OPINION: Redefining ‘Bernie Bro’ for 2020

In 2016, like most Millennials, I was a huge Bernie fan. But when he lost the nomination, I still realized the importance of voting for Hillary — stopping Trump was imperative.

Unfortunately, not all Bernie fans felt the same. Many blamed the DNC, many decided to “protest” by voting for Trump, writing in Bernie, or not voting at all. And alas, we now have an orange bigot in the Oval Office.

Bernie is now officially running for president again in 2020. But unlike 2016, I am not enthusiastic about his campaign. Aside from the fact there are many other progressive candidates running (many of whom are women, people of color, or both), I just really don’t vibe with Bernie’s fanbase anymore. And that’s why I think it’s important to redefine “Bernie Bro” for 2020. It’s no longer just about fauxgressive white men espousing misogyny against Hillary and protesting the fact that they didn’t get their candidate in 2016. Now, rather, it’s a culture of idol worship, conspiracies, and infighting.

My personal experience

For instance, I recently wrote an article for Alma, a website by and for Jewish women. In the article, I interviewed numerous Jewish women who supported Bernie in 2016 to see where they stood now. The article included various perspectives — from women who supported him in 2016 but not now to women who are strong Bernie supporters to this day.

During the process of finding people to speak to for this article, I was met with a lot of skepticism and hostility by die-hard Bernie supporters. They questioned my intentions, called me “gross” for using the term “Bernie Bro,” and went through old, irrelevant Tweets of mine to try and discredit me as a journalist.

Yes, I did tweet about the fact female Bernie Bros exist. The Tweets above are case in point. But this is why I’d like to use this opportunity to explain what I mean as we go into the 2020 election season, when I say “Bernie Bro.”

How I define “Bernie Bro” for 2020

Anyone of any gender, race, sexual orientation, etc. can be a Bernie Bro, in my eyes, if they do any of the following:

1 — Needlessly harass, mock, and drag other liberals/progressives (especially women or other folks holding marginalized identities) when they express skepticism about Bernie or are more keen on other candidates (like Kamala Harris, for instance. I have seen a lot of Harris supporters receive vitriol from Bernie stans). This is what happened to me, as shown above. It’s no wonder myself and many other women feel completely alienated from the community of Bernie supporters, especially online.

2 — Perpetuate “Us vs. Them” conspiracies. For example, the DNC vs. Bernie, Hillary Supporters vs. Bernie Supporters, all other Democratic candidates vs. Bernie, etc. Yes, even years later, many Bernie supporters are still hung up on what happened in 2016 and are letting their bitterness about that seep into this election cycle. No, not everyone who voted for Hillary automatically hates Bernie. No, not all criticism of Bernie is from the far right or has a basis in anti-Semitism (yes, this is a bizarre claim I’ve seen). However, a lot of Bernie supporters didn’t bat an eye when it came out that his campaign had been influenced by Russia. Why take issue with Russian interference when it’s so much easier to continue to blame Hillary and the DNC?

3 — Use aspects of idol worship when talking about Bernie. He’s just a human. An old, white, progressive Jewish dude. He isn’t the Messiah, he isn’t the answer to all of America’s problems. Looking at a politician through this lens is incredibly problematic. But really, it’s only hardcore Bernie supporters I see acting this way. They’re the ones who don’t hold Bernie accountable when he messes up. Like the fact he was “too busy” to care about the sexual harassment problem on his 2016 campaign. But instead of holding him accountable, there were think pieces about why we “shouldn’t blame Bernie for his Bros.” But what has Bernie done to condemn the huge elements of misogyny and harassment from his fanbase? Nothing. Just like Trump didn’t want to condemn his base of Neo-Nazis after Charlottesville and instead referred to some of them as “very fine people,” Bernie is similarly silent when his base engages in intimidation tactics. For me, this raises red flags. It’s almost as if he doesn’t care about these issues as long as he can fill parks to capacity during speaking engagements.

Skepticism of Bernie

So, no, I don’t “hate” Bernie. I just don’t know what he thinks he can offer us for 2020 — especially with so many other diverse and progressive candidates running. Yes, he started important discussions and inspired a lot of young people to get into politics (like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, for instance). But why did he feel the need to upstage Democrat Stacy Abrams’ State of the Union response with his own? Why is he running again as a Democrat, despite being an Independent, especially (as mentioned) when so many of his progressive colleagues running are actually registered Democrats? Does he really have the best interest of the Democratic Party in mind, or is his run a means to some other end?

Uniting the Trump Opposition

At the end of the day, should Bernie receive the Democratic nomination in 2020, I will vote for him. Unlike so many Bernie Bros, I am not interested in revenge votes should my candidate of choice not be selected. It’s imperative for 2020 that the Democrats (and basically everyone else opposed to the Trump Administration) be united, not divided. I worry that, like in 2016, Bernie Bros will divide the party should another candidate get the nomination.

Also: 2020 marks 100 years since women (white women, mainly, but that’s a whole other article) got the right to vote. For all but eight years of this country’s existence, we’ve had a white man in the Oval Office. Maybe it’s time to try something different. Maybe, it’s possible, that a female candidate can hold the same progressive values as Bernie and become president instead. It’s time for a change. But would this be acceptable to the Bernie Bros? Because isn’t the ideology, not the man, what really matters?

Featured image via imgflip

Rafaella Gunz

Rafaella is a graduate of The New School in NYC, where she majored in Journalism and minored in Gender Studies. She writes for publications including DeadState, Gay Star News, Alma, BUST Magazine, and more.