Tom Hayden’s recent article for The Nation, “I Used to Support Bernie, but Then I Changed My Mind,” has prompted an outpouring of angry responses from readers.

Although Hayden supported Hillary Clinton in 2012 for a 2016 presidential run, last September the progressive activist wrote in an article (which mostly criticized Bernie Sanders) that he was “a Bernie supporter.” Now, in an article posted Tuesday on The Nation website, Hayden has surprised many by endorsing Clinton in this year’s California primary.

Hayden laid out his reasons. First, he believes Sanders’ call to end all fracking is unworkable and that the approach of Clinton, who wants limits on fracking, would produce more positive results. He cites the antagonism and “brutal attacks” launched against Jerry Brown after the California governor took up an anti-fracking policy in his state. Despite the fact that Brown is currently receiving historically high approval ratings, which Hayden points out, Hayden believes that a “fracktivist” campaign during the state Democratic primary “may deepen this antagonism and result in defections among Hillary supporters.”

Hayden went on to say:

My second worry about Bernie’s candidacy is that he has not really faced an all-out Republican-financed media assault in this entire campaign. If he’s the nominee, that will be merciless. And my third concern: Bernie is leading an incredible movement and sowing seeds for the future, but lacks a concrete plan for turning his legacy into a permanent progressive force. We don’t know what will happen to the army of supporters he has assembled, but we already know the pattern of many similar projects—which end up going into decline or divisions.

Voting on June 7 is a personal responsibility for myself and other Californians, just as it is for my friends and colleagues in New York on April 19. What is to be done in this agonizing situation? I still believe a united front against the Republicans is the best and most necessary strategy. But I can’t vote for a united front on June 7.

I intend to vote for Hillary Clinton in the California primary for one fundamental reason. It has to do with race. My life since 1960 has been committed to the causes of African Americans, the Chicano movement, the labor movement, and freedom struggles in Vietnam, Cuba and Latin America. In the environmental movement I start from the premise of environmental justice for the poor and communities of color. My wife is a descendant of the Oglala Sioux, and my whole family is inter-racial.

What would cause me to turn my back on all those people who have shaped who I am? That would be a transgression on my personal code. I have been on too many freedom rides, too many marches, too many jail cells, and far too many gravesites to breach that trust. And I have been so tied to the women’s movement that I cannot imagine scoffing at the chance to vote for a woman president. When I understood that the overwhelming consensus from those communities was for Hillary—for instance the Congressional Black Caucus and Sacramento’s Latino caucus—that was the decisive factor for me. I am gratified with Bernie’s increasing support from these communities of color, though it has appeared to be too little and too late. Bernie’s campaign has had all the money in the world to invest in inner city organizing, starting 18 months ago. He chose to invest resources instead in white-majority regions at the expense of the Deep South and urban North.

In reality, the Congressional Black Caucus did not support Clinton; rather, it was the Congressional Black Caucus’ political action committee (PAC). Democracy Now! reports that Congressional Black Caucus members such as Rep. Keith Ellison were not even asked for input before the PAC endorsed Clinton. Democracy Now! found that the PAC board includes many lobbyists, “including [some] who work for Purdue Pharma, the makers of the highly addictive opioid OxyContin, and others who represent Philip Morris and Wal-Mart, the largest gun distributor in America.”

That is one reason many people find Hayden’s endorsement of Clinton puzzling and infuriating. As of Friday afternoon, the article had generated 284 reader comments on the Nation website, and only two showed support for his position. The response on Facebook was similar.

You can read some of the most “liked” comments about his Nation article below:

Norman Norton writes: April 12, 2016 at 3:34 pm Tom: In the 60’s I attended a lecture by Saul Alinski on the UW campus, where he warned students against “…believing our own shit”. Tom, you are doing just that 50 years later! You are embracing the most egregious collection of establishment dysfunction with your support of the very things you argue against! Hill and Bill have become obscenely wealthy by tapping into the money stream that has bled the wealth from the world’s middle class. Together, their take has been over $100 million. Bernie has accumulated wealth of less than $1 million after 35 yrs in government. The Clinton’s have fracked our aquifers, free traded our jobs, deregulated Wall Street, militarily destabilized countries, embraced horrific policies like the Saudi’s brutality and Kissinger’s ‘Total Control’, legislated minorities into jail and generally have become wealthy by their actions. Bernie opposes the establishment policies you claim to disdain yet you support Hillary. You tremble in the face of “…an overwhelming wall of opposition from the Republican Congress…”, which, at this time is, at the very most, a fractured party of religious extremists and Teabaggers, in power only because Obama lost the progressive vote when he sold out to establishment power. Those progressives will return in waves behind a real progressive candidate and Congress will change accordingly. You shudder at an “…all-out Republican-financed media assault…” but fail to recognize that establishment backed efforts by the media to twist our democracy, and the DNC’s ‘super delegate’ dysfunction, are also fully recognized as blatant disregard of our democratic process by responsible voters, and serve to further marshall their resolve and accelerate support for Bernie. You “…intend to vote for Hillary Clinton in the California primary for one fundamental reason. It has to do with race. ” failing to mention that it was Bernie, not Hillary who marched beside MLK in the Freedom Marches, and Bernie who was jailed trying to integrate Chicago housing in the 60’s. Where was Hillary in these dangerous times? Not in the front lines where she should have been as a true supporter of racial equality. You go on to mention “…my sense is that California is winnable for Bernie.” I’m at a loss to explain your reasoning. You rightly point out that “..Bernie is more dovish and Hillary still harbors an inner hawk.” You go on to say “… (Bernie) correctly faults Hillary for her hawkish impulse towards regime change.” Yet you back Hillary. Do you feel we need more of the failed wars and policies that have produced millions of destroyed families, and ISIS? Other comments in your article that resonate: “When she seems to tack back towards her roots, it is usually in response to Bernie and new social movements….. “. “I cannot imagine scoffing at the chance to vote for a woman .” Yes, but surely not this woman! Your article is lame. Your reasoning is unsound. How is it that we read this, from the leader and author of radical social change in the 60’s? I expected far more.

Jonathan Martinez writes: April 12, 2016 at 12:52 pm

As a Latino, your claim to be voting for Hillary out of some debt to us is beyond insulting. I’m sure that is not your intent but that is how it makes me feel. Insulted and upset. Do you not know what hell Hillary brought to Honduras? How she callously said the children fleeing from the violence the coup brought forward should be deported? How Berta Caceres called her out before her death for destroying Honduras? How she glowingly speaks about and bragged about her support from the odious Henry Kissinger? A man who was responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of Latin Americans and millions of Asians in Cambodia and Laos? I try to use my words very carefully, but Hillary is NO friend of Latin America or of Latinos. She even had the temerity to redbait Sanders on the Sandinistas and the great Fidel Castro. To Latin Americans Fidel, for all his faults of which there are many, represented the desire to be free of imperial control. The Sandinistas did so much great work from literacy to public health and for someone to take the side of Reagan? It’s absolutely disgusting. You should seriously reconsider what you have said.

George Hoffman writes: April 12, 2016 at 1:10 pm It’s sad reading this essay remembering Tom Hayden as a leader of the movement against the Vietnam War. And it’s also ironic, being a Vietnam veteran, who also voted for Bernie Sanders in the Ohio primary, to see Hayden throwing him under the Hillary Clinton campaign bus with his endorsement for her. I have no animus against Hayden for his stand against the Vietnam War. He was right, and I was wrong. But he is wrong now giving up on Sanders. It’s just quite strange to see Tom Hayden as an old man compromising himself when in his youth he has such conviction, a fire in his belly. Maybe, T.S. Eliot was right. The world ends with a whimper rather than a bang. Hayden has sold its soul to the machine politics in the Democratic Party. Uncle Ho is turning like a lathe in his grave right now for you. You sold out, Tom.

Frank Dacruz writes: April 12, 2016 at 12:09 pm

Hi Tom. I thought the purpose of the primaries was to find out which candidate people liked best, not the one they thought had the best chance of winning. Of course Hillary has the best chance of winning if she has the entire MSM and all the politicians and corporations in the world behind her. That’s not a strike against Bernie; it’s an indication of how thoroughly corrupt and bought-off our politicians and media are. The Establishment has been screwing us (and not only us but the rest of the world too) all our lives, and more Establishment will be no different from what we’ve had all these years and decades since FDR, but with a little tinkering around the edges, maybe, and a lot of happy talk about “empowerment” and “tearing down barriers”. Remember how enthusiastic everybody was in 2008 about Obama? People thought that once elected, he would stand up for ordinary people, he would fight for what he said he believed in. None of that happened. Bernie is not like that, he will fight, he always has. Anyway, this is not an ordinary election year, the very fate of the planet hangs in the balance, tinkering and triangulation won’t save us (the people and creatures of the Earth); the USA needs a total do-over. Sure, Bernie will have opposition in Congress and everywhere else, and so will Hillary, but Bernie will make a lot of noise, and everybody knows he’s right and millions of people will fight with him. This is a unique opportunity in our lifetimes and very likely our last chance. Let’s vote in the primaries for the one we believe in and save the traditional nose-holding for the general election. Your friend and one-time cellmate, Frank da Cruz, Bronx NY

Hayden declared in January that he will be running for an open seat on the Democratic National Committee.

Read Hayden’s complete article and all of the comments here.

— Posted by Donald Kaufman.


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