Earlier this month, Planned Parenthood took the unusual step of endorsing Hillary Clinton, the first time they’ve endorsed a candidate during a primary race. Bernie Sanders told Rachel Maddow Tuesday night that Planned Parenthood and other major nonprofits are endorsing Clinton because they’re part of “the establishment,” which really wasn’t a smart thing to say at all.
Sanders suggested to Maddow that both Planned Parenthood and the Human Rights Campaign, which has also endorsed Clinton—and which he incorrectly referred to as the “Human Rights Fund”—are part of the entrenched political establishment he’s trying to confront.
“Are you competing for those groups’ endorsements and not getting them?” Maddow asked him. “Or are you not trying to get those groups’ endorsements?”
“Rachel, I would love to have the endorsement of every progressive organization in America,” Sanders said, pointing out that places like MoveOn.org have endorsed him. But, he added:
What we are doing in this campaign, it just blows my mind every day. Because I see it clearly: we’re taking on not only Wall Street and the economic establishment, we’re taking on the political establishment.
So, I have friends and supporters in the Human Rights Fund and Planned Parenthood. But you know what? Hillary Clinton has been around for a very, very long time. Some of these groups are, in fact, part of the establishment.
We can acknowledge here what Sanders probably meant: Both Planned Parenthood Action Fund and Human Rights Campaign have super PACs, which exercise political influence through campaign donations. Sanders isn’t a fan of that system. Both give virtual drops in the bucket each election cycle compared to, say, any oil and gas company ever, but yeah, those are super PACs.
There are more substantive critiques to be made too, like Human Rights Campaign’s decision 2012 to honor Goldman Sachs for “workplace equality” while quietly ignoring the vast societal wreckage the company wrought at home and around the world.
But dismissing Planned Parenthood as part of “the establishment” fails to confront the group’s pretty substantive critique of Sanders on reproductive health: that while he’s generally supportive of it as a concept, Clinton is the one who has introduced actual legislation. She’s also the one who took moves as Secretary of State to undo Bush-era mandates limiting U.S. funding to reproductive health initiatives abroad.
Sentiments like this one are nice (if questionable in their grammatical implications)—and they’re certainly better than anything coming out of the GOP side—but they don’t translate to action:
There’s also the fact that calling Planned Parenthood—a group undergoing a politically-motivated investigation by the House Judiciary Committee, a group under actual physical, deadly attack by religious extremists—part of the “establishment” doesn’t look particularly accurate this year. Moreover, it’s not very smart politics, especially not during this week, the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. (Similarly, professing respect for HRC while failing to get their name right is...not convincing.)
Clinton promptly called Sanders out on Twitter, signing “H” to delineate that she was the one typing and she meant business:
Sanders hasn’t yet responded.
Here’s the full Maddow clip:
Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards and Clinton during an event announcing PP’s endorsement, Hooksett, New Hampshire, January 10, 2016. Photo via AP Images