Don’t Fear the Bernie Bro

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It actually is somewhat disheartening that this has to be said over and over again, but it does. The myth of the Bernie Bro is a disinformation weapon meant to divide and defeat the Democratic Party. 

I have been a Bernie fan since he announced in 2015. By then I was fed up with politics. Politicians on pretty much every side proved themselves to be a bunch of self-serving power grabbers beholden to special interests. None of them, from the President on down, put the good of the country before their own interests. All of them lied. None of them represented my interests. The whole business disgusted me.

Bernie was a breath of fresh air. He spoke his mind and as I began paying attention I learned that his politics arose not from expediency but from deep conviction. He said things that resonated with my own beliefs. Like peace and justice, fair play, equal protection under law for every American, that it is the duty of government to “promote the general Welfare,” not just to protect the monied interests. Most of all, he generated excitement in politics and the possibilities inherent in the American system that I and many others had given up on. In 2015 I reached 60 years of age. Bernie Sanders was the first candidate I ever donated to.

The campaign of 2016 validated my belief that American politics is broken, perhaps irreparably. The DNC rigged the Democratic primaries to ensure their anointed one received the nomination. The Republican Party drove its clown car off a cliff and what emerged was a Frankenstein’s monster of political and personal dysfunction. We have now endured this troll’s ever more authoritarian misgovernment for three years. 

Far from recoiling in righteous indignation, the once “law and order” Republican Party, those of whom are still paying attention, has become a coven of fascists, racists, sycophants and cowards who rubber stamp the mad king’s whims and cheer him on. Many Democrats, those who are still paying attention, have joined the Hillary Bernie-Hater club and launched a mammoth exercise in wound-licking and grudge-nursing.

I am going to here note something hard for many to accept: Bernie couldn’t win because Hillary and the DNC sabotaged his campaign, and Hillary couldn’t win because she epitomizes the vacuous bag of the status quo Democratic Party. If the Democratic Party picks another “safe” candidate like Hillary, it will likely never win another election. Doing so will be tantamount to surrendering to the authoritarian takeover of the billionaire class.

And yet as we see Bernie chalking up wins and attracting new people into the democratic process we see the standard response of the entrenched establishment. “First they ignore you,” goes the quote probably misattributed to Gandhi, “then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” Here I’m not even talking about the Republicans, but the establishment Democratic Party. You know, the ones calling for unity as they knowingly spread disinformation about their front-runner.

For example, as I write it is the day following Bernie’ win in the New Hampshire primary. Listening to NPR as I do on the way to work I was warned about the nightmare scenario of a Democratic contest between a “racist Billionaire” (in this case referring to Bloomberg) and a “misogynist socialist.” Guess who that refers to. Anyone interested enough to do even a cursory examination of Bernie’s long record will quickly learn he has always been a champion for women’s rights. But it doesn’t matter. The lie is like a leech: it latches on and sucks out one’s common sense.

Well, you might say, Bernie may not be misogynist himself, but his followers, an army of so-called “Bernie Bros,” surely are. The problem is, the mythical Bernie Bro is just that – a myth. The assertion that the majority of Sanders’ followers are angry young white men doesn’t survive even the most basic review of hard data about his base, in which women make up the majority of supporters, Hispanics the majority of donors, and, notably, the demographic that likes Sanders the least is white men.

The Bernie Bro is a thing because somebody tweeted it into existence, using the same dark magic the President uses to create his and his minions’ distorted reality. It is a lie meant to do damage. If Sanders or his followers can be alleged to violate the imperatives of cancel culture, his candidacy can be seriously challenged. This challenge doesn’t arise out of policy difference, but from the alternate reality of the Twittersphere. Painting Sanders and his followers with the broad brush of misogyny also erases the millions of women who support him. How is that supportive of women?

Bernie Sanders is an unapologetic Democratic Socialist. The word “socialist” carries a stigma from the Cold War that can be exploited to represent what Sanders doesn’t support. We can argue about what Sanders really means by socialism by looking at his policy proposals (reminiscent of the New Deal). Then we can contest whether we think those are good approaches or not. That’s the essence of what political campaigns should be about.

What these campaigns should NOT be about is employing disinformation for mudslinging and character assassination. This is what propelled the current occupant into the White House. Disinformation was designed to divide the American people, and it worked spectacularly. Wittingly or not, the President’s own followers were and are effectively in league with hostile foreign actors to undermine our democracy and ruin our country. We don’t need to help them. We need to stop them. Now. In order to do that we will need to set aside our differences and rally around whoever emerges as the Democratic candidate. I don’t agree with everything Bernie supports, but I believe of the choices available he represents the best. But literally any other candidate will get my vote over Donald Trump. If the Democrats nominate a cardboard box I will vote for the box.

No one expects us to agree on everything. But our differences should not drive such a wedge between us that we foolishly allow darkness to prevail.