Your Bernie Sanders Meme Is Wrong: an analysis of Bernie Sanders internet culture and the problematic atmosphere it creates.
As Sanders supporters leave the chaos of New York with heavy hearts, the end of the candidate’s longevity seems to be within grasping distance. Now, one could argue this has been a slow death. The populist took destructive hits on Super Tuesday, and powered on through several more devastating losses. His success in caucuses, while morale building, has proven ineffective in the arena of delegates.
Throughout the ups and downs of this turbulent nomination process, Sanders’ camp of rebellious millennials have proven their dedication to their candidate. A quick scroll through Twitter, Facebook, or Reddit is evident of that. Publicly and loudly endorsing your candidate isn’t a bad thing, of course. Sanders supporters, however, have entered realms of toxicity that few other groups of supporters have forged forward into.
These realms are plagued with blatantly incorrect statistics, die-hard enthusiasm, and lack of understanding about the nomination process. Many Sanders supporters feel slighted by the “establishment.” They fail to realize that Sanders chose said establishment by running within a national party. As such, the nomination process is dictated by that party. College students’ outcries over the popular vote are, ironically, uneducated. He’s still playing by the rules of the party. This presidential run isn’t like his senate tenure, where he’s been a staunch independent.
The atmosphere Sanders supporters create online, as aforementioned, is bizarrely detrimental to their understanding of the political process. Thus, let’s explore a selection of screen grabs of popular items online from the last several months, because chances are your Bernie Sanders meme is wrong.
(It’s worth noting these are very popular posts on Reddit, Facebook, and the like.)
Here’s a graphic Sanders supporters circulated online after his Super Tuesday defeat. It cites Five Thirty Eight, even though their numbers differ. Yes, Sanders did take Idaho, Utah, Alaska, Washington, Wisconsin, Hawaii, and Wyoming. Thus, the graph’s reality begins to fracture heavily at New York – the most recent primary. Putting New York aside for a moment, though, let’s do some math.
Democrats have proportional primaries and caucuses, meaning Clinton is still taking delegates in the state she’s losing. (Or in some cases, the same amount: Wyoming.) In the seven aforementioned Sanders wins, he took 155 delegates home. In those same seven states, Clinton took home 76. That 79 delegate gap is very small, considering these are states with relatively low delegate numbers. In New York last week, Clinton seized 139 more delegates – 31 more than Sanders. (Numbers reported from AP)
So, what does this mean? It means charts like the one above have an inherent misunderstanding of the nomination process. The higher delegate count states, where Clinton has performed well consistently, overtake any small victories Sanders makes along the way in the smaller elections. The streak of Sanders wins the chart has projected for the rest of the campaign are unlikely, too, and its bizarre self-commentary makes the defeat even more painful to watch. (“We might win these / We might not even need to win hard here.”)
Let’s look at a few other popular graphics the Sanders community has cycled around online. The one below makes out Sanders to be the cool kid on the block – the kid who ran for class president with dreams of longer recesses and homework droughts. That’s a terrible analogy; that’s also the kid that couldn’t bring any of that to the table once ‘elected.’ He ran on the platform of enticing excited sixth graders with dreams of grandeur. Having your recess extended and homework abolished is about as likely as free college education throughout the US.
When covering the Sanders march in Chicago this year, our reporters at OPE noticed a sect of supporters donning slogans similar to the ‘Never Trump’ campaign across the aisle. “I won’t vote for Hillary,” “Bernie or bust,” and so on. This rhetoric is echoed online, too. Just head on over to the front page of the politics subreddit; the anti-Clinton rhetoric within her own potential voter base is incredible. Currently, the forefront of that community is allegations of voting machine tampering.
A ‘Never Clinton’ mentality amongst some Sanders supporters is effectively an attempted suicide bombing of the Democratic vote in November. (In exactly the same way that ‘Never Trump’ supporters will cause Trump’s train to derail if he’s nominated and can’t secure votes in the general.) These Sanders supporters aren’t making a statement. They’re cutting down the vote of the only candidate who could even partially resemble ideals they align with.
The final branch that Sander and his supporters cling to is the convention. The senator has stated numerous times, including this morning at a rally in Pennsylvania, that he’s running forward to Philadelphia to attempt to sway superdelegates. His camp argues that his appeal will increase when he can bring a number of delegates to the table and offer an alternative to Clinton during the nomination process. Why on earth, though, would these superdelegates move?
Superdelegates are a party entity. They aren’t elected; they’re distinguished politicians within the party in place for the purpose of attempting to guide it. Delegates and superdelegates have the interests of the party. Right now, Politico projects a pretty impressive lead for Clinton: 1,944 to 1,192. Sanders supporters are arguing they can close that gap by getting a few more superdelegates on the Bern-train, which is highly unlikely.
Why would they? Sanders became part of their party yesterday, comparatively speaking. If he wins, he’ll fracture a good deal of democrats and create the kind of gridlock he abhors, and he if he loses, he’ll happily head back to the senate as an independent. The latter, which is also the most likely, results in him owing the party absolutely nothing. He may have ideologically aligned with them than the Republicans more often in the past, but he’s by no means a player officially on their roster.
So, if you’re a Redditor… if you’re part of a Facebook politics group… if you’re a Twitterholic that ‘feels the Bern’… Fact check your own content. Your Bernie Sanders mean may very well be very wrong, and it only perpetuates a misunderstanding of the current election and how candidates rise to both nomination and victory.
Feature photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore.