An Ode to a Bernie Bro-er
I was recently contacted by a dispirited, former Sanders supporter. I interrogated his motivations for departing the movement. This is what he had to say.
Having a devoted following is fantastic, but only gets you so far. Bernie had a very inclusive vision, but many die hard berners came across as anything but inclusive, even attacking warren supporters. The message from many bernie or busters wasnt “theres room for you and your ideas” it was closer to “all capitalism is evil and if you dont agree with us on absolutely everything wake up.”. They talked at other democrats, and did not listen. How can you honestly expect to win if youre turning away the moderates of the party you need? Its the same devisive bullshit that made trump president in the first place
I voted for bernie, but bernie or busters really pushed it, and im not even a close to moderate democrat
This was my response:
Cool, that’s a lot to work with.
“Having a devoted following is fantastic, but only gets you so far.”
It is fantastic. What’s more fantastic is having one of the largest, most diverse coalitions of supporters and movement makers in contemporary American political history, which is what Bernie had.
“Bernie had a very inclusive vision, but many die hard berners came across as anything but inclusive, even attacking warren supporters. The message from many bernie or busters wasnt ‘theres room for you and your ideas’ it was closer to ‘all capitalism is evil and if you dont agree with us on absolutely everything wake up.’”
By virtue of having that inclusive, dare I say revolutionary (by modern standards) vision, along with that very strong and diverse coalition, a threat was posed to the establishment. If there had not been a concerted opposition to sanders’ campaign’s boat rocking, there would be a need for such. You don’t go on prime time television taking on the fossil fuel, pharmaceutical, prison, military, and financial industrial complexes and not ruffle some serious feathers.
There is as much evidence as the day is long of the uphill battle those two campaigns were up against, specifically in the form of media bias.
Enter the Bernie Bro, or, as you put it, the Bernie or Buster. Same difference, really.
I believe it started with Gloria Steinem, saying any women taken in by the Sanders campaign were just dick thirsty (look how she feminisms), but it’s mostly credited to the Clinton campaign. It’s a myth. An invention. It was concocted to derail an incredibly popular, incredibly powerful, incredibly timely movement, and it worked.
What did that myth achieve? A lot. It got people like you, a graduate of SUNY ESF, to turn away from the campaign, at whatever point you did. It played devilishly well into the combined environments of cancel culture, #MeToo, and the rising young tide against toxic masculinity. Bernie never had to do or not do a single thing. A mythical supporter was invented out of thin air, as a straw man, for his opponents on and off the debate stage to shame and ridicule and beat down.
Frankly, I couldn’t give fewer fucks what any candidate’s followers — real or invented — eat for breakfast, the color of their bowel movements, or what they say in a consequence-free environment, because not only am I not voting for them or their platform or policies, it would be openly foolish to think that any of them speak for or represent the campaign they claim to be a part of. Anyone can call themselves a supporter of anything, including those who do so in bad faith.
I’m old enough to remember when Ron Paul was called up in the middle of the goddamned night by Fox News and told that he had just received the endorsement of the Bunny Ranch in Nevada, one of the state’s most famous legal brothels. The look on his face is the same one I have for anyone still hocking “Bernie bro” bullshit in 2020.
As someone who spent time — deep, intimate, extensive time — inside the campaign, I can tell you that the myth could not be further from the reality. The average Sanders supporter is not white, not male, not straight, not Christian, and not a multi-generational American. The movement was filled with all the people he said it was: black, brown, asian, native, women, queer, non-binary, immigrants, the poor and working class.
It was one of the most beautiful collections of individuals I have ever seen, much less had the privilege to call myself a part of.
This posed exactly as much of a threat as it sounds like, so it was met with targeted smears and scorn, calculated attacks, only one of which was the angry-white-male-washing of the movement’s intrinsic diversity.
If it sounds like I’m saying never in the history of the world was there a righteously indignant or downright dickish Sanders supporter, I’m not. But the lack of previously stated fucks notwithstanding, there’s a good as hell argument to be made for the VALUE of that anger.
I believe firmly in the principle that if you’re not mad, you’re not paying attention. In a world that is recently taking into consideration what “privilege” is and who has it and who doesn’t, it can be said that it’s a mark of one’s privilege to throw the best presidential candidate in a hundred years overboard for the the invented crimes of his made up followers, on account of decorum or respectability or some such bullshit.
Meanwhile, you have literal tens of millions of people for whom access to healthcare is a life or death situation, for whom a living wage is the difference between a livable and unlivable life, for whom American foreign policy is the difference between their extended family’s village existing versus being a smoldering crater in the ground after a cruise missile strike, for whom police brutality and the carceral state are a generational, lethal ball and chain on themselves and their families and friends. Then you have the tiny special interest group that is literally every human being on this planet for whom the climate crisis is an utterly unavoidable future, but more avoidable the more money and resources and privilege you have.
And when you start to add up and sort the most vociferous Sanders DETRACTORS, you find that so many of them are white, are male, are straight, are Christian, are colonizers, or are essentially acting at the behest of same.
So really, the world in which we live is one of ANTI-Bernie Bros, and ANTI-Bernie Bro-ettes, who have the PRIVILEGE to say things like, “I don’t like how mean someone claiming to be a Berner on the internet was,” and therefore decide to slough off or actively work against the best chance this country has had at social democracy in a hundred years because their precious little feelings were hurt.
That is the epitome of whiteness, of American exceptionalism, of corporatist bootlicking, of obedience to capitalism and patriarchy, and if you’ve been made to feel uncomfortable by someone pointing that out, you might consider the extent to which you deserve that discomfort.
How gilded and silver spooned a life one must lead to performatively embrace democratic socialist reform in a capitalist empire in decline, only to change gears when things don’t appear to be as polite as you’d like them to be.
Motherfucker, the entire planet is at stake. The Bernie bro might be a myth, but i’ll be that Bernie bro, right here, right now, if it means taking the side of enough is enough, reading the writing on the wall, and getting proportionately angry and animated about it.
as for Elizabeth Warren, I’ll just leave this right here…
That trans-racial Reaganite wolf in progressive sheep’s clothing deserved way, way more than every one of the snake emojis her and her followers whinged about.
Her backstabbery will go down in history as a tremendous errand for the establishment. Anyone foolish enough to buy into her Big Structural Whateverthefuck is someone whose goldfish brain has no business planning for the future of this deeply imperiled country and world.
“How can you honestly expect to win if youre turning away the moderates of the party you need? Its the same devisive bullshit that made trump president in the first place.”
This is the anthem of the democratic establishment. It doesn’t matter whether you do or don’t identify with their mainstream party politics, this statement places you squarely at the center of them. This Big Tent-ism started with the dawn of Neoliberalism in the Clinton years. Republicans called him (and, by extension, the party) a pussy on foreign policy and crime. At the same time was an attempt to get at those fat pockets the republicans always seemed to have neverending access to, which necessitated throwing the labor movement and working class overboard.
The notion that moderates are who “we” — and I use “we” loosely, because I do not at all consider “us” to be on the same “team” — ought to be appealing to, is just about the strongest thing you could say to indicate your non-membership in the progressive wing of politics.
The idea that middle American white suburbanites who own jet ski dealerships and say the n-word once a year at thanksgiving and wonder why their nephews don’t reply to their all-caps Facebook messages are the people “we” need to turn the political tide, that’s more intellectually and morally bankrupt than i can put into words.
This brand of “compromise” is EXACTLY what put Trump in the white house, it’s the same set who MLK lamented as being the true enemy of progress in the United States; the northern white liberal more committed to order than justice.
The people who need appealing to are THE PEOPLE — the working class, the poor, the unhoused, the drug addicted, the PTSD sufferers, those crippled by debt or working three minimum wage jobs just to stay afloat, the entire generation forsaken by Obama’s failure to meaningfully hold any of the 2008 economic crisis actors accountable.
The democratic party threw every one of those people overboard decades ago with its embarking on this failed experiment of Neoliberalism, thinking it would be a winning strategy to more resemble Republicans in appearance and policy, which is exactly why this year’s Democratic National Convention was stuffed with 1996 republicans, who spoke to absolutely no one aside from status quo coastal elites and the ultra-wealthy.
So to anyone’s cries of “(people posing as) Bernie Sanders supporters hurt my internet feelings,” I have nothing but the richest of contempt, and anyone of conscience should have the same. It’s 11:59 on the imperial and planetary clock. This man was a tremendously good idea, an idea which was already a compromise. This was the defibrillator that certain concerned citizens and patriots sought to apply to the breathless, suffocating political system, and it was snuffed out for all manner of predictable reasons and in all manner of predictable ways.
And now we’re left with two racist, syphilitic, sundowning, pathologically lying rapists vying for the highest office on the planet, each of them little more than a sack of Jolly Ranchers held together by papier-mâché and mayonnaise, as we careen toward total economic, societal, political, and environmental collapse.
To whomever is still crying foul on account of real or perceived transgressions in the realm of something as pathetic as etiquette, I say enjoy your privilege. Its days are numbered. The last, best chance we had at saving civilization just came and went. None of us will even have the chance to tell our grandchildren what side we were on, because the likelihood of them living full lives is already growing slimmer by the day.
Enjoy your Russiagate, enjoy your darth cheeto digs at Trump as though that were anything approaching political praxis, enjoy your Bernie Bro-ing, enjoy the significantly safer fate that you’ll enjoy as climate change renders increasingly wider swaths of the planet completely uninhabitable. Enjoy your avocado toast and Ira Glass whispering in your bluetooth earbudded ear. Tell yourself and your friends and family whatever story you wish. In the end, there will have been a man called Bernard Sanders, who had the potential to effect a sharp right turn away from total political and planetary catastrophe, and whose meteoric rise was only matched by the meteoric sabotage against him, enabled by such propagandistic instruments as the “Bernie bro” and all the people privileged and gullible enough to believe them.