Bernie Bros are a group of Bernie Sanders supporters who, rather than align themselves with the Sanders’ campaign promises of not attacking fellow candidates personally, instead engage in personal and sexist attacks against Sanders’ Democratic rival Hillary Clinton. And Bernie Sanders is not impressed.
When Senator Sanders (I-Vt.) was asked about the phenomenon of a certain faction of his supporters making unfortunate, sexist remarks about Hillary Clinton, as well as to Clinton’s supporters, on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday, Sanders was swift in his renouncement of them. In fact, he roundly renounced the Bernie Bros is what has become his trademark blunt style.
“I have heard about it. It’s disgusting. Look, we don’t want that crap. We will do everything we can and I think we have tried. Look, anybody who is supporting me that is doing the sexist things is — we don’t want them. I don’t want them. That is not what this campaign is about.”
In the beginning, it wasn’t what the Bernie Bros were supposed to be about, either. The term first showed up in the media in October of 2015, in an article found in the Atlantic that was actually meant to poke some fun at a “certain type” of Bernie Sanders supporter that the article dismissed as being young, male, and “oh, so very earnest.” The description of the so-called Bernie Bro used in that article is less than flattering.
“The Berniebro is not every Bernie Sanders supporter. Sanders’s support skews young, but not particularly male. The Berniebro is male, though. Very male.”
“The Berniebro is someone you may only have encountered if you’re somewhat similar to him: white; well-educated; middle-class (or, delicately, ‘upper middle-class’); and aware of NPR podcasts and jangly bearded bands.”
Furthermore, at this time, the Bernie Bro supported feminism, as even the somewhat sarcastic article states.
“The Berniebro might get into big performative arguments about how feminism saved his life. Or, the Berniebro might always seem like he’s going to say that we need economic equality for all genders but doesn’t actually say it, because he knows that it wouldn’t go over well.”
However, the term Bernie Bro actually began to shift in meaning, as it became a way to pinpoint young, male supporters of Bernie Sanders who weren’t just earnest, but were actually becoming a bit too”bro-ish” when it came to women — particularly those women who support Hillary Clinton. Writers who use specifically gendered and tone-deaf language, such as Walker Bragman of Salon who wrote that he would never vote for Clinton and encouraged others to do the same, if Sanders does not receive the nomination.
“I am also bothered by her political double talk. Whenever Hillary reminds us that she is, in fact, a woman, I can’t help feeling condescended to. Does she really think that gender is a substitute for policy positions in a Democratic primary? I am a feminist, but I’m not going to support someone just because she is a woman. I guess you could say I’m waiting for the right woman to be president, and frankly, Hillary isn’t that woman.”
However, some believe that the narrative of abusive and misogynistic Bernie Bros has been over-exaggerated, and for a political purpose. In fact, some now view the term as an intentional smear tactic from the Clinton campaign itself. Glenn Greenwald of the Intercept takes particular issue with the term and its portrayal in the media.
“The concoction of the ‘Bernie Bro’ narrative by pro-Clinton journalists has been a potent political tactic — and a journalistic disgrace. It’s intended to imply two equally false claims: (1) a refusal to march enthusiastically behind the Wall Street-enriched, multiple-war-advocating, despot-embracing Hillary Clinton is explainable not by ideology or political conviction, but largely if not exclusively by sexism: demonstrated by the fact that men, not women, support Sanders (his supporters are ‘bros’); and (2) Sanders supporters are uniquely abusive and misogynistic in their online behavior. Needless to say, a crucial tactical prong of this innuendo is that any attempt to refute it is itself proof of insensitivity to sexism if not sexism itself (as the accusatory reactions to this article will instantly illustrate).”
Either way, whether Bernie Bros are many, as evidenced by social media attacks against Clinton supporters, or if, in fact, the attacks are instead exaggerated by the media, Bernie Sanders has neither time nor patience for men who are not supportive of women in his campaign.
Or, as Bernie himself said it, “Look, we don’t want that crap.”
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