepped backwards in time not forward to 2016.

My family has never been among the country club class. But I learned to travel in many different class-related circles as part of what I must do to be effective in my advocacy for Medicare for all, single-payer health reform. I am not crass or crude or unpolished in my interactions. My wardrobe does not compare with that of the Pelosi family or others among California's elite, but I try to do the best I can on a working class income. These superficial measures of status have no place in what I am working to achieve or in most of the circles in which I more routinely travel and serve.

As a working class woman, I support Bernie because he does not exclude anyone from being fully participatory in the campaign. More importantly, I have every confidence that my voice and my life will matter in a Bernie Sanders administration.

After witnessing the good old girls network in full swing this weekend in support of Bernie's opponent, I was completely sure that I won't matter if the cotillion set stays in charge of my government. Republican or Democratic, arrogance is arrogance. I expect and demand more of my party and my government. This weekend inside the CADEM convention, it felt a little like being in high school when the rich girls giggle and hug one another in restless anticipation of their next dinner party. I've seen Mrs. Trump adorned in her diamond belt standing behind her man, and that overt show of wealth was less offensive to me than what I witnessed as a show of elitism at the CADEM Women's Caucus.

During the same weekend, though, I also watched as more than 1,000 convention goers marched and rallied for Bernie just outside where Vice President Joe Biden was set to speak to those inside the ballroom. Security was very tight. After all, keeping the riff- raff class at a distance from the ruling class is critical if the message is to be controlled. When I saw the Vice President on the Academy Awards television program later in the evening, I'll admit that I saw him in a different light too. Good old girls and good old boys seem pretty much the same to me.

Bernie's vision is a massive change from the country club set's control of our government. Bernie says this government belongs to all of us. But it will only be so if we make it so. We cannot do that if the ruling class only allows our engagement as props in commercials or press ops.

When Bernie is elected, no one will be considered better or more important than anyone else. No one. I am so very ready for that because for more than 60 years I have been trying to show through my hard work, my passion and compassion, and my commitment to representative democracy that we are all good old girls and boys and not props for the ruling class to feature in speeches or campaign ads. We are Bernie's campaign. And we will be Bernie's administration. We matter, working class friends. We as important as any other American. It is truly a tragedy that a few good old girls think the path to the White House ought to be their birthright as part of the privileged few because that attitude will alienate people from the political process.

Bernie's campaign builds community and it builds movement. That is not to be dismissed. It is about us -- all of us. Get out and vote on Super Tuesday. Encourage everyone you know to do the same. Call those you know in Super Tuesday states. Unless you want the privileged elite to continue using you and me for their own enrichment, now is our chance to shatter the class ceiling with our own power.

Donna Smith

Donna Smith is the executive director of Progressive Democrats of America.  PDA's mission is to strengthen the voice of progressive ideas inside and outside the Democratic Party by using "inside/outside" and "grassroots fusion" models of working both in the Democratic Party as well as working with other progressive organizations both inside and outside the Party.

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