Columns » Autumn Tolbert

No sympathy for Sarah Huckabee Sanders

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Oh, to have the privilege to look at Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders through an objective lens. I sure can't, and I am to the point where if I hear one more progressive or even centrist Democrat claim they disagree with her policies then in the next sentence point out that she is "so good at her job" or she has taken on a "tough role," I may scream. Sanders wakes up every day and chooses to lie and dodge and prop up a sexist and racist president. I just don't get the love affair that so many, especially men, who claim to be allies of the poor, of women, of immigrants and of people of color have with her. Maybe it's because some of them knew her long ago when her daddy was governor. I've heard she was friendly and charming then. I only know what I see on camera week after week, and I'm not seeing anything that Arkansas should be proud of.

The New Yorker just did a long piece on Sanders and how she got to where she is now. They point out she has had a front seat to politics her entire life. And now she's one of the stars. Local girl done good. She could walk away any day and have a job at her network of choice, probably for higher pay than she makes now. But all of that does not make her any less complicit (that word isn't just reserved for Ivanka) in the separation of children from their families at the border, from denying refugees a safe home, and now by standing by a Supreme Court nominee who, in addition to signaling he will vote to control women's bodies, has been accused of sexual assault.

I wonder if these same members of Sanders' fan club would also say upon seeing a child being abused, "You know, I disagree with that man beating that child over there, but he sure does have good form and follow through." I'm sure some of you by now are rolling your eyes and thinking being uncivil to poor Sanders. I'll say what I've previously said in this space: "Civility is the anthem of the privileged." When you are one of the groups Sanders and Trump work to marginalize, whether through executive orders, Supreme Court nominees or candidate endorsements, when Sanders' name comes up, we aren't immediately looking to tell her job well done. To continue to see allies talk about her as if we should be proud of her accomplishments is a slap in the face to those fighting to protect their neighbors from the Trump administration.

One of those fighters is my good friend, Blanca Estevez, who, as part of a nationwide effort to reunite families, spends time driving asylum seekers hundreds of miles to pick up their children and grandchildren from detention facilities where the Trump administration has shipped them after separating them at the border. I see the toll that this work takes on her as she hears first hand the stories of the men and women who leave everything to come here to escape gang and sexual violence in their home countries. Blanca was brought here from El Salvador by her grandmother. Now, a citizen, she works to extend the same benefit to others. She, unlike Sanders and Trump, sees the value in those who share her brown skin and who come here with very little except the desire to raise their children in a better place. She is an Arkansan we can be proud of.

I'm not sure the exact moment I stopped being open-minded about Sanders. Maybe I lost most of my objectivity with her family after my hometown was devastated by a school shooting and her dad smugly promoted his book about the event and kept all of the profits. The only feeling I'm able to muster toward her now is disgust. And for those of you who are worried about my soul, don't bother with the pious emails this week reminding me I'm headed to hell unless I forgive and repent. I'll take all that up with my pastor on Sunday. Save your energy and email Sanders instead. Since so many of you are convinced she is good at her job, ask her if being good at something means she should continue to do it. Maybe if enough Arkansans remind her of who she apparently used to be, she will have a change of heart. But if not, and we welcome her home to Arkansas after all she has said and done, then we will be complicit, too.

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