Opinion: Is it OK to be a woman and not vote for Hillary Clinton?

Good morning. I'm Paul Thornton, The Times' letters editor, and it is Saturday, Feb. 13. Tomorrow is marathon day in Los Angeles, so be sure to avoid these streets if you're traveling by car. Speaking of slow, never-ending, painful races ...

The Democratic race for president has taken the ugly turn many of us knew it would: Can you be a self-respecting woman and support Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton? Sure, but you might go to hell (says Madeleine Albright) or have some latent desire to go on dates with bros for Bernie (according to Gloria Steinem).

Los Angeles writer Maria Bustillos is having none of this. She's a woman who not only supports Sanders, but also feels that Clinton has betrayed Democratic values. She writes in an op-ed article:

It's insulting to progressive women who support Sen. Bernie Sanders to hear every day that our support is an indication of misogyny. Why do Clinton's backers imagine that women “owe” the candidate something different and special, something more than she is owed by men? Every American is free to vote as he or she wishes. To attempt to curtail or lessen that freedom for anyone is anti-democratic, with both a big and small “D.”

If Clinton wants my vote, then she can try to earn it, like anyone else. But my refusal to support her is based on reasons far more serious than her entitled attitude or that of her followers.

Sanders voted against the Iraq war resolution, while then-Sen. Clinton allied herself with the Bush regime and voted for it. For this reason, she personally bears a small part of the responsibility for hundreds of thousands — perhaps over a million — avoidable deaths in a stupid war that brought nothing but grief to that unfortunate country, and our own. I do not care whether Clinton is a woman or a space alien: I cannot and will never support a Democrat in a primary who did not speak out forcefully against invading Iraq at the time.

That is a deal-breaker — I can hardly believe that my party has seen fit to put a pro-Iraq war candidate on our ticket at all — but there are a lot of other reasons I don't support Clinton. Her ties to Wall Street, for instance, are off-putting in the extreme. She claims that accepting $650,000 in speaking fees from Goldman Sachs won't influence her policymaking with respect to the financial industry. If not, then why won't she release the transcripts? (It would be unwise for Democrats to give her the nod without seeing those Goldman speeches, for they will almost certainly come out during the general campaign.)

Clinton says she is a “pragmatist.” When “pragmatism” means betrayal of the Democratic values in which I most strongly believe — opposition to war, opposition to the death penalty, support of a single-payer healthcare system, support for breaking up the banks — that is not pragmatism, that is caving. Clinton is an establishment candidate through and through.

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Women readers speak up in support of Clinton. In letters to the editor, they defend Steinem's and Albright's remarks as speaking to broader truths about gender and politics and praise Clinton for carrying on the battle for full equality. On Steinem and Albright, reader Elizabeth M. Foster of Pasadena writes, "It is not too much to ask young women to reject a pipe dream and seek the truth about both candidates." In a letter published today, reader Jo Perry of Studio City writes: "Clinton is fighting for basic, too-long-denied human rights. This may be a side issue to male candidates, but it is urgent and real for more than half of America."

Sanders is a Jew who won a state primary, and that makes his candidacy historic too. Clinton is getting all the attention for potentially breaking the gender glass ceiling of American politics, but no one seems to care that for the first time in history, a Jewish candidate took a major step toward the White House by winning the New Hampshire primary. Jonathan Zimmerman writes of Sanders' historic win: "There's more to the story of our collective insouciance. Perhaps we can't see what a big deal Sanders' candidacy truly is because we've forgotten how much prejudice Jews encountered for most of our political history." L.A. Times

Here's how Sanders' campaign might matter to California: The Vermont senator might be relegated to also-ran status by the time California's primary takes place on June 7. Still, his campaign serves as a model for turning out young voters to the polls, something a certain progressive, youthful lieutenant governor in California looking to succeed Jerry Brown in 2018 could emulate. Sacramento Bee

Even when Albert Einstein's dead, he's right. Science writer Saswato R. Das sums up the ramifications of news earlier this week that gravitational waves set off by the collision of two black holes 1.3 billion light years away were detected on Earth: "The results of a big physics experiment have delivered a long-sought, hard-won and resounding victory to Albert Einstein, confirming yet again that the revolutionary theory of gravitation he put forward a century ago is the real deal. The findings cement Einstein's near-mythical stature as one of the greatest scientists of all time." L.A. Times

That milk past its "sell by" date in your refrigerator is safe to drink. Emily Broad Leib reveals that Americans are wasting huge amounts of perfectly edible, healthy food because of date labels stamped on products by the food industry that mislead consumers into thinking they indicate something about safety. They don't: "The Food and Drug Administration, which has the power to regulate date labels, has chosen not to, precisely because they are not related to safety. Food scientists say that not a single food safety outbreak in the U.S. has been traced to a food being consumed past date." L.A. Times

L.A. County's former top cop may soon go to prison. Ex-Sheriff Lee Baca pleaded guilty earlier this week to lying to federal agents investigating his department's jail scandal in 2013. The Times' editorial board hopes this means counties will get serious about oversight of their sheriff's departments: "Perhaps Baca will occupy the cell recently vacated by equally disgraced former Orange County Sheriff Michael Carona. And perhaps counties will now provide a level of oversight that is sufficiently muscular to ensure that it won't be necessary, anytime soon, for the feds to come and clean up the sheriff's mess." L.A. Times

And finally, a correction: Some readers noticed that last week's newsletter incorrectly said the date was "Saturday, Feb. 5." It was, in fact, Feb. 6. Thanks to those who e-mailed me about the error.

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