Ever since the 2016 Democratic primary election cycle that mainly involved Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, there has been an unsettling narrative perpetrated by Sanders’ political adversaries within the Democratic Party. This narrative generalized Sanders’ supporters and characterized many of them as overly demanding and unapologetically aggressive. This led to the emergence of the pejorative term “Bernie Bro”, which described a group of upper middle-class, young, white progressive men, who aggressively campaign online for their candidate while harboring sexist and racist sentiments.
Clinton campaign officials adopted the portrayal of Sanders supporters as a monolithic group consisting of angry bigoted Internet dwellers, describing Bernie Bros as “nasty and vitriolic”. This became the prevailing narrative among many Clinton voters who disregarded Sanders supporters as hateful trolls. Sanders immediately denounced any of his supposed sexist supporters, but he was accused of cultivating these behaviors to his supporters because of his unwillingness to compromise at all on many issues like healthcare. Ostensibly, this encouraged his base to become belligerent, aggressive, and unwilling to engage with moderates due to Sanders supporters being unable to reconcile any of their differences.
The Bernie Bro stereotype quickly became a tactic to delegitimize all Clinton detractors by associating them with being sexist. This was an attempt to distract away from Clinton’s political record, corruption allegations, and her campaign’s funding. Much of the media also questioned the diversity of Bernie’s base. The Washington Post infamously attacked him in 2016 for his “problem with black voters”, claiming that many Sanders supporters downplayed the role that racism had in social and economic injustices.
They went on to run stories with headlines like, “Bernie Sanders doesn’t know how to talk about black people”, despite the fact that he participated in the civil rights movement, has been a longtime proponent for the advocacy of marginalized individuals, and has nearly flawless ratings based on voting records from the NAACP and the ACLU.
Recent polls have shown that Sanders has the most diverse group of supporters, as he has the least amount of white supporters in the democratic primary race, at only 49 percent.
But, the smear tactics employed by the media and Bernie’s adversaries in 2016 persist today as he runs his 2020 campaign. The Washington Post has continued to vehemently attack Bernie, the candidate that criticized Jeff Bezos for not having to pay anything in Federal taxes and his failure to properly compensate his employees.
Just like in 2016, Bernie is the only candidate committed to having a grassroots campaign and stand against corporate greed. It is the current political, corporate, and media establishment that has the greatest incentive to make the public believe that Bernie Sanders is racist and/or sexist. Not only has this narrative been a concerted effort to fight against socialist policies, but it has also diminished Bernie’s minority voters. It seems that many Bates students-and people in general- have fallen for the Bernie Bro narrative, discrediting the multitude of marginalized people that have embraced his policies.