I started writing this piece the morning of March 10, and am finishing it up hours later during the very late (or early?) hours of March 11, after having seen the results from Tuesday’s primaries.
I am a Chicana, born and raised in LA, a proud first-generation daughter of immigrants from Mexico, and I whole heartedly support the #NotMeUS movement, comprised of the most racially and economically diverse base of voters who are fighting to elect Bernie Sanders for President. Despite the election’s outcome, I will stay the course in fighting for the progressive platforms our movement has championed.
AOC was right in her IG live when she said this on Tuesday night, “There’s no sugar coating it, tonight was a tough night.”
The movement didn’t win as many states as we would’ve liked, but the fact remains that neither candidate is close to securing half of the total delegates needed to clinch the nomination (As of now, Bernie is at 710 with more from California likely coming and Biden is at 860), and we still have primaries in big states like Arizona, Illinois, Ohio and New York, among others.
Our movement is still viable in this electoral game and absolutely beyond it. AOC went on to analyze “what this means for the movement overall” and said that “electoral politics can be movement based, but movements aren’t necessarily electoral in nature either.”
The #NotMeUS movement is currently backing Sanders for the presidency, but it really is all about the courageous youth begging their elders to cut fossil fuel emissions and adopt the Green New Deal so the planet can be inhabitable for generations to come. It’s about the folks in the #FightFor15 and gig workers living paycheck to paycheck. Or the people drowning in student loan debt who believed a degree would be enough for success. It’s about those battling chronic diseasew while surviving without adequate health insurance or affordable meds. They are also DACA recipients who are waiting in limbo while also facing the dark reality that the immigration reforms introduced by moderate Democrats never offered enough protection for them, their parents or loved ones. I could keep the list going but I’d go way past my word count and those folks I listed should immediately command solidarity and a willingness to seriously grapple with the sociopolitical responses their struggles demand, including rallying around the #NotMeUS movement.
I initially decided to write a response to an Elizabeth Warren opinion piece written on Tuesday by Brenda Gonzalez Ricards, the co-host of Tamarindo Podcast (fun fact, I actually co-hosted back in 2017 and 2018!). I’m grateful to Brenda for my time on the show and simultaneously, I am able to disagree with her politically because you guessed it, Latinas are not monolithic. We joked a few times that it was a good thing we weren’t co-hosting the show together during the 2016 primaries, being that I was Team Bernie and she was Team Hillary because it might have gotten ugly, but we would always laught it off.
Well, here we are in 2020 supporting different candidates once again, and though I’ve since left the show, we find ourselves at a similar point of contention—backing different candidates and letting our words speak for themselves. We are contributing to the larger conversation, and despite us not seeing eye to eye, I think healthy dialogue and disagreement is how movements grow and evolve.
Call it a temporary #EducatedPeleonera comeback.
I’m an actor (Santos on OITNB, Gloria on Apple TV+’s Little America), an educator and a public speaker focused on examining diversity, equity and anti-racism in media, and I guess now I can add canvasser for #NotMeUS.
At first, I was a bit nervous and wanted a list of talking points or a script so that I wouldn’t get derailed while chatting with folks on the street. Sanders’ LA Regional Field Director Scarlet Peralta gracefully advised, “Just speak from the heart. They want to hear why YOU are supporting Bernie Sanders.”
I thought about it and realized the most salient reasons for me wanting a Bernie presidency aligned with an overwhelming majority of my #NotMeUS family who yearn for radical systemic change that can only be ushered in by a Bernie administration, rather than a milquetoast neoliberal centrist Democrat with a questionable legacy on race and gender like Joe Biden.
The day of the California primary, I set out on the streets around the East side with a fellow #NotMeUS canvasser. We spoke to approximately 80 Angelenxs that day, the majority Latinx namely of Mexican and Central American descent, and all who mentioned candidates in our exchanges expressed their support for el tío Bernie. The people we spoke to were rather evenly split in terms of citizenship status, but over and over we’d hear similar responses from folks who revealed they were undocumented, “No puedo votar, ya quisiera pero no me dejan…”
After telling us why they couldn’t vote, the majority insisted on adding another piece of critical information: they supported Bernie Sanders. The addendum of solidarity came in many forms: “Si pudiera, votaría por el Bernie, yo le voy al tío Bernie, ustedes voten por mi para el Bernie…”
It hit me more profoundly than ever before that I not only had the privilege and responsibility of voting, but that I also had to bear in mind that I was being asked to vote in the name of those who could not. This is a reminder that we bear a responsibility to vote and to organize beyond electoral politics in solidarity with our community members who cannot. That’s why reading about false equivalences being drawn between a progressive like Sanders and a corporate centrist like Biden are especially reductive and dangerous. One wants to abolish ICE and put a moratorium on deportations (Bernie) while the other was part of an administration that infamously earned Obama the nickname “Deporter in Chief” (Biden). And sorry, Mr. Biden, telling Jorge Ramos that such policy was “a big mistake” a week before the Nevada Caucus doesn’t work.
Even outside of LA, overwhelming evidence suggests that broad support for Senator Sanders’ policies exists among Latinxs. Targeted grassroots organizing far and wide by the Sanders campaign delivered huge victories for #NotMeUS and the numbers do not lie. Latino Rebels has written some very detailed pieces about this support. Even this week’s primary results showed examples of strong Latinx support.
According to #MichiganPrimary exit polls, Sanders won Latinos in the state. Only 6% of the electotrate.
— Julio Ricardo Varela (@julito77) March 11, 2020
To Washington state:
And more from #WashingtonPrimary
— Julio Ricardo Varela (@julito77) March 11, 2020
— Julio Ricardo Varela (@julito77) March 11, 2020
The Latinx support for Sanders is undeniable, therefore I found it logically inconsistent from to invoke the importance of Julián Castro endorsing Elizabeth Warren and a possible “Warren/Castro 2020 ticket with our country’s first Mexican-American vice president” as Brenda’s piece said. One cannot ignore the fact that a majority of Mexican Americans and Latinxs thus far have supported Sanders. You cannot overshadow this reality with laments about the representational importance of having a white woman serve as president.
And while we’re at this moment highlighting the conveniently selective exaltation of Latinidad, let’s look at the tokenizing of AOC. How can one, in good faith, attempt to use AOC’s innocuously diplomatic tweet calling Warren and Kate McKinnon’s dance against endorsing #NotMeUS when AOC is literally one of Bernie’s most high profile supporters?
ok this is legendary
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) March 8, 2020
Erasing AOC’s progressive ideals and politics by celebrating only her external aesthetics and presence is painfully reductive and problematic. Engage with her as the whole radical, intelligent, critical woman that she is—Sanders supporter and all. Otherwise, it’s just cheap virtue signaling.
So let’s use AOC’s political analysis as an entry point: her official Sanders endorsement video.
“When he talks about a political revolution, and when he talks about #NotMeUS, those aren’t slogans. This is not about me, this is not about Senator Sanders. This is about what we have to accomplish together. This is not about saying everyone should have healthcare with some asterisks or that your student loan debt should be forgiven under certain conditions. This is about unconditional universal guaranteed advanced standard of living in the United States of America. No ifs, no ands, no buts, no matter who you are” AOC says.
I need. YOU need. WE NEED UNIVERSAL HEALTHCARE. Healthcare is a human right. Period. Full stop. Access to quality healthcare should NOT hinge on whether or not you have a job or what job you have, nor should it fluctuate based on income, race, citizenship status, or housing situation.
So when I read phrases like, “now that I don’t have a dog in this race, “Yo Perreo Sola,” and apparently so does Warren, choosing not to endorse either candidate… And good for her. Neither she nor I owe our endorsement to anyone,” I can’t deal with the privileged cynicism and individualism that it suggests.
This isn’t a scenario akin to a game. This is literally about survival—life and death for a myriad of Americans. Shaping one’s political activism around an individual instead of the platforms they support, the policies they will enact and the movement of supporters who desperately need these changes to come to fruition, is just irresponsible.
I find it concerning for anyone seeking a public platform, especially one that specifically targets Latinxs and youth, to promote ambivalence around the remainder of the primary process, simply because of the rancor around not being able to “elect the first woman President.” Fighting to elect someone as president simply because she is a woman is not “revolutionary” as nominating Warren or Clinton would’ve been, but rather, a brand of performative faux feminism that fails to examine race and class privilege while it seeks to emulate historically patriarchal, colonial and capitalist positions of power. The result? A consequential failure at intersectionality.
As recently as last November, Clinton still felt compelled to publicly discourage the fight for universal healthcare,saying that she instead preferred to build on the ACA. In contrast, Warren put forth a plan closely aligned with Sanders’ plan for universal healthcare. Why then the reticence to work in solidarity with the #NotMeUS movement to vociferously defend the only shot, in the next decade at least, that we have to introduce legislation for universal healthcare in the United States?
This Is the Moment
At this moment in time, its impossible to bring up healthcare without the coronovirus. A tweet by TIME editor-at-large Anand Giridharadas sums it all up:
Coronavirus makes clear what has been true all along. Your health is as safe as that of the worst-insured, worst-cared-for person in your society. It will be decided by the height of the floor, not the ceiling.
— Anand Giridharadas (@AnandWrites) February 27, 2020
Being someone who, to clunkily use Anand’s healthcare analogy, has been at both the floor and the ceiling when it comes to healthcare, this is personal for me.
A few years ago, I was diagnosed with a rare ovarian tumor that had rapidly grown to the size of a grapefruit. In the process of dealing with this, I experienced three different types of insurance coverage and briefly no coverage—two out of three plans provided by unions. After receiving subpar care at an assigned LA CARE (Medi-Cal) clinic, I was briefly told cancer was likely, sending me into a panicked depression. I couldn’t get in to have an ultrasound for a month and a biopsy or removal procedure for another three months. After doing a union play, I soon qualified for CIGNA via AEA (Actors Equity Association) and received the best medical care I’ve ever had in my life (the ceiling). I was able to see a skilled surgeon who properly diagnosed the type of tumor. Soon, the mass was removed and after two weeks in the hospital due to complications and a second surgery, I was reassured that I was free of any cancerous cells, reproductive system still in tact.
What would the outcome have been if I had waited for the flippant LA CARE to properly treat me? How long would it have taken for me, a low income Latina artist, to have her humanity valued? I lost the CIGNA plan before I could have my six-month follow-up and was uninsured for some time. But then I finally qualified for SAGAFTRA insurance after some TV and film work. However, I couldn’t pay for the high deductible necessary to get my tests. Treating a possibly cancerous mass should not have been the painful roller coaster that it was because of this country’s privatized health care system. I never should have had lapses or discrepancies in the quality of my care because of my insurance providers.
NO ONE SHOULD.
I invite my former co-host and others who may feel like her to hold space for the political complexity of this moment and to grapple with the fact that progressive voters and a large chunk of the Latinx electorate want Trump out of office and also want radically progressive structural changes championed most effectively by Sanders. I do agree that we can’t afford four more years of Trump, but we also cannot afford a “return to normalcy,” a recycled WWI era slogan the Biden campaign is using now.
The sobering truth is that the pre-Trump “return to normalcy” Biden is trying to sell us lacks a clear vision for justice and liberation, and instead, incoherently shouts at us to rally behind maybe or maybe not beating Trump, but definitely not around forgiving student loan debt, not abolishing ICE, decriminalizing marijuana, putting a moratorium on deportations or ever having universal healthcare.
Declaring an obstinate non-endorsement against Bernie and #NotMeUS carries some rather unsettling narcissistic and individualistic overtones. The truth is, the concept of an endorsement from any one individual is an insufficient response at a time when only radical interventions of solidarity can suffice. Forego the limiting rhetoric around purist party loyalty and instead, widen the lens to stand in solidarity with true progressive organizers and coalitions who have endorsed #NotMeUS like Mijente, Working Families Party, UTLA, Sunrise Movement, National Nurses United, and Our Revolution.
Melinna Bobadilla is an LA based actor and educator with student loans from UC Berkeley and NYU. You can see her as Santos on Orange is the New Black, Gloria on Apple TV+ Little America and opposite Meryl Streep in The Laundromat. She grams from @MelinnaBobadilla. She tweets from @MelinnaTeatrina. She facebooks on the dl.