That Time WWFC Had My Back

by WWFC member Robin Alperstein

  1. Hillary Clinton at rally in front of large crowd with signs

On April 16, 2016, at the suggestion of friends, I published a 10,000-word article on Medium whose origin was a long rant I’d posted on Facebook a couple of days earlier. I titled the piece, “On Becoming Anti-Bernie,” and to my shock it began to go viral almost immediately. It was the most popular post on Medium for a few days, and within several days it had been shared about 250,000 times. I got hundreds of emails from strangers (mainly positive, but a few quite negative), and Raw Story even wrote a hit piece on me. Because this article was just my opinion, and I am not a journalist or pundit or academic, I didn’t take the time to include any sources in the piece.

Once the article began to be shared so widely, however, it became apparent that I needed to embed links to at least some of the publications, articles, blog posts, websites, sources and commentary I had referenced. Strangers were emailing me asking me to include links so that the piece would be more powerful; others were deriding the essay for supposedly deliberately omitting any source material.

That’s when I went back through the article and found over 200 statements I had made that I felt needed a citation. But I had a problem: I didn’t have those sources at my fingertips. I didn’t remember the name or location or site for everything I had read or relied on in forming my opinions. It had taken me four months to develop a negative opinion of Bernie Sanders and an increasingly positive one of Hillary Clinton, and in that time I’d watched all the debates and town halls and read many hundreds of articles. But I hadn’t saved a single thing as a “favorite.” I started Googling for articles I remembered having read days, weeks and even months back. Some I found in seconds; others were taking hours. Meanwhile, I felt intense internal pressure to get it done with the article receiving so much attention—I was even being contacted by news organizations and asked if they could republish it, or if I would comment on the reaction to it.

So I turned to Wise Women for Clinton for help. Several of the articles I had referenced had been posted over months by members of the group—women who knew every nuance of Sanders’s and Cinton’s respective records on gun safety legislation, or Hillarycare in the ’90s, or the now notorious crime bill. There were others who had been following Hillary Clinton’s career for 30 years and were die-hard supporters, from whom I had learned about many positive accomplishments that I had never seen reported in the general media (though they were there if you looked). Still others had written some short articles themselves, including a great piece on binary thinking that had really resonated with me.

But mostly, this group of women had provided a safe and consistently thoughtful, intelligent and well-researched space in which to talk about the election itself. Before I was invited to join WWFC, I did lean toward Clinton but I was still looking at, and very much open to, Sanders as a candidate. He had opposed invading Iraq; I had opposed invading Iraq and had rejected Clinton in favor of Barack Obama in 2008. But I was having negative experiences in a closed progressive group: I was called names by men who did not like it when I suggested that personally attacking and questioning the motives of non-avid Sanders supporters was not productive.

WWFC was not only about Hillary Clinton, but about serious discussion of the issues, of the candidate, and of her challengers and challenges—including the misogyny and white privilege that were becoming increasingly ugly. Most important to me, the group had a rigorous insistence on rejecting non-credible sources of information and on maintaining a mutually respectful mode of discourse. They alerted me, for example, to her 2002 speech in favor of the authorization of regime change, and urged me to compare it to the speeches of scores of Democratic men who had voted similarly but been given a pass. And they showed me so much more about her that impressed me and caused me to think about her differently than I had in the past. Yet the more I learned about Sanders, the less I liked what I saw. That combined with the behavior of die-hard Sanders supporters—in particular their combination of blind worship of him and hatred for Clinton—was starting to push me further in her direction.

It was WWFC who gave me the courage to publish my opinion on Medium, and its members shared it and stood by me and had my back when strangers started to go after me on social media. It is possible to hold contradictory feelings in one’s brain at the same time, and this was true for me when I hit “publish” that day. I simultaneously was afraid of what would happen if Sanders’ supporters read it (I feared a barrage of misogynist hate mail), and yet I also did not think more than a few hundred people would ever read it, because it’s so very long, and it’s still mainly a rant, and it makes no claim to objectivity. I also didn’t write it “for” Sanders supporters—I wrote it out of frustration, and it was my Hillary-supporting friends who suggested I share it. I didn’t expect my Sanders-supporting friends who read it to share it or change their minds and indeed I didn’t expect to change any Sanders’ supporters’ minds. I just wanted them to understand why I not only didn’t feel the Bern after starting out positive on him, but had come to basically detest him.

And yet even as I didn’t really think the piece would be shared except among friends and a few of their friends who all agree with each other, I was also afraid. I was afraid of the legendary Bernie trolls I’d experienced slightly but that many WWFC had shared examples of (with screen shots). I was afraid of the vitriol I’d seen in public comments about Clinton. And I was really afraid to use my own name because I did not want to be on the receiving end of that kind of hate speech. But I began to realize just how afraid I was to share my opinion in this political climate even using a pseudonym. “This is a democracy and I am afraid to state in public why I think a politician is not a good candidate to hold office? I am actually afraid of other citizens?” That is the inner dialogue that convinced me that I had to use my own name, even if every BernieBro in America came out of the woodwork to call me the c-word. I had to do it because that kind of intimidation is unacceptable and to give in to it is to empower it.

So I put my full name on the piece and hit “publish”—and then briefly hyperventilated and almost vomited.

When I stopped shaking, I shared this story with the WWFC, along with a link to the article. And they read it. They said they felt the same way. They read it, and they shared it, and they supported it. When hateful comments began, including on Twitter, they intervened on my behalf, defended the piece, and defended me personally. They screened the comments for me and summarized them so I didn’t have to read them. The social media experts in the group gave me advice on whether to feed Twitter trolls (no!) and the journalism/media experts in the group helped me navigate the interview requests that were coming in. The rest gave me an incredible amount of moral support. And then positive comments poured in from people from around country, and my WWFC friends were telling me their own family members were sharing it with them not knowing they knew me. We all realized that it wasn’t just us who felt this way about Sanders and about Clinton—there were so many who were feeling so silenced and so frustrated, and in some small way this article helped give voice to those feelings.

And so when I was feeling extraordinary pressure to include sources in my piece, I posted in the WWFC space explaining how long it was taking, and asking for suggestions. And a hundred “wise women” came to my aid. It was the morning of the New York primary, and even though everyone was transfixed by the day’s impending drama, they knew this article was going to have even more impact if Clinton made a good showing that night. I listed the statements I had made in the article that needed sourcing and women signed up to find those sources for me. One member created a spreadsheet in Google docs with a list of instructions. Members searched for the sources so that I would not have to, and populated the Google doc with multiple sources for each statement. When I wanted to link to endorsements for Clinton that Sanders had criticized as “establishment,” the wise women tracked these down for me. I needed links to speeches, or statements Sanders had made, or sites with his voting record—they pulled these for me. Their “crowdsourcing” enabled me to cut down the time needed to locate the links. Not only was it an enormous help, it was a beautiful example of women working together to support other women and get work done.

I have learned so much from this group of women, who are young and old and in between, who are well-off and middle class and poor, who are artists and unemployed and army veterans and retired and musicians and lawyers and writers and editors and students and doctors and nurses and scientists and more, who are in the private sector and the government sector and the non-profit sector and academia, who have steady jobs and work in the gig economy, who are lesbian and straight, who are Latina and African-American and Asian and Southeast Asian and caucasian, who are Christian and atheist and Jewish and Muslim, who are from every state, who are religious and non-religious, who are married and divorced and single and widowed, who have children or step-children or no children, who are sick and are healthy, who are very progressive and liberal and moderate, who are lifelong Democrats and independents, who supported Obama in 2008 and supported Hillary in 2008, and who are united in their desire to elect Hillary Clinton the next president of the United States.

Every person has her own story for why she believes that Clinton will fight for her, for us, and for our country, and we have spirited debates about positions Clinton has taken or will take, and different views on foreign policy and domestic policy and political strategy. But we share the view that Clinton is an extraordinarily qualified, smart, competent, compassionate and well-meaning public servant who takes a fully intersectional approach to addressing our country’s challenges and who will fight like hell to protect our fundamental rights and to achieve her campaign promises once she is elected. And we are thrilled at the prospect not only of electing a woman to the office of the president at long last, but electing this woman. This gifted woman whose life’s work has been to help break down barriers that hold people back, and who is still standing after decades of attempts to destroy her by any means. This woman whose vilification is a stand-in for the ways that so many women have been vilified and erased and discounted over the course of history. This woman, whose victory will be a victory for all women over misogyny and hatred and hundreds of years of systemic sexism. This woman, whose cool and steady calm in the face of endless challenges, both petty and major, is rivaled only by that of her immediate predecessor, Barack Obama. This woman, whose incredible political, diplomatic and life experience makes her by light-years the best candidate in this election.

I and we support Hillary Clinton for president enthusiastically and proudly. Hill yeah! Hell yeah! Hillary Clinton for President 2016.