The “bernie bro” pejorative is being thrown around by rightfully cautious bloggers and by Hillary Clinton supporters against the Sanders camp as a name for a supposedly troubling trend in Bernie’s campaign. The phrase implies that Sanders is running a male-centric campaign. The claim that his supporters are especially rabid or unreasonable has been recurrent in the news, and I think it’s time we address the multiple facets of this claim.
Arthur Chu Doesn’t Like Us
Jeopardy controversseur (yes I know I just made that up) Arthur Chu very recently put forth an article for The Guardian entitled I Like Bernie Sanders. His Supporters? Not So Much, a clever title invoking imagery of bumper stickers aimed at Christians. Like his writing about Gamergate and social problems, his heart is in the right place, but he gets off track by taking fringe examples and applying them to the norm. He begins by suggesting that it’s incorrect to call any Bernie detractor a member of the “establishment.” He seems to say this is where our energy in support of Bernie is being spent. A small percentage of very vocal Bernie supporters HAVE been doing this, and as he mentions, the rapid response team for the Sanders campaign told people to cool it and not be so hasty.
I agree with Chu when he says that the vocal minority on relatively un-moderated platforms such as Twitter say a bunch of ridiculous things. However, the majority of Sanders supporters shouldn’t be held accountable to rabid Twits that have Twat Tweets on Twitter (feeling Seussy today). If Hillary supporters have a vocal majority that says “I’m voting for Hillary Clinton because she’s a woman,” does that overrule the actual reasons that the group as whole is voting for Hillary? I’d say not.
The caution is welcome, but the act of painting broad and diverse movements with such an isolated brush is not. The overnight Jeopardy sensation also makes the mistake of poisoning the well, as his piece refers to Sanders supporters as “fundamentalists,” which feeds back into the title of his post. These broad generalizations do more harm than good; they frame the conversation of internal party supporters in a way that too strongly emphasizes opposition to other candidates. For example, if Hillary supporters become rapt in anti-Bernie sentiments, many could hypothetically end up choosing not to vote for him over the Republican nominee. Overall Chu makes a good point, we all support candidates who have flaws, and being an honest supporter means admitting to those flaws while acknowledging that the person remains our candidate because they most accurately represent our views. I think Chu’s deliberately broad generalizations of Sanders supporters speaks more to the places where Chu is engaging with people and less about what Sanders supporters actually do or say.
Robinson Meyer’s Attempt at Slam Poetry
The article from The Atlantic, featuring an expose on the supposed Bernie Bro phenomenon, is another great example of negative headlines surrounding Bernie that seem forced and out of touch with a greater reality. No, Facebook discussions, Twitter wars and reddit circlejerks are not an indication of how the majority of us feel or discuss things. Do I deny that “bernie bros” exist at least in some form? No. Do I deny that there are a statistically significant number of people who match all of the criteria that Robinson Meyer lays out in his nauseatingly redundant read? Absolutely, yes.
Bernie supporters are incredibly diverse. In comparison to Hillary Clinton, Sanders leads among young female voters, has a wide range of endorsements from many diverse political camps and racial/gender backgrounds, and if you take one glance into any open discussion about Bernie, there is plenty of disagreement among fellow supporters on many issues. While there’s some reasonable caution to extract from ‘the Myth of the Bernie Bro’, I urge caution in oversimplifying the image of such a diverse campaign that is more in touch with the values of the everyday American than any other candidate.
Alternet Defends The View That “Bernie Bro” Is A Myth
Even though Alternet officially endorsed Sanders, Adam Johnson’s point still stands that the term ‘Bernie Bro’ is an attempt to dismiss criticism of corruption in politics, complacency, and center-right democrats leading a historically left-progressive party. I hadn’t even gotten to the glaring issue of using the term Bernie Bro as an ironically sexist catchphrase to paint opposition as sexist, but thankfully Adam Johnson has summed up multiple articles and viewpoints addressing this precise issue. However, what is most troubling about the term is how it has shifted from being used as a label that legitimately criticized a vocal minority to being used as a pejorative that dumbly dismisses fair criticism.
The accusation that Sanders supporters are too divisive now also applies to Clinton supporters thanks to the overuse of this terminology in the media and in online social media platforms. Is it time for the Clinton-supportive media to become introspective and call out the hypothetically troubling phenomenon of “HillaryHoes” representing the actions of a small group of supporters who are very vocal on SOME platforms? Obviously not. But it would be an interesting experiment to see if the terminology would actually stick this time.
I clearly don’t intend to incite anyone to use this terribly sexist pejorative. I intend to make them think twice about how little “BernieBros” bothers them despite it having a similarly sexist implication. Let’s listen to Glenn Greenwald, the foremost journalist of our time, when he urges us to question why the narrative shifted from various negative implications of Sanders himself, to negative implications against his supporters. We shouldn’t get caught up in a dialogue that feels good; it should be based on the facts, especially if we want policy to move forward and for politics to be the focal point of our political discussions.