Last week, my relatively progressive news feeds and media sources were (and continue to be) filled with unchecked exclamation over Hillary Clinton’s news. Though it goes without saying that I share in the understated joy of other women breaking glass ceilings, I am not ready to cheer.
The rush to rejoice over Hillary Clinton’s position as the top-choice Democratic candidate suggests a limited understanding of the real-life consequences of the policies implicated in the upcoming presidential race. The faulty thought process seems to go something like this: sure, she has, in very recent history, called for the U.S. to reject the child refugees fleeing terror who came knocking on our door (read: “we have to send a clear message—just because your child gets across the border, that doesn’t mean the child gets to stay”) but she is a pro-choice woman! You win some, you lose some, and we will have to lose some in electing a woman to the presidency.
The problem is if you see Hillary’s stances as nothing more than bullet points situated in a column with a “Big D” Democrat label and removed from reality, the American political machine has already won with you. This race cannot simply be an exercise of weighing the political scale, hoping the left side is heavier than the right, while refusing to ask questions because Hillary is a “progressive” woman and, as such, we must accept her as the lesser of two evils. Especially not when her current position on some issues seems to be to the right of some of the Republican presidential candidates.
(To be clear, I, too, am perplexed by the media’s obsession with: (1) her pants suits, (2) the Billary branding, and (3) her email preferences, among other coded uses of misogyny and irrelevance to discredit her competence and accomplishments.)
Where a candidate “stands” on immigration reform and enforcement determines where millions of fathers, mothers and children stand in relation to freedom. Families regularly suffer prolonged detention, separation, or otherwise loss of livelihood at the hands of our broken immigration system. And it is not hyperbole to say that in some instances this dysfunction literally results in death of the deported. The consequences of our broken system are so severe that they implicate what the American Constitution considers fundamental rights—rights so inalienable they are protected by extensive due process. But as we know too well, in the context of immigration removal proceedings, those consequences largely manifest without procedural safeguards.
Elated race consciousness did not shield Obama from unwavering resistance to his draconian deportation regime. Likewise, my feminism will not result in memory loss about Clinton’s inhumane stance on children at our border or her failure to stand up against mass deportations. Nor will it prevent me from asking the right questions: Does Hillary stand by her support of disastrous free trade agreements that exacerbate massive displacement and induce migration, like the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the North American Free Trade Agreement (ratified and implemented by Clinton’s potential First Husband)? Does she still believe refugee children from Central America must be sent away? Will she maintain the existing criminalization and deportation machine?
During Obama’s presidency, the community came out to demand relief for 11 million undocumented immigrants impacted by our broken immigration system. Despite tired two-party-politics and tied-hands excuses, the community did not waiver… and, eventually, he listened. Now, as Obama’s presidency winds down, courts across the country are playing with the fate of the November Executive Actions in their chambers, and our communities continue the fight to demand Administrative relief. This is a critical time to protect what we have won and make sure progress continues. This is the moment for the so-called “New American coalition,” the populace with the power to elect Clinton, to ask the questions and create the sharp demands that will continue this hard-fought momentum, or at the very least, not stifle it with unearned victory chants.
Without the right answers, I am not ready for Hillary. Does my refusal to so quickly be ready mean I will vote for the right? No. Does it mean I will not vote at all? Probably not. What it does mean is that I will continue to stand alongside the fighters in this country and abroad who continue demanding better, because beyond balancing budgets and puppet politics is our non-negotiable need for liberation. In an age-old exercise of intersectionality, I will not raise my feminist flag in blind celebration of Hillary at the expense of my brothers and sisters at home and across the globe who are still recovering, suffering, or dying as a result of mediocre political games. We must ask the right questions; we must hold our leaders accountable. And more importantly, we must not stop reimagining what is possible beyond stale rhetoric and two-party politics.
Monika Langarica is a first-generation Chicana from southeast San Diego and a graduate of the University of Southern California and U.C. Berkeley School of Law. Twitter and Instagram: @mylangarica