Paul Krugman opens up about the verbal abuse he endures when he critiques Bernie Sanders.
Right now I’m getting the kind of correspondence I usually get from Rush Limbaugh listeners, although this time it’s from the left — I’m a crook, I’m a Hillary crony, etc., etc.
Krugman is hardly alone. One of the hallmarks of the 2016 cycle is the instant avalanche of insults that greets anyone and everyone who questions Bernie Sanders or his campaign. The rage of his (alleged) supporters undercuts the image of a hopeful, forward-looking movement. If anything, these venomous attacks smack of Trumpian bullying, instant swarms of rage-fueled insults and unadulterated hate.
Is this really the tone of a people-powered, “establishment”-busting campaign? Swarming and verbally beating down anyone who opposes the movement doesn’t exactly inspire a sense of hope.
In September, Terrell Jermaine Starr took to the pages of the Washington Post to write an op-ed entitled On Twitter, Bernie Sanders’s supporters are becoming one of his biggest problems. Starr writes:
Over the past few months, Sanders’s predominately white backers have used Twitter to target any black activist or journalist who dares question the candidate’s civil rights record. Of course, it’s not fair to blame Sanders for the vitriol of trolls. But at a time when he’s trying to build a relationship with black voters, his supporters can have a significant effect on his image.
When Blue Nation Review (which is transparently supportive of Hillary Clinton’s candidacy) published an article raising questions about Bernie’s electability in a general election, the usual flood of rage followed. As we sorted through the thousands of comments, the similarity of many of the words struck us – they seemed to be drawn from the same script. “Shillary is worse than Trump.” “She’s a Wall Street wh**re.” And on and on. Dripping with barely-concealed sexism, these comments sounded more like GOP anti-Hillary talking points than genuine political disagreements among engaged progressive voters.
It’s no secret that a cadre of conservative billionaires are bankrolling a massive effort to derail Hillary’s campaign. Back in July, #HillaryMen published The Great American Brainwash: Half a Billion Dollars to Turn the Public against Hillary, which included this quote from the New York Times:
An expensive and sophisticated effort is underway to test and refine the most potent lines of attack against Mrs. Clinton, and, ultimately, to persuade Americans that she does not deserve their votes. While the general election is 16 months away, Republican groups are eager to begin building a powerful case against the woman they believe will be the Democratic nominee, and to infuse the public consciousness with those messages. The effort to vilify Mrs. Clinton could ultimately cost several hundred million dollars, given the variety and volume of political organizations involved.
Another Times story that has made the rounds is this: The Right Baits the Left to Turn Against Hillary Clinton. Is it possible that the right’s astroturfing attempts are backfiring on Bernie? Are these (almost always anonymous) Bernie supporters actually rightwing operatives trying to take down Hillary and inadvertently damaging Bernie?
We’ve stayed away from terms like “Berniebros” and “Berniebots” to avoid denigrating Bernie’s true followers, who we consider our progressive brothers and sisters. (That’s not to say we don’t acknowledge the deeply entrenched gender bias that sadly pervades the worldview of men on the left and right alike.) But something about these synchronized verbal assaults against any and all Hillary supporters strikes us a coordinated conservative effort to influence the course of the Democratic primary.
When Bernie’s own supporters on Reddit recoil at the ugly rhetoric, you know something is amiss:
We make snide remarks about how Bernie isn’t being treated fairly and we act like petulant children when things don’t go our way or we perceive the slightest of injustices to have occurred. SO WHAT? We need to dedicate ourselves to truly engaging in positive activities which will spread his message.
As Iowa looms and passions are inflamed, we should remember that we are all Democrats, that we share the same blue mindset and that we should treat one another with dignity and respect. After all, the only person who stands to benefit from this vitriol is President Trump.