“Tom Hayden? Tom Hayden?” I said to myself when I saw The Nation today. If you asked me who were the least likely activists to support Hillary, Tom Hayden would have been on the list — especially since he was already supporting Bernie. But here’s what he writes today: “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.” 


Tom Hayden was one of the highest-profile student radicals of the sixties, and an author of the Port Huron Statement, calling for the complete reformation of the Democratic party. (On a more mundane level, he was married to Jane Fonda at the height of her activist years.) He also ran successfully for the state legislature in California, and is on the board of Progressive Democrats of America. He is an anti-fracking activist.

And as of today, Hayden is a Hillary supporter. It was her nuanced position on fracking that contributed to his switch — that, and the tactics of California fracking opponents. Hayden explains:

Hillary wants limits on fracking: a ban where individual states have blocked it, like in New York; safeguards against children’s and family exposures; a ban where releases of methane or contamination of ground water are proven; and full disclosure of the chemicals used in the process. Bernie’s position is that he’s simply against all fracking. But Hillary’s position goes beyond what virtually any state has done.

As Hayden points out, Bernie’s fracking ban doesn’t include a strategic plan for implementing his policy.

There is no recognition of the overwhelming wall of opposition from the Republican Congress, which can only be broken on state-by-state organizing. The climate clock is ticking towards doomsday. Where are we moving next, beyond waiting for the overthrow of Citizens United?

The key decision point for Hayden is race, described in this moving passage:

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, for one, am impressed that Tom Hayden not only switched, but did so in a very public forum. Hillary is already building a broad and expansive coalition, one big enough to include Tom Hayden.

Welcome to the club!

(AP Photo/Lennox McLendon)