For a long time, I have seen Bernie Sanders as a human Grumpy Cat with a deep disdain for neoliberalism. I’ve admired his drive, his passion, his stamina. I remember literally cheering at the radio listening to his speech on the Senate floor in opposition to the Iraq War. I find it odd that he has changed little over the past 30 years, think his antiestahblishment shtick is a tad disingenuous and I find myself kind of exhausted by the gruff mansplaining. I could live with that, maybe even learn to like it, except that Bernie Sanders comes with a certain segment of his fan base and yes, I do mean base.
These Berners are devoted, glowing, ebullient in their praise of Sanders. Anyone who criticizes Sanders is a liar, a hypocrite. Anything that doesn’t track with their praise and adoration is an attempt to steal the election from him. They respond to anything that looks like doubt by zealously trying to change your mind. They respond to anything that looks like criticism by gunning for you.
Sanders’ supporters, even the really nice ones, are for the most part willing to turn a blind eye to the creepy, callous, and downright misogynistic behavior of the Sanders trolls. They belittle, trivialize and act clueless when anyone a woman says that the behavior of Bernie bros feels kind of harassy. I mean, what woman in 2020 has any idea what misogynistic harassment feels like?
There’s the “what are you talking about?” response:
“Give me one example.”
“Oh that — that doesn’t count.”
There’s the “they can’t take a joke” response:
“Well, like, people just don’t get that this is the way people talk on Twitter.”
There’s the tried and true “Bernie doesn’t approve” response.
Right, of course, there was that time after approximately a million incidents of their straight up bullying behavior, if you really squint, it looks like Sanders sort of admonished the bros.
I sent this text to my husband a few days ago:
“Have finally figured out why Bernie Bros trigger me. They remind me so much of people who’d wanted to date me who I’d nicely but firmly rejected. How they’d keep coming at you, keep finding reasons for you to change your mind, keep keeping at your heels. And when they’d finally get the message that this wasn’t going to happen, they’d get cruel and they’d stay cruel. It is this inability to deal with someone who doesn’t share your vision or doesn’t want what you want that I find creepy and a little scary.”
When I was 16, I was a lifeguard at a pool at a condo complex. This guy used to come and hang out at night, when the pool was quiet. Somewhere deep in my bones is the phantom of my sinking stomach when I saw him enter through the gates. Few people around, moonlight on the water, he’d dangle his legs in the shallow end of the pool as I dipped test strips into the water, swept and washed down the cement, hauled the loungers away. I wasn’t tough and I wasn’t dumb – I knew calling security would antagonize him and I didn’t have the guts to tell him to leave me alone. I did what teenage girls do – lined up friends and family to keep me company, deflected the dude as much as I could, was nice in that absent vague way people are nice when they want you to fuck off. He kept asking me out. I kept making excuses. He was an asshole but he wasn’t stupid, so he pressed the point until I finally told him it was never going to happen. Two nights later, he showed up with a knife. I locked myself in the office, called security, and then I called my sister. I did not press charges. He was banned from the pool. It was a weird and very fucked up scene, which I forgot all about because Jesus Christ, so many of these things happen to women and this wasn’t even that high up the list of shitty things that men have done to me so it went to the back of the file cabinet in my head.
And then this week, I got in an argument with a Sanders troll who infiltrated a Warren for President Facebook group, started “encouraging us” to change our minds, then insisted she needed to drop out of the race, and it devolved from there. He responded to each and every post in this groups with variations of ‘Warren is a liar,’ and so on. I, and other members of the group reported him to the administrators. He was banned. Curious, I followed the link to his page, where he wrote: ‘Facebook blocked me from posting in groups with no explanation of having done anything wrong.’
I get that a lot of people think Sanders is a strong, tough candidate and that we need that kind of person to beat Trump. I get that folks believe he’s a “get it done” guy. But this thread of violence that lies just beneath the surface of his campaign does not make me feel like I am part of a revolution. It does not make me feel like we are changing history. I do not feel heard, seen, valued or respected. To me, the rotten underbelly of the Sanders movement feels like the same old, same old. Dismissive. Categorical. Misogynistic.
I don’t get it. Because we actually could have the revolution.