Hillary Clinton’s coronation as the Democratic presidential nominee isn’t going so well.
She narrowly beat Bernie Sanders by the slimmest of margins in Iowa Monday and the Vermont senator is trouncing her by double-digits in New Hampshire polling.
The assured path Clinton hoped to have to the nomination is getting thrown wildly off-track by the Sanders insurgency. It now even threatens her White House dreams as much as a federal indictment.
In response to this turbulence, Hillary’s campaign and its surrogates have invented a meme in which to shame her primary adversary from the Left: Bernie Bros.
Bernie Bros, according to their critics, are young white males who’ve taken their love for Bernie way too far. They lurk on the dark corners of the Internet, waiting for innocent Clinton supporters to fall into their grasp, and then strike without mercy. And by ruthlessly striking, it means these budding democratic socialists send mean tweets to obvious Hillary fans.
For a charged election cycle like 2016, it would seem very natural for supporters of the respective Democratic contenders to feud online. That’s both the nature of the Internet and the nature of contested primaries. And when Sanders is renown for his large online fanbase, it’s bound for a few nasty words to be sent Hillary’s way.
Clinton’s allies, sensing a juicy opportunity, are trying to spin this phenomenon as something far more dangerous than a mere disagreement over political support. In their eyes, it’s a well-coordinated harassment campaign driven by subtle sexism and reveals how Sanders’s supporters aren’t diverse enough.
Some of the most prominent figures in opinion-making — such as The New York Times’ Paul Krugman and the New Yorker’s Emily Nussbaum — have said they’ve been victimized by Bernie Bros. Nussbaum cited one Twitter user calling her a “psycho” as evidence of the awful vitriol Bernie supporters spew online.
As uncovered by Glenn Greenwald in his solid takedown of the meme, that Twitter user was actually a right-wing troll posing as a congressman — not a Bernie fan.
Some Bernie Bro haters have been more ridiculous in their assertions of misogyny. Mashable declared Bernie’s online supporters a “sexist mob” because a few randos on Facebook said vulgar things about Hillary. Salon, being Salon, turned up the insanity by labeling an amusing meme poking fun at Clinton probably having lame music taste “predictably sexist.”
Some on the Left have tried to be a little more reasonable in their criticism of Bernie Bros. Slate’s Amanda Hess made sure to say they were bad, but argued that the uproar over it has gotten stupid. Hess puts the blame on the nature of the Internet and says all types of online fanbases engage in similar behavior to the Bernie Army. But she’s still disturbed some Sanders fans would tell big-time female Hillary backers they only support the former first lady because they want a job in her White House.
Apparently, these statements are a form of coded sexism and are just not acceptable.
Now Clinton aides are publicly addressing the very troubling trend and are urging Sanders to denounce his bros. “When you look at what goes online in particular, some of his supporters engage in negative, hurtful, nasty attacks and I think it is incumbent on him to call that out,” Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook told Bloomberg Politics Thursday.
The Sanders campaign did issue a statement this week asking its Internet followers to be respectful like the Vermont senator himself, but that doesn’t appear to be enough for Hillary’s surrogates.
The kerfuffle over Bernie Bros is something that could only happen on the Left, and the Clinton camp is smart to exploit it. For the liberals who think Gamergate is a crime against (wo)mankind, it makes sense for this to become a good attack on Sanders. Twenty-first century left-wing pundits have a remarkable interest in policing speech they don’t like, especially when it’s targeted at their favorite protected classes.
And Clinton has already indicated she will appeal to this feeling.
Hillary continues to hit Bernie for supporting — rather lukewarmly — gun rights in Vermont and has previously implied his comments rebuking her gun control assault were sexist.
She’s also used the woman card to knock back at Sanders saying she’s a part of the establishment. As Clinton said at Thursday night’s debate, there’s no way a woman running for president could be the establishment. (RELATED: Hillary: I Can’t Be The Establishment, I’m A Woman!)
Clinton is clearly trying to undermine Sanders’s progressive credentials from a cultural Left perspective. Insinuating his supporters are a bunch of misogynistic white dudes paints the senator as an reactionary while the former secretary of state is the vanguard of a multicultural future.
Others on the Left are going further than moaning about the supposed sexism of Sanders’s followers and saying the man himself has no interest in combating white supremacy. Several reports have chastised Bernie for attracting too many white people and not enough minorities. (RELATED: Hillary Clinton Allies Ramp Up Efforts To Play Race Card Against Bernie Sanders)
Could Bernie Whiteys be the next attack against Sanders if Bernie Bros fails? Perhaps.
But the only reason it would have any credibility is because liberals have decided identity politics and regulating “offensive” speech are the most important items of a progressive agenda.