Dispelling the Bernie Bro Myth
There has been a growing narrative within establishment circles and the mainstream media that the progressive left, sometimes pejoratively referred to as the ‘alt-left,’ is entrenched in racism and sexism. The notion that the leftist movement is hostile toward women and people of color emerged during the 2016 Democratic primary between Sanders and Clinton and has snowballed since. The use of the term ‘Bernie bro’ which is really just a rebranded and more aggressive version of ‘Obama boys’ from 2008, has become a staple within the vernacular of establishment Democrats seeking to dismiss progressives. The implication of the term is that the new progressive movement, largely started by Bernie Sanders, only appeals to and is solely supported by white males.
The basis for more recent efforts to paint the left as ‘sexist’ and ‘racist’ stems from skepticism and concerns raised by progressives over the potential 2020 candidacies of African American Senators Cory Booker and Kamala Harris. The narrative being pushed by people like Peter Daou, Joy Reid, Neera Tanden and other personalities on Twitter who aren’t nearly as relevant as they think they are is that progressives don’t like Booker or Harris because they’re black. In the case of Harris, the left also apparently doesn’t like her because she’s a woman.
Aside from being offensively absurd, this line of attack from establishment Democrats not only undermines the very legitimate policy concerns regarding both Booker and Harris, but it also attempts to whitewash the millions of leftist people of color and women, as well as the progressive people of color the left has and continues to support.
Earlier this month, Donna Edwards quoted a tweet from Zerlina Maxwell (who pedals in these attacks on the left) which stated: “Kamala Harris doesn’t have a Bernie Sanders problem. The so-called ‘Sanders left’ has a black-woman problem.”
Edwards quoted the tweet saying, “Yes, and then some!” This was particularly disappointing seeing as it was the very same “Sanders left” and progressive base that supported Donna Edwards so strongly over her Democratic primary opponent, Chris Van Hollen.
Moreover, the notion that Bernie supporters were all white men is just factually not true. While it’s true that overall Hillary Clinton did win people of color during the primary, there’s a strong case to be made that the deciding factor was age, not race. According to a study from the Black Youth Project at the University of Chicago, Bernie Sanders carried people of color aged 18–30 by double digits. The study found that Asians 18–30 supported Sanders over Clinton 49%–16%. Among blacks within the same age range, Sanders won 44%–32%. Hispanics aged 18–30 also broke for Sanders by a wide margin, 46%–19%.
Thus one can’t make the case that the Sanders base was just all white men, since Sanders won millennials of color by such wide margins.
Further, the notion that the progressive left is all white men is equally absurd and demonstrably false. There are millions of black leftists, Hispanic leftists, Asian leftists etc. White liberals who refuse to acknowledge the existence of leftists of color are engaging in racism of their own, as they seek to whitewash, silence, and ignore them. Their narrative of ‘racist, sexist, bros’ can only “persist,” to borrow their word, if they ignore every piece of evidence to the contrary. This gross narrative that slithers through Twitter and the mainstream media like a serpent is dangerous, racist, and ignores the great progressive people of color who are out on the political front lines everyday organizing in their community, running for local offices, and supporting progressive causes.
The establishment would rather ignore the strong progressive effort to elect Nikkita Oliver, an African-American woman, as mayor of Seattle, while they (the establishment) supported Jenny Durkan, a white woman. Oliver was endorsed by the People’s Party of Seattle, Democratic Socialists of America, and Our Revolution. They would rather ignore the fact that 9 of 11 Justice Democrat candidates are people of color and that 6 are women.
They would rather ignore the fact that the progressive left is currently working hard to elect Stacey Abrams as governor of Georgia and former NAACP President Ben Jealous as governor of Maryland. Abrams would become the first black female governor in US history if elected.
They would rather ignore that the progressive left worked tirelessly to try and make Kimberly Ellis the chair of the California Democratic Party, and Keith Ellison DNC chair, amid racist and Islamophbic smears from the establishment. They turn a blind eye to Bernie delegate, BLM activist, and democratic socialist Khalid Kamau winning a city council seat in South Fulton, GA. They pay no attention to radical leftist Chokwe Lumumba winning in a landslide to become the new mayor of Jackson, MS. They haven’t mentioned Jabari Brisport, who is running for city council in New York.
The progressive left does not have a problem with minority groups. In fact, people of color are a massive portion of the progressive left. Yet the establishment Democrats, it would appear, have a problem with leftists of color. Whether it’s Elizabeth Warren, Barbara Lee, Judy Chu, Donna Edwards, Nina Turner, Lucy Flores, Keith Ellison, Tulsi Gabbard, Pramila Jayapal, and Raul Grijalva (most of whom endorsed Bernie Sanders), the progressive left has no problem with women or people of color.
Yet simply not being all that wild about Cory Booker or Kamala Harris suddenly makes the whole group racist and sexist white men, despite our well documented skepticism and concern over the potential 2020 candidacies of centrists Andrew Cuomo, Jerry Brown, Tim Kaine, John Hickenlooper, and Mark Zuckerberg (all white men). It’s interesting how in the same day one can tweet out support for Nikkita Oliver & Stacey Abrams, float Barbara Lee 2020, and criticize Kamala Harris’ record of supporting prison labor and crusading against sex workers, one can also be smeared as hating black women by establishment Democrats.
If you're interested in writing for International Policy Digest - please send us an email via firstname.lastname@example.org