"Bernie Bro" (sometimes spelled "Berniebro"; collective Bernie Bros) is a pejorative label applied to some supporters of American politician Bernie Sanders, U.S. Senator from Vermont and two-time Democratic presidential primary candidate. In the 2016 presidential election, the term was sometimes used to characterize Sanders supporters as overly demanding in support of their candidate. It was also associated with allegations of sexism and racism, as associated with a group that was predominantly white and predominantly male.
Although in 2016, Sanders' supporters were noticeably more white than the Democratic electorate as a whole, Sanders' polling base in the 2020 Democratic primaries is actually more diverse than that of most candidates.
Robinson Meyer, a writer for The Atlantic, coined the term "Bernie bro" in an October 17, 2015 article to describe a phenomenon in which some young, white, progressive men were "hectoring their friends" on Facebook to support Sanders.
In the article, Meyer characterized the Bernie Bro as "male... white; well-educated; middle-class (or, delicately, 'upper middle-class'); and aware of NPR podcasts and jangly bearded bands." Furthermore, according to Meyer, "[t]he Berniebro asserts that this country needs highly principled, pie-in-the-sky progressive policies, regardless of how likely they are to become legislation. The Berniebro supports free college for all and a $15 minimum wage.... The Berniebro voted for Barack Obama in 2012. And 2008, if the Berniebro was old enough to vote." Meyer's story was shared 28,000 times on Facebook, bringing the term to public attention. Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks criticized David Brock, specifically, for the invention of the Bernie Bro controversy and for his negative coverage of the Bernie Sanders 2016 Presidential Campaign.
Sanders campaign response
In a February 2016 interview with CNN's State of the Union, Sanders criticized "Bernie Bros" for their sexist attacks against rival Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. "It's disgusting. [...] Anybody who is supporting me and who is doing sexist things, we don't want them. I don't want them. That is not what this campaign is about."
Clinton campaign response
In February, Brian Fallon, Clinton's press secretary, characterized the Bernie Bros as "nasty and vitriolic." Bill Clinton accused the Bernie Bros as carrying out "vicious trolling and attacks that are literally too profane ... not to mention sexist."
Online reaction to the perceived Bernie Bro phenomenon from Clinton supporters ranged from organizational action to the production of memes to counter media narratives surrounding the campaign. Bros4Hillary, a Twitter page, was created to coordinate online white males who support Hillary Clinton. Following the 2016 presidential election, the group was renamed Bros4America, and continues to allege harassment from so-called BernieBros.
In an interview with Thom Hartmann, state Senator Nina Turner (a former surrogate for Senator Bernie Sanders) affirmed that she was uncomfortable with the term; "I just think it is really hyped by the Clinton campaign. I mean, both candidates have people who really, really support them and sometimes in ways that are not nice. But it's the same thing, if people want to research this, it's the same thing that the Clinton campaign did to President, then Senator, Obama. I think they were called 'Obama Boys.' So it's really the same stuff recycled that there are a group of men out there that are rabid and they're sexist and they're really against Secretary Clinton."
In January 2016, The Intercept journalist Glenn Greenwald called the Bernie Bro narrative a "cheap campaign tactic" and a "journalistic disgrace." He pointed to the millions of women who supported Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton with "one has to be willing to belittle the views and erase the existence of a huge number of American women to wield this 'Bernie Bro' smear." He also pointed to the lack of evidence for the phenomenon outside of the typical vitriol associated with online forums. He summarized the narrative's purpose as follows: "The goal is to inherently delegitimize all critics of Hillary Clinton by accusing them of, or at least associating them with, sexism, thus distracting attention away from Clinton's policy views, funding, and political history and directing it toward the online behavior of anonymous, random, isolated people on the internet claiming to be Sanders supporters."
Nathan Wellman wrote in U.S. Uncut that users of the term "are essentially erasing the contributions of women and people of color to the Bernie Sanders campaign to propagate their own narrative, rendering them as invisible people. This is one of the oldest forms of violence perpetuated by white people of privilege."
- 2016 Democratic National Committee email leak
- Social media in the United States presidential election, 2016
- Bro (subculture)
- Meyer, Robinson (October 17, 2015). "Here Comes the Berniebro". The Atlantic. Atlantic Media. Retrieved February 23, 2016.
- "Bernie Bros out of control: Explosion of misogynist rage at Nevada's Dem chairwoman reflects terribly on Sanders' dwindling campaign". Salon. 2016-05-17. Retrieved 2019-09-07.
- "The Quiet Death of the "White Bernie Bro" Attack". jacobinmag.com. Retrieved 2019-09-07.
- Grim, Ryan (2019-03-06). "Bernie Sanders Is Beating Kamala Harris 2-1 Among Black Democratic Primary Voters, New Poll Finds". The Intercept. Retrieved 2019-09-07.
- Meyer, Robinson (October 17, 2015). "Here Comes the Berniebro Look, there is a systemic crisis occurring. On Facebook". The Atlantic. Retrieved May 15, 2016.
- Hess, Amanda (February 3, 2016). "Everyone Is Wrong About the Bernie Bros; How a necessary critique of leftist sexism deteriorated into a dumb flame war". Slate. Retrieved May 15, 2016.
- Meyer, Robinson (February 5, 2016). "It's Not Just Berniebros I coined the term—now I've come back to fix what I started". The Atlantic. Retrieved May 15, 2016.
- Andrews, Natalie (February 8, 2016). "Bernie Sanders on Sexist Commenters: I Don't Want That Support". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved May 15, 2016.
- "Bernie Sanders Gets Apology From Clinton Backer". The Young Turks (Video). YouTube. January 12, 2017. Retrieved April 12, 2017.
- "Why 'Bernie Bro' Myth Is Bogus". The Young Turks (Video). YouTube. March 4, 2016. Retrieved April 12, 2017.
- Bereznak, Alyssa (February 9, 2016). "The Bernie Bros rule the Internet". Yahoo Politics. Yahoo!. Retrieved February 23, 2016.
- Shastry, Anjali (February 7, 2016). "Sanders addresses 'Bernie Bros,' says he doesn't want support from sexists". The Washington Times. The Washington Times, LLC. Retrieved February 23, 2016.
- Hampson, Brian (May 12, 2016). "Hillary Clinton, no fan of 'Bernie Bros,' could use their energy vs. Trump". USA Today. Retrieved May 15, 2016.
- Karnie, Annie (February 7, 2016). "Bill Clinton batters and blasts Bernie Sanders". Politico. Retrieved May 15, 2016.
- Mohajer, Alex (January 7, 2017). "In Politics, 2016 Was The Year of the Bro". Huffington Post. Retrieved July 6, 2018.
- "Bros4Hillary". Bros4Hillary. Retrieved November 20, 2016.
- Turner, Nina (May 27, 2016). "Great Minds p2: Nina Turner - Are Bernie Bros Real?". Conversations With Great Minds. Retrieved July 28, 2016.
- Greenwald, Glenn. "The "Bernie Bros" Narrative: a Cheap Campaign Tactic Masquerading as Journalism and Social Activism Glenn Greenwald Jan. 31 2016, 8:42 a.m." The Intercept. Retrieved August 15, 2016.
- Wellmen, Nathan (January 29, 2016). "The 'Bernie Bro' is a Media Myth. It Needs to Die". U.S. Uncut. Archived from the original on March 18, 2016. Retrieved July 28, 2016.
- Cogan, Marin (April 30, 2015). "Daily Intelligencer: Bernie Sanders Is Officially Running for President – That Doesn't Mean You Can Ask Him About Hillary Clinton". New York. Retrieved July 18, 2015.
- Kane, Paul; Rucker, Philip (April 30, 2015). "An unlikely contender, Sanders takes on 'billionaire class' in 2016 bid". The Washington Post. Retrieved February 23, 2016.
- Rappeport, Alan (April 29, 2015). "Bernie Sanders Announces He Is Running for President". The New York Times. Retrieved February 23, 2016.
- "'Bernie Bros' controversy enters Democratic race". MSNBC. March 13, 2016. Retrieved May 19, 2016.
- Shepherd, Kate (February 15, 2016). "The overblown 'Bernie Bros' phenomenon says more about social media than Bernie Sanders". Chicago Reader. Retrieved May 19, 2016.
- Hess, Amanda (February 3, 2016). "Bernie Bros Are Bad. The Conversation Around Them Is Worse". Slate. Retrieved May 19, 2016.
- Wilz, Kelly (2016). "Bernie Bros and Woman Cards: Rhetorics of Sexism, Misogyny, and Constructed Masculinity in the 2016 Election". Women's Studies in Communication. 39 (4): 357–360. doi:10.1080/07491409.2016.1227178.
- Albrecht, Michael Mario (2017). "Bernie Bros and the gender schism in the 2016 US presidential election". Feminist Media Studies. 17 (3): 509–513. doi:10.1080/14680777.2017.1304715.