“You don’t have the standing.” What did Hilary Rosen mean when she said this to Nina Tuner on CNN?

I ignored the headline when I saw a dispute between professional pundit Hilary Rosen and Bernie Sanders Campaign Co-Chair Nina Turner on Twitter yesterday.

Everyone is so angry these days. So reactive.

Sometimes I have to opt out.

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The story was still trending this morning, and my curiosity got the better of me. I clicked. I watched. I gasped.

Turner, a former state senator from Ohio, made a reference to a quote by Martin Luther King, Jr. about “white moderates.”

Rosen rebutted by cutting Turner off: “Nina, wait. Wait. What he said was that we should worry about the silence of white moderates. And what we have in Joe Biden is a man who is not silent.” She went on to make a case for supporting Joe Biden.

When Turner was offered an opportunity to respond, Rosen cut her off. “Don’t use Martin Luther King against Joe Biden. You don’t have that standing. You don’t, you don’t have that standing. I’m sorry. You don’t.”

I recognize that I don’t have a standing (or the life experience as a person of color) to engage in Turner’s and Rosen’s debate about King — but what struck me, what made me gasp, was Rosen’s claim that Turner doesn’t “have that standing.”

What does that mean?

She didn’t explain. Host Chris Cuomo didn’t ask her to explain, and so I can only speculate. My mind is still reeling.

Hilary Rosen is a partner at SKDKnickerbocker, a public-affairs agency. According to her biography on the company’s website, she is “ a well-known strategist who effectively navigates the worlds of media, communications, business and politics…and also an on-air CNN analyst.” She has served as chairman and CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and has been published by The Washington Post among other high-profile platforms.

In addition to having served as an Ohio state senator, Nina Turner has served as a Cleveland city councilor. She holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from Cleveland State University and she attended Cuyahoga Community College. Rosen, for her part, holds an undergraduate degree from the private George Washington University.

“The Standing”

So what, exactly, is “the standing” of which Rosen speaks?

The discussion involved Martin Luther King, Jr., and the People of Twitter are accusing Rosen of racism.

As most people who are accused of racism tend to do, Rosen denied the charge in a tweet:

As in the worst-case scenarios, Rosen’s tweet is rather undermined by an earlier, now deleted tweet:

But Rosen’s on-air statement — “you don’t have the standing” — may represent something broader than race-based prejudices and stereotyping. One could argue that it represents the very thing about Washington that has radicalized so many American people to support both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders: elitism.

Without benefit of an explanation from Rosen about what, exactly, she means by those words, what those words convey is sort of elitism that so many people associate with powerful people in Washington.

It’s time for a Democratic reckoning.

Rosen, is a high-profile Democrat in part because of her “success” and in part because of the causes with which she has been associated. Selections from her official biography:

She is a Partner in the award winning public affairs agency, SKDKnickerbocker and also an on-air CNN analyst.

Hilary formerly served as chairman and CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the leading trade association of America’s record companies, where she helped drive the industry’s transition to a digital marketplace.

Currently, Hilary specializes in creating and executing large-scale public affairs campaigns, reputation management and crisis communications solutions for high-profile business and non-profit clients.

Her writing has been featured in The Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal and CNN.com. Prior to CNN, she was a political and business commentator at CNBC and MSNBC.

Throughout her career, Hilary has regularly been featured on power lists in a variety of sectors, including The New York Post’s Ladies Who Launch Entertainment Trends, Entertainment Weekly’s Annual Power List, The Hollywood Reporter’s Power 50 Women, The Washington Post’s Power 20 and National Journal’s Power Women in Washington.

I’ve emphasized words meant to convey power or influence.

Regarding her cause-based agenda:

Hilary is entrepreneurial activist. She a co-founder of the Times Up Legal Defense Fund, the organization created in January 2018 by women in the entertainment industry to help survivors of sexual harassment in the workplace and works currently with TimesUp to promote equal opportunity and good policies in corporate America. She is a founder of Rock the Vote and Rap the Vote, two organizations credited with increasing voter education and turnout among young people and people of color and she is the founder of Business Forward, the network of centrist business leaders in Washington.

Having worked for multiple not-for-profit organizations, and having been associated with many other nonprofits, Rosen’s bio ticks off the requirements of any nonprofit CEO: power, influence, demonstrated dedication to helping others.

But what, exactly, empowers Rosen to believe that she has “the standing” to speak over the 52-year-old Nina Turner who, again, “doesn’t have the standing,” according to Rosen?

I can’t say for certain, but the question presents an opportunity to discuss something that I’ve rarely seen discussed: There is a certain kind of Washington, D.C.-area nonprofit executive, attorney and federal official represented by certain qualities — namely:

  • Graduated from an elite, selective private university
  • Has never experienced economic challenges
  • Boasts high-powered networks in high-powered industries
  • Gained access to high-powered networks through familial connections
  • Gained notoriety and awarded for speaking out on behalf of marginalized minority groups to which they do not belong
  • Highly compensated for speaking out on behalf of marginalized minority groups to which they do not belong
  • Often believe that they are best equipped to speak out on behalf of marginalized groups, based upon private, elite, expensive educations, accomplishments, awards and other recognition

Rosen moved to Washington to pursue a bachelor’s degree in international business at George Washington University — an institution that comes with a high price tag. (A student entering this fall will pay an estimated $234,200 for a four-year undergraduate degree.) According to a Washington Post profile of Rosen, the first door that opened for her in Washington was employment as a staffer in the office of New Jersey Governor Brendan Byrne; the door reportedly opened thanks to “a family friend.”

Turner, for her part, attended a community college, where she attained an associate degree prior to transferring to a public Ohio state university, where she earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees. She then returned to her community college alma mater to work as an associate professor prior to being elected to public office and chairing Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’s campaign.

I cannot in good conscience label a person I don’t know as racist based on a single comment. What strikes me most about Rosen’s comment, though, is that I cannot not interpret her comment as being undergirded by elitism of a sort that has cost the Democratic party dearly over time.

Looking at their biographies, it is clear that Rosen and Turner come from different socioeconomic backgrounds. Looking at their educational backgrounds in particular is striking; unless they attend on scholarship, most students at George Washington University can fairly be called “privileged,” and most students at community colleges less so. One curious aspect of these disparate backgrounds, to me, anyway, is that Rosen was arguing a case for Democratic candidate Joe Biden, whose wife Jill teaches at Northern Virginia Community College, and she argued, without explanation or apparent basis, to someone whom Jill Biden likely would be a champion of, that she doesn’t “have the standing” even to speak her mind, even when both Rosen and Turner were invited onto the same television show and asked for their opinions.

Now, what did Hilary Rosen mean when she told Nina Turner (twice) “You don’t have the standing?” She hasn’t explained. I can only speculate — which is not great, but the important point of all of this is that everyone speculates. Voters speculate. And so Rosen bears the responsibility of not only saying she is sorry for what she said, but explaining what in the world she meant when she told Turner not to speak.

But this is a bigger problem than Hilary Rosen drawing negative attention to Joe Biden’s campaign. It’s a demonstration of a problem that plagues and continues to damage the Democratic party, both from within and from the outside.

The Millennial generation has been saddled with a reputation of feeling entitled, and even of being hypocritical in some social justice crusades that have become a hallmark of young activists.

Yet this is an ongoing hallmark of high-profile, powerful liberal Democrats who lead (and are rewarded handsomely for) causes that champion marginalized people, without giving any room to those people to speak for themselves.

When elite, haughty, (overused but still valid) privileged people assign themselves the responsibility of using their resources to save other people while obviously looking down their noses at those people, “those people” often reject their so-called saviors. For a lesson in this, see Mike Bloomberg’s presidential campaign.

Washington, D.C.-based professional writer and unprofessional painter with many passions, including health, decency, Earth, asking questions and lots more.

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