“Bernie Bros” and the “Alt-Left” are terms increasingly used by conservatives and neo-liberals to discourage, disempower, and discourage activism on the left in favor of complacency in support of the status quo.
By Michael Sainato
The 2016 Presidential Primaries ended more than a year ago, but the divisive and destructive rhetoric that was developed during it remains prevalent. During the battle between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, the Bernie Bros narrative, a resurfacing of the Obama Boys narrative used during the 2008 Primaries by Clinton supporters, became a novelty for political opponents of Bernie Sanders. It served as an easy smear campaign that could be exploited and touted without citing any actual evidence to corroborate the claims behind it. The narrative, devoid of any policy discussion, weaponized identity politics to frame Bernie Sanders and his supporters as a movement being propped up by sexist white males, erasing the women and people of color who supported the movement and continue serving as leaders within it. The narrative also served to arrogantly reaffirm the sense of entitlement Clinton, Democratic Party centrists, and the establishment had to voters in marginalized communities while they actively ignored and abandoned them.
This past weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia, many progressive groups that are pejoratively aligned with the “Bernie Bros” and the “Alt-Left” participated in the protests against white supremacist Nazi’s demonstrating in support of a Confederate Statue on the University of Virginia Campus. Members of the Democratic Socialists of America and the International Workers of the World were injured and one of them, Heather Heyer, lost their life. Despite this, the President of Center for American Progress Neera Tanden, and Daily Kos Founder Markos Moulitsas used the event to try to shamelessly attack the “alt-left,” and progressives, when it’s disproportionately the left rather than centrists and establishment Democrats who are individually and collectively mobilizing and organizing against fascism. Centrists have traditionally denigrated and attacked protests, if not ignored them completely, from the Occupy Wall Street movement to the water protectors standing up to the Dakota Access pipeline, to the anti-fascists standing up against rallies and organizing of Nazi white supremacists, and the nurses and activists fighting for single-payer healthcare in California and across the country, the same purveyors of the Bernie Bros and alt-left myth were nowhere to be found. ShareBlue, a centrist propaganda outlet, didn’t run a single story on the NoDAPL protests, and Neera Tanden, Markos Moulitsas, several former Clinton staffers,and DNC Chair Tom Perez have never tweeted or otherwise mentioned the protests at all, while a militarized police and security force terrorized Native Americans and the Standing Rock Sioux reservation. Instead of embracing movements like Black Lives Matter, Standing Rock, anti-fa, or similar organizing against racism, social injustice, and oppression, centrists have often reverted to covering for the establishment forces doing the oppressing and pushing false narratives against these movements.
The “Alt-left” is a term developed to try to portray the activist left as comparable to the alt-right of neo-nazis and white supremacists, when what is defined as the “alt-left” is generally providing the strongest and most assertive opposition to the alt-right, while centrists virtue signal over civility and embrace neo-conservatives who align with alt-right policies. The alt-right, neo-cons, and centrist establishment voices are invested in disempowering and discouraging activism and protests that stand up to the status quo.
“This is not a time for cowardice or careerism in the face of rising fascism and overt violence against a wide range of minorities. This is not a time to mince words or fret over tenure and promotion. And this is certainly not a time to remain silent. For, as Audre Lorde warned us: ‘Your silence will not protect you,’” wrote Stony Brook University Professor of Sociology Dr. Crystal Fleming in Black Perspectives. “Many of the same citizens, scholars and everyday people who can clearly see white supremacy in the Trump era did not see it in the Obama era and would not have seen it under Clinton’s regime, either. And this is the double tragedy of this moment: obscene celebration from Nazis and white nationalists who correctly view Trump as their advocate and crocodile tears from liberals who could not see the Democrats’ collusion with white supremacy, systematic racism, corruption and state violence here and abroad.” This isn’t to say that progressives, leftists, and Bernie Sanders supporters have all the answers, but that’s the point of progressive policies and the grassroots attitude toward politics. It’s not about an absolutism based on one person, it’s about people coming together out of an impending restlessness to continuously progress toward racial, social, and economic justice.
Michael Sainato is a contributor to The Guardian and a journalist based in Gainesville, Florida. Follow him on Twitter @msainat1.