“Bernie Bros” and Gawker’s comments section

Yesterday New York Magazine published this piece by Jonathan Chait to outline why he does not believe Bernie Sanders should be the Democratic nominee for president: The Case Against Bernie Sanders. Chait, while he is entitled to his opinion just like everyone else, puts forth arguments against Sanders that are outdated at this point in the primary cycle as a) socialism (or Democratic Socialism to be more precise) is not as much of a dirty word as centrists have feared and b) Sanders has been releasing more concrete information about how exactly his plans will be enacted in terms of raising taxes to pay for his health care plan, how much it will cost, and potential savings for citizens. Chait also makes the argument that raising the minimum wage to $15 will hurt jobs, specifically in the restaurant industry, which has been debunked for the most part (http://gawker.com/study-minimum-wage-increases-dont-hurt-the-restaurant-1753143586).

Hamilton Nolan writing for Gawker has broken down the argument against Chait’s assessment point by point and I agree with the majority of what Nolan states: http://gawker.com/the-case-against-bernie-sanders-is-dumb-1753735204.

Before getting into the comments section of this article, the one area in which I disagree is that it doesn’t matter which one of them is elected because the Republicans hate both and will stonewall both of them or maybe Clinton even more so since their hatred of her is even more rabid and has been going on for decades by this point. But it is reasonable to be of the opinion that perhaps someone who is more of a centrist might have more luck working out a compromise on various issues with a hostile Congress. To be fair though, Sanders may end up drastically reducing or scaling back his proposals if he does end up in the White House and perhaps he would be “starting with more” (much like with the $15 minimum wage proposal) and be able to end up with more following negotiations with Congress rather than starting with an idea that’s more moderate in comparison and ending up with a deal that’s worse for the people.

I strongly agree with Sanders on economic issues (he is virtually the same as Clinton on social issues although she seems to be more effective in getting messages about women’s equality and racial equality across) and I think he is a pure, genuine, honest politician who would do his very best to get things done and do things right to change the system in favor of disadvantaged people and would do his very best to reduce economic inequality. On the other hand however, I’m concerned about the fact that he has primarily stuck to just his economic message and hasn’t gone too much in depth about other issues such as foreign policy where I believe Clinton has a much stronger advantage.  There’s also the case that Clinton has a much broader base of support and that Sanders has not been able to move beyond his base of young white liberals although again, that could change if he is able to beat Clinton in Iowa and/or New Hampshire. Those are states with politically active young white voters which gives him an advantage, but he might be able to use a win in those states to gain momentum and share his message with a broader group and the rest of the Democratic Base.

So in summary, there are pros and cons to both and as a supporter of the Democratic Party as a whole I want to do what’s best for the general election and the long term success of the party turning in a more leftward direction and overall. That will almost certainly happen with Sanders, but he has pushed Clinton to the left (her changing views on positions is another topic addressed below) and I don’t think she will be a repeat of the same old, same old. If Sanders wins the nomination I will fully support him and I hope that he would actually be successful in implementing any sort of change rather than simply running to make a point, have a one term presidency and that’s it, back to the status quo. No guarantee that there wouldn’t be a backlash against Clinton with her ending up only serving one term, but I think it’s less likely in her case and I think she would be more likely to even run for a second term (although let’s hope Sanders is in excellent health and lives a million years like Jimmy Carter).

And in terms of the Democratic Party as a whole, I think anyone who is the Democratic candidate is better for the country as I believe the Republican Party would do their best to undo steps taken to ensure the rights of minorities, LGBTQ people, women, the right to health care and they would continue to make the rich richer all of which no Democratic president would do, Sanders or otherwise. 

This is where the comments section of that Gawker article refuting Chait’s NYMag article comes into play. The top comment is a person (presumably a woman) stating how uncomfortable people she refers to as “Bernie Bros” make her feel and that it’s tempting to not vote for him due to that despite agreeing with Sanders to an extent otherwise. Some people piled on calling her stupid, “intellectually dishonest” and said that she shouldn’t be voting at all. She raises a valid point though that while Sanders himself has been staying positive and running a positive campaign free of personal attacks, some of his supporters have been incredibly misogynistic in their attacks against Clinton and instead of engaging in honest discourse against her policies some of them are repeating right wing propaganda against her with specific attacks pertaining to her being a woman.

All candidates have rabid supporters who engage in personal attacks against the other candidate’s supporters, however it does appear more intense this time around and it’s reasonable to make the assessment that it’s because a highly polarizing woman is a serious contender for the White House, therefore some of these attacks have elements of gender bias to them which would not exist if only men were running. Whether or not a candidate’s supporters’ behavior is a valid reason (and “valid reason” is subjective given that we also have voters who will not vote for a candidate on the basis of race or gender which is a much worse reason to dismiss a person) to not vote for a candidate, it’s at least understandable to feel unwanted in this movement if one is a woman and is primarily seeing Sanders supporters as men who are bashing Clinton with gendered attacks and dismiss anyone who doesn’t hate Clinton as being an apologist, corrupt, stupid, etc. (all arguments that can also be made against a man, but in this instance are coupled with sexism).

Just as with “not all men,” this is not all Sanders supporters. I would hope that perhaps in states where he has more support there is a more diverse group of people out there who are campaigning for him, however in New York I personally have primarily encountered those who, for example, are men who solely want Sanders to win in New York to have the satisfaction of beating Clinton in her own state. This came from the official organizer of Sanders centered events to register New Yorkers to vote in the primary elections. It’s unclear if he would have the same vitriol toward a man, but either way that reasoning is absurd, has nothing to do with politics, and again, very off putting to a voter who may be undecided and think that maybe that’s what the Sanders campaign is all about if this is what his “representatives” are saying and this hatred is aimed toward a woman and her supporters with language that is rarely aimed at male candidates. I also volunteered with the Clinton campaign for the same purpose and there was no discussion of Sanders period.

Granted, the guy I was volunteering along with for Sanders affiliated voter registration expressed discomfort with the level of hatred the organizer expressed toward Clinton and when I told another Sanders supporter who introduced me to some additional economic ideas Sanders has, he also stated that he does not like those tactics and does not hate Clinton. But for every one of those guys who is willing to be reasonable and take a step back from the personal attacks or is unwilling to engage in them, there’s another guy who wants women who are on the fence to shut up. I have encountered those who aren’t even willing to listen to women who are expressing ideas that are in line with Sanders’. It’s valid to feel discouraged and maybe join the side where one feels more welcome if there are only slight reasons for why one would choose one candidate over another.

And Clinton is a flawed candidate. I think she has made missteps such as invoking September 11th when asked about her campaign contributions from Wall Street. Her ties to Wall Street in general are of concern when it comes to the debate regarding money in politics. There is the fact that she has changed her views over time and Sanders has been more consistent (such as with gay rights). That does not bother me as much personally since she is not the only politician Democratic or otherwise who has ever changed her mind on issues (Obama is an example of one and he explained his reasonings), but it’s fair for that to be off putting for someone else. I also think her criticisms of Sanders’ proposed health plan are out of line as I believe they have similar goals, just different plans for how to get there. There are plenty of other political reasons not to like her that can be found, but the discussion should stick to her policies. Not her appearance, not how she talks, not her husband.

My experiences are purely anecdotal as are the Gawker commenter’s and I do not know what exactly she has experienced, only what I have observed. I have not conducted research into how Sanders supporters across the country feel about women in general or Clinton based on the fact she is a woman. It’s important to note though that the commenter wasn’t stating that she literally would not vote for Sanders based on his supporters. She was just expressing a thought based on her experiences and was immediately called stupid. But feeling that way is a natural reaction to feeling continually unwelcome even when one wants to feel support for a movement and some of the reactions to her statements only reinforced the idea that women’s perceptions are generally dismissed by men as stupid.

Ultimately it really does come down to vote who you want to vote for and as long as it’s a rational, thought out position then who cares? And women are capable of making rational, thought out decisions based on their experiences. It’s absurd that that has to be defended in 2016. I am hoping once the negativity of the primary dies down supporters of whomever can support each other with a common goal to defeat bigotry and intolerance.

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