Column

The Hater’s Guide To Bernie Sanders

The old man ain’t no angel. Not yet anyway.

Some people (raises hand) are supporters of Bernie Sanders. But many, many more people are NOT supporters of Bernie Sanders. This 2020 GEN magazine haters’ guide, the second in an already famed and illustrious series, is for those in the latter group.

Your candidate

The U.S. Senate equivalent of the old guy at the gym who works out for 10 minutes on an exercise bike while wearing Lee Jeans and a dress shirt.

His résumé

2016 Democratic primary runner-up. He’s a socialist! But he’s also a Democrat! But also, he was always an independent! He’s a floor cleaner AND a dessert topping! You know how some closet Republicans love to say they’re independent while brandishing a big ol’ name tag that says Avowed Libertarian on it? Bernie Sanders is the liberal equivalent of that, which is somehow more irritating to deal with. Throughout his tenure, Bernie has served as the designated empty can that rattles the most, remaining steadfast in his opposition to unfettered capitalism and for-profit wars: a righteous man who also froze himself out of the political process so that he could be conveniently free to bitch about that process from the inside. As a legislator, Sanders was content to Bernie up minor provisions of bills while rarely, if ever, pushing through major legislative initiatives of his own.

If you’ve already drank the Kool-Aid, you can see all this through the prism of Bernie being the “eternal outsider,” sticking to his principles until, with Donald Trump as president, the rest of his party finally came around to seeing things his way. If you’re just a touch more skeptical about Berniemania, you can see this as an old and intractable kook ignorantly trying to seize control of a moment that never really belonged to him. Bad things happen when you let white dudes—especially ones who have been able to stroll along the corridors of power for literal decades—indulge in the delusion that they’re outsiders. That’s not even a coy Trump allusion I’m making. That’s always been true.

Also, Bernie defended Iran during the hostage crisis of 1979–81. That was 41 years ago, so my man doesn’t get to chalk up that stance to being a young and vigorous 106 years old at the time it happened.

Why he sucks

Because of his supporters. This is the part where I disclose that I’m voting for Bernie in the primary. I was all in for Elizabeth Warren for the bulk of 2019, switching over to Bernie when I found Warren’s health care plan to be deliberately watered-down in a cave to the more rightward flank of her own party. I took that proposal as a shitty cop-out on her end. Warren, of course, was not copping out. She was, as is she wont to do, laying out a plan for exactly how she would achieve Medicare for All. I didn’t want to hear any of that shit. I wanted better quality raw meat: a politician telling me they will give me M4A and give it to me right now. This is the kind of easy pandering that all politicians indulge in and is relatively easy to detect… unless, of course, it’s precisely the kind of bullshit you want to hear. I didn’t want to hear the truth from Warren, so I went over to Bernie.

And lemme tell you something, it’s become a spiritual chore to not become infected with Bernie Bro-ism after the fact. I can feel it creeping in, especially as we’re nearing the primaries and Bernie is suddenly in the crosshairs of a lot of people, Warren included. When Warren accused Bernie of saying a woman couldn’t win the presidency, I immediately wrote it off as a lie: a cheap political stunt from a candidate who knew her momentum was waning. And I would have expressed those sentiments except that the Bernie Hive was already wayyyy ahead of me in playing up their victimhood.

That’s but one piece of hay in a bale the size of fucking Jupiter. I could absolutely be one of those Bernie Bros or Bro-ettes. I could say that CNN is fake news and that Warren — a woman I would shit hot knives to see elected president — is desperately trying to re-integrate herself into the party machinery, which is out to get Bernie any way it can. But Bernie already has a spiritual bot farm in place to get all that across, whether you asked them for it or not (you didn’t). They’re fucking poison. They’re deft trolls constantly on the prowl for perceived slights, and anyone who’s been online at any time over the past four years can and should recognize this unfolding in real time. In fact, this particular strain of Softboy aggression has been living comfortably in the rec room of the progressive movement since 2016:

Even though Bernie eventually did endorse Hillary Clinton that year, you can go right ahead and draw a line from him to any number of disaffected liberals who decided to vote for fucking Jill Stein or some other unlicensed gemologist in that election, potentially creating a miniature Nader effect that Bernie has never bothered to take responsibility for. This is because Bernie is an asshole. He’ll tell you so himself!

Beware of No Bullshit guys. You know the type. No Bullshit guys love to tell you how unwilling they are to tolerate bullshit. Other people? They love bullshit. Why, they’d work free as paralegals all year long, they love bullshit so much! But not this guy. This guy isn’t here to shake your hand or ask you about your day or wish you a happy birthday. He’s not into any of that. He’s a No Bullshit Outsider, baby. Because he sucks. If Bernie was really as anti-bullshit as he claims to be, he would exert some kind of control over his followers online and tell them to 1) leave people alone; and 2) stop being so irritating that they’re actively repelling potential newcomers to the flock.

Bernie’s campaign isn’t a direct parallel to Trump’s 2016 campaign. But that doesn’t mean it’s free of bad shit, and that doesn’t mean Bernie should get a pass for what a pasty legion of self-appointed surrogates do on his behalf.

He hasn’t, and he doesn’t get to use his age as an excuse for this neglect. Bernie may not know much about the internet, but his operatives sure as shit do. He’s even got the endorsement of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in his back pocket, and no Democrat is better at being online than AOC. Has he used any of those resources to keep his base in check? Fuck no, he hasn’t. Like any other member of the Bernie Hive, I’m as sick of hearing from Hillary Clinton as I’ll ever be. But when she trashed Bernie to the Hollywood Reporter this week, she pointed out a fairly obvious truth about what’s going on:

“It’s the culture around him. It’s his leadership team. It’s his prominent supporters. It’s his online Bernie Bros and their relentless attacks on lots of his competitors, particularly the women. And I really hope people are paying attention to that because it should be worrisome that he has permitted this culture — not only permitted, [he] seems to really be very much supporting it.”

Again, I can wave that off as Hillary being an eternally blind loyalist to her own racket. A more hapless Frank Sheeran. But that would just be me rooting around for excuses to ignore what is plainly evident. No, Bernie’s campaign isn’t a direct parallel to Trump’s 2016 campaign. But that doesn’t mean it’s free of bad shit, and that doesn’t mean Bernie should get a pass for what a pasty legion of self-appointed surrogates do on his behalf. All he has to do is get up at a rally and say, “Lemme stop everyone here for a second. This is not a movement way-uh we launch into vicious attacks online, which is what the millionaires and billionaires want us to do becoss they know the more-uh we fight, the more-uh time they have to raise beer prices.” But he hasn’t! Get it together, old man.

Also, he owns three houses. And he needed over 70 years to “evolve” on race views. And he twice voted to protect gun companies from liability if their products were used in violent crimes (this is why I voted for Hillary in the 2016 primary). And Joe Rogan endorsed him. With Bari Weiss on as his guest. And he’s holding a rally with Vampire Weekend next month. I’m not saying the cure is worse than the disease, but it’s certainly got no shortage of side effects. If I support Bernie long enough I’ll probably end up affecting his Frankenstein underbite. Fire bad!

Why he’ll suck as president

Bernie would be 79 years old on his inauguration day, beating Trump as the oldest inaugurated president in U.S. history. He’s really fucking old. And I know it was nice to see him quickly recover from a heart attack in October and get right back out on the trail, but that doesn’t mean Bernie is tough. It means he’s at the age where spontaneous heart failure can happen anytime, anywhere. He won’t tap Marianne Williamson as his running mate, but he sure as hell better tap someone who adheres to her health and skincare regimen.

And even if Bernie does not drop dead while in office, he’s still not gonna accomplish anything useful. Bernie is a pleasant figurehead for a movement that needs a lot more than that.

One unhateable thing

His whole “fuck you we’re going to win” campaign ethos? I like it.

He’s gonna win this thing. I just hope he gets his shit together while he does.

Columnist at GEN. Co-founder, Defector. Author of Point B.

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