I have been guilty of mentioning Bernie Bros in my Tweets and Facebook posts. I know some take offense to that label, which is understandable. It does downplay all the female Sanders supporters, and unfairly describes them as obnoxious bullies. And certainly, they are not all like that. Just a loud percentage of them.
It’s hard to resist using the term to illustrate that visible strain. “Bernie Bros” has rhythm and succinctness, and the alliteration makes it particularly winning. And most importantly, it takes a concept which would require many words to describe, and turns it into a concise and clear shorthand.
Otherwise, it would take a full paragraph to say: Condescending Sanders supporters who often swoop into your online sphere to berate you for daring to back Hillary and demand that you justify your support to them; who lecture you on who is progressive and who is not, while claiming a direct line to “the will of the people.” And when not attacking you, they often Tweet generally that Hillary is an evil corporate whore or worse. What’s more, they prove they are in fact liberals with their very liberal use of the c-word.
Now, I can say all the above in an hour or so, or I can just say “Bernie Bros,” and everyone knows what I’m talking about.
I use these shorthands all the time. For instance, when I talk about spending too much time with my mother, I could go into a full description of how we revert to two kooky single women who never leave home and yell at each other in co-dependency. But that’s a mouthful. Instead, I just say “Grey Gardens,” and all my friends know what I’m talking about. (Granted, no one younger than us has any idea.)
Whenever a Hillary supporter uses the phrase Bernie Bros in social media posts, inevitably a guy crash lands into our comments section, yelling, “There is no such thing as Bernie Bros! It’s a lie made up by Hillary people.” I must say, I am always impressed with how quickly they invade our cybersphere; it’s usually just seconds after clicking “post.” Yet, they don’t seem to realize that by going off on us and shouting about Hillary lies, instead of discrediting the Bernie Bros phenomenon, they are proving its very existence.
I have gotten into arguments with friends over whether Bernie Bros are real, many insisting that that it’s something manufactured by Clinton people to hurt Sanders. I try to counter rationally: Let’s see, we know that Sanders is winning the majority of people in their late teens and 20s. We also know that people in their late teens and 20s are savvy with social media. And, just in our life experience, we have probably met a couple of young men who can sometimes be sexist. So, using a Venn diagram in our head, knowing he has a lot of young male supporters and that young men occasionally harass people on the Internet with sexist language, is it at least possible, THAT IT’S THEM?!
The other thing that perplexes me about the Bernie Bros conspiracy theory is that these same theorists often make fun of Hillary supporters for being old and not knowing how to use the Internet. But now, amazingly, these same 70-year-old women have not only learned the Internet, but are running home and creating 12 anonymous Twitter profiles, having fully mastered the art of memes and gifs. Their grandkids must be mighty impressed. “That’s great, Nanna. I love this pornographic one of Hillary Clinton and where you placed the dollar signs.”
Clinton voters are also often caricatured by these same theorists as living in southern red states where they are so backward they don’t have Internet access. So I can just see the scene now: “Gayle? It’s Marylou. Listen, I’ve driven 51 miles to the nearest Starbucks for Wi-Fi. Now, what I think we should do is hit Hillary in Tweets with words like b***h and whore. That will create a backlash against Sanders. In essence, flip the script. And I know exactly what to call them. Wait for it…Bernie Bros.” “Oh, Marylou, that is maniacal and brilliant.” “I better work quick because I have to get home to defrost the refrigerator.”
I have a confession to make. As a Hillary supporter, I can often out-Bro the Bros. Many of us can. You want snarky and condescending? I’ll give you snarky and condescending. They think her supporters are in bed with Wall Street and the “establishment.” We think his need to take a basic class on how government works. Both teams have often gone at each other on Twitter just like this. It makes for a fun Saturday night. And sometime in the future, when the acrimony has hopefully died down, we may all look back and laugh at ourselves. Then we’ll go on Twitter and Facebook to reminisce, “Remember Bernie Bros?” Even then, at least one person will chime in: “Bernie Bros weren’t real!”