Dispelling the Myth of the ‘Bernie Bros’

The stakes are high, so the conversations will naturally be more heated.

As Elizabeth Warren’s chances of winning the Democratic primary are getting increasingly thinner, the pundit class is invoking yet again the dead ghost of the “Bernie Bros” boogeyman as an explanation for why voters refuse to budge away from Bernie Sanders. The loathsome nomenclature presumes that Sanders’ devoted base of supporters is primarily composed of white men–despite ample proof to the contrary. Now that Elizabeth Warren — the New York Times’ endorsement for the “radical” ticket — is skimming crucial support from Sanders to pose a real threat to Joe Biden in the primary, that narrative is being regurgitated again, with many questioning if the “Bernie Bros” phenomenon warrants examination, or whether it’s just a foil corporate media uses to justify its support for a worse performer who’s not yet down for Sanders’ radical agenda.

The precedent for this is a complex mesh of strategic considerations and meticulous politicking to ensure that mainstream media can claim plausible deniability when their support for radical reform is put under question. Elizabeth Warren’s platform has a lot of the oomph that Sanders’ — and even Ralph Nader’s some would argue — had several years back, but what it’s able to wield to its advantage is a particular kind of language that Matt Bruenig — founder of the left-wing think tank People’s Policy Project — described as “nerd identity politics” where the shtick of “having a plan for everything” is siphoned to woo its way the technocratic wing of the Democratic party. Simply put, the aesthetic of having a plan outweighs the substance of what the plan actually contains, and it is core to criticisms that several opinion-shapers on the left such as Nathan J Robinson and Meagan Day have voiced in the past.

From that is a downstream of disappointment with the outcome of the last election cycle, coupled with the puzzling way in which many center-to-left pundits are now retroactively claiming themselves as progressive, even when much of the moderate lane in the Democratic party is currently occupied by proposals that strongly echo Sanders’ in 2016. While Republicans were able to coast off of Donald Trump’s bluntly-spoken xenophobic screed and knack for anti-globalism, the Democratic establishment saw fit to sideline issues of class struggle in favor of a more traditional platform, dooming the Clinton campaign to failure in key battleground states even before the verdict came to fore.

A vote for Bernie Sanders at this point isn’t just an open endorsement of a more present government in society’s affairs–it also symbolizes a vying by the populace to see the status quo change, and redistribute the riches that America’s elite class has built on the back of the impoverished straight back to them. It is not a secret at this point that while the economy continues to do well on nominal terms — considering how recent the last recession was — wealth inequality continues to be a massive issue, and upward income mobility is very much a luxury that only a few on the margins are able to attain, locking the rest under the shackles of generational wealth, and ensuring those who are poor remain as such, while the rich continue to get richer.

That’s not to say Warren’s proposed slate of welfare programs aren’t an improvement–clearing the low bar Trump has set is a fairly easy task, but the key thing here is that while Warren sees the inefficacy of the system as a symptom of ill-intentioned nefarious agents within it, Sanders correctly identified it as a rotten whole that needs to be dismantled from the ground up and rebuilt in such a way that a change of card-shufflers isn’t enough to send the entire system into perpetual disarray. Warren’s passif in combating corruption colors so much of her vision for a new America, but in many ways, that wouldn’t be so different from the transition to Obama from Bush–things will seem on the surface that they’ve improved, but only because the past administration was so incompetent, that the reign of anyone else would’ve been perceived as better regardless.

“Bernie Bros” such as the social media apparatus defines them, aren’t strictly men as the label would have you otherwise believe. If there’s a candidate in the Democratic party whose presidency would compromise white men’s status the most, it is Bernie Sanders–the core of socialism and class equality is the betterment of all by fulfilling the needs of those on the margins. Warren flaunts herself proudly as a capitalist, and I’d be remiss to dismiss her diagnosis of what’s wrong with America solely on that basis, but Sanders rejects that premise altogether and pushes for a vision that treats America’s ills less like a passing flu, and more like a cancer tumor in need of immediate treatment.

Those ills, as Sanders kept articulating since his earliest days in politics, are metastasizing as corporate greed. Corporations think their success is easy to sever from the infrastructure laid down by the state to facilitate their operation, and they’ll thus claim all the spoils to their own, all-the-while the downtrodden are languishing in agony. Libertarians can bark about “taxation being theft” all they want but it is the indisputable fact of American history that the largest leaps in human innovation and collective perseverance have been made under the government’s purview. Bernie Sanders is merely taking some of that focus and pointing it towards what should make lives perceivably better for the average American–whether it be through Medicare-For-All, a tighter set of labor laws, a move away from fossil fuels to energy efficiency, and a whole other slew of progressive policies.

These proposals, as universal and less-pointed as they may seem, stand the greatest chance of making the lives of women and people of color — those who’re typically accused of being least likely to vote for Bernie Sanders — better in America. It is the stern acknowledgement that America has screwed all of its needy that should inform policy moving forward–not petty identitarian concerns about catering to the right demographic to gain favorable coverage from them. That’s what lost Clinton the last cycle, and it would sink any chances of Warren winning the next if she ever gets the nomination.