Bernie Bros are a myth. They’re also the most annoying people on the left. To put the ‘Bro’ to bed, first we must understand its staying power.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez campaigns with Bernie Sanders in 2019. Photo by Matt A.J., via Flickr.
  • Bernie is the most popular candidate among young people of all demographics, who will have to bear the brunt of climate change and the legacy of Trumpism, and whose outrage at inaction on these issues and more is not only justified but crucial.
  • “Bernie Bro” is a media narrative which, after being coined by Robinson Meyer in 2015, was pushed hard by Clinton supporters in 2016. (Interestingly, in 2008, a similar attempt was made to dismiss some Obama supporters as “Obama Boys.”)
Meme depicting Hillary Clinton wearing an Elizabeth Warren mask.

The “Bernie Bro” myth became a reality the moment people started embodying the stereotype.

One of the things that makes the “Bernie Bro” such a brilliant weaponized narrative is a kind of cognitive shortcut known as the availability heuristic. Simply put, the availability heuristic is what makes us see more of something once we’ve got a mental category to put it in. Like the protagonist of The Number 23, who suddenly sees the number 23 everywhere once he is told to look for its significance, the “Bernie Bro” category gives us a readymade name for when an overzealous Bernie fan starts getting annoyingly argumentative.

Telling someone, “I’m sorry that happened to you” is excellent praxis. It acknowledges that something did indeed happen, and that you are sorry that it happened.

Ultimately, I would love for us to put the Bro to bed because we need the progressive left to unify, and the Bernie Bro trope is a mechanism designed to make us ruin our own chances of doing just that. But in order to do that, we have to understand the ways in which many of us unwittingly give the mechanism its strength by embodying the stereotype that others find so aggressive, combative, and annoying.

Artist and historian. PhD student researching religion, material culture, media, and politics. Bylines at The Wire Magazine, Art in America + more.

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