The issue of Social Media
Social media is a key tool for any young and growing politico. The ability to get any news, poll or analyst hot take in seconds is absolutely an amazing thing for those politically interested. The issue is, however, that my timeline is not filled with news, polls and decent hot takes, but instead the angry, crazy and nearly fanatic supporters of candidates. That’s not to say that they are every tweet during every single hour, but I see them enough through both regular tweets and replies to reporters or news accounts that I follow. These so called “Stans” of their chosen candidate are amplified by social media.
If you don’t know what a “Stan” is, it is a term that comes from a song by the famous rapper Eminem after a character from one of his songs appropriately called “Stan”. The character Stan is shown to be one of Eminem’s biggest fans. He has all his posters, he tries to dress like the rapper, he writes letters to him and basically bases his entire current existence around Eminem. You see very similar types of people on Twitter and just social media in general, most especially on the Democratic side of politics.
The Bernie Bros
The most well-known block of political “Stans” comes in the group of people know as the “Bernie Bros”. The term first gained popularity in 2016 to highlight the strong base that Bernie Sanders had gained within his primary contest against Hillary Clinton. There are always the diehards with any base of support, but with Bernie Bros their issue is that they all are diehards. These are the people behind #NeverHillary, Jill Stein voters of 2016, and more recently #PrimaryWarren, #DropoutAmy and #DropoutWarren. This block of support for Sanders has become infamous for their generally poor political analysis, a hatred of any candidate other than Bernie Sanders, and even a certain sect of them who might have more conspiracy theories even than the crazy Qanon folks that have also infected Twitter.
With all these issues, Bernie Bros have actually become an issue in the 2020 primary. Most if not all of the remaining frontrunners have at least commented on the growing number of issues that have stemmed from this group of people. Pete Buttigieg, who dropped out of the race yesterday, called the bros “one extreme faction” in a speech after the Nevada caucuses, Elizabeth Warren called out Sanders and his need tone accountable for the actions of his supporters in the Nevada debates, And Joe Biden did something similar as well. This would truly become non-issue if the Senator from Vermont were to come out against this bloc of his supporters, but he continues to refuse. He did call out those who sent threatening email to the leaders of the Culinary Union in Nevada, but he has not in any way commented on the larger swath of supporters in this branch.
It isn’t just a Bernie issue
What Bernie Bros bring to the table and what they are does not just stop at them. While they are the most extreme as they are the loyal followers of the most extreme candidate in the primary, there are certainly other very ardent supporters of the other candidates, with Pete Buttigieg and Elizabeth Warren both coming to mind. Liz and Pete’s “Stans” are not nearly as controversial or as loud as the Bernie bros, but they are certainly as loyal and have a creepily large amount of knowledge about the candidates‘ personal lives. This to me is where an issue comes in for Democrats. Especially with young people, Democrats have an issue with focusing hard on a candidate‘s personality and becoming attached to that rather than focusing on political issues that the candidate has.
This “candidate worship” has started to become an issue as less people are willing to find a compromise candidate within the Democratic Party. This is actually one of the few issues me and my mother agree on (yes, it is possible to keep relations with family members that aren’t of the same political beliefs folks, it’s not that hard), in that Democrats especially have a hard time accepting the defeat of their favorite candidate. This has led to infighting within the progressive and moderate wing of the party, with people believing that their candidate is the best one available and refusing to agree that anyone else could be better for the party. I will not deny that the GOP is beginning to have this issue either, but in 2016 enough supporters of Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio put their heads down and voted for the nominee. Not enough Bernie supporters did the same thing. While unity will come along for whoever the Democrats nominee is, it will be harder to unite with the building issue of diehards in the party. Whether or not they can fix this issue in time to beat Donald Trump will be a deciding factor in the outcome of 2020.