Project Wonderful

Friday, February 5, 2016

Yes, The Bernie Bros are Alive and Well

Alright, I know this is CampaignSick and not HillaryClintonBlogspotFanclub. Let's not forget there are many, many races and election-type activities happening right now that are not the Presidential election. We will get back to talking about those campaigns soon. I apologize. It's just that those campaigns are not trolling me on social media and posting sexist and inflammatory things in my Facebook feed.

After working for John Edwards in 2008, I never again thought I would get to a place where I felt almost as if my continued existence was predicated on my candidate winning the Presidential nomination and I never thought that candidate would be Hillary Clinton. Even after I become heavily invested in electing our first woman President, I enjoyed the relative freedom and serenity of being a nomination contest by-stander. I liked being able to post things that were critical of Secretary Clinton and her campaign and I also liked sharing positive things about Bernie Sanders. Even though he was never going to be my candidate, Senator Sanders has always evoked a genuine affection in me. Being a New York Jew, his accent and demeanor were comforting and familiar, almost familial. More to the point, I appreciated that he takes bold stances, is able to dream larger than the current political context, and advocates to move us in that direction. Then came the Bernie Bros.

Bernie Bros are a strain of a larger virus in the progressive movement known as brogressives. A brogressive, as defined by Urban Dictionary is a "politically liberal or left-leaning person who routinely downplays injustices against women and other marginalized groups in favor of some cause they deem more important." A brogressive is not just a run of the mill sexist. Plausible deniability (even internally) is a trademark of brogressivism. A brogressive probably won't say that Hillary Clinton has canckles, but will accuse me of voting with my vagina. He will then patronizingly explain to me why that is not a sexist thing to say and that I'm sexist and anyway Hillary voted for the war in Iraq.

In addition, perhaps the most distinguishing characteristic of the brogressive, and what makes him so pernicious, is his aggressive application of the lens of male privilege to his interactions in the progressive movement. Brogressives insist their subjective viewpoint is objective truth and that facts, when inconvenient to them, are subjective opinion. If they aren't winning, the rules must not be fair. The latter is apparent in the Bernie Bro's stubborn refusal to accept the realities of Iowa delegate math but is perhaps best exemplified by Sanders Campaign Manager Jeff Weaver's reaction to the DNC data breach controversy that took place in December. In a post titled "Bernie Sanders' Campaign Manager is Gaslighting the Democratic Party" I wrote:

At the end of they day they still broke the rules. No one made them save those lists. They got caught. And now suddenly it's everybody's fault but theirs? ...As one friend put it, you don't get to steal something from my house because the door is unlocked, blame the alarm company and then sue the police for arresting you...

Check out this clip of abusive- husband-in-an-episode-of-Law-and-Order/Bernie Rights Activist, Jeff Weaver. In it, he suggests that the Clinton campaign stole Sanders data during a security malfunction back in October then quickly backtracks when pressed and admits he made it up and just "assumed." (Because that's how things work in his paranoid, narcissistic world.) In another clip Weaver calls the DNC's decision to temporarily suspend access an "inappropriate overreaction." Hmm does that scenario sound familiar? Every woman reading this has had the experience of being wronged by a man in some way only to have him turn it around and accuse her of "overacting." Bernie Sanders' Campaign Manager is gaslighting the Democratic party.

And that last point is really the rub. By no stretch of the imagination is every Bernie Sanders supporter a brogressive. Far from it. They account for a very small, disproportionately vocal fraction of his base. However, almost to the bro, every brogressive is for Bernie and with Sanders' rise in popularity BernieBros have been given a platform on the national stage and a chance to have their microaggressive brand of politics validated by playing a part in choosing the Democratic nominee. It is a brand that politically active women like myself recognize all too well.

It is for this reason that an article on a friend's Facebook wall titled "The 'Bernie Bros' Narrative: a Cheap Campaign Tactic Masquerading as Journalism and Social Activism" and subtitled by my friend "debunking the myth of the Bernie Bro," filled me with a level of frustration and umbrage erstwhile reserved for Republican propaganda. The content of the article makes the straw man argument that most Sanders supporters are not Bernie Bros and that supporters of other campaigns can be just as vile. While both those things are certainly true, the premise is specious in that it refutes a claim that no one is making and in doing so dismisses the issue, not to mention the experiences of women in the progressive movement. "Really?" I thought, "We're doing this again? I'm being gaslighted about being gaslighted."

I don't feel that it needs to be reiterated, but once again for the cheap seats in the back, of course not every Bernie supporter is a Bernie Bro. I thought we went over this with White Feminism/#NotAllMen/#AllLivesMatter. If it's not about you, it's not about you. It doesn't mean it isn't a problem. On top of that of course Bernie doesn't have the market cornered on obnoxious, combative, self-righteous or pedantic supporters. Frankly, if he did he'd be winning by a landslide. People get extremely worked up over Presidential politics (hi!) and are quite frequently awful.

The Bernie Bro is a very specific type of bad actor whose recent prominence is emblematic of a larger, simmering, intra-movement culture war. Brogressives want to make it harder for women to be in the progressive space. They want to diminish my voice to amplify their own and right now they are using Bernie Sanders' campaign as a megaphone.

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