[ this post has updates where noted, including an important citation for the creator of the banner graphic and new developments ]

Kumbaya around a campfire? Ha! I’d settle for an occasional long-distance phone call.

Donald Trump has been called a “cancer on Democracy“—but there’s another strain of cancer infecting the bloodstream of very different patient: progressive Democrats. The bullying and “othering” going on between progressives is astonishing, and it’s making a chasm from Election 2016 grow wider.

Or perhaps that’s exactly the point: Anarchy for the sake of purity.

This post has been rattling around my brain for months; after picking up Melissa McEwan’s article “Sanders Democrats Don’t Own the Left” I knew I had to set it free.

You can antagonize people with whom you agree only so much before we stand up and fight back.

Kamala Harris has been attacked with a “corncob” slur, even though hers was among the most ferocious questioning of Keebler Klansman Sessions during his testimony. Also, #ClintonMafia started as a right-wing slur but spread like wildfire among Sanders’ followers to describe anyone who dare associate with Hillary. Just two examples of many.

I was bullied as a kid in school. For looks. For behavior. For the friends I had. I know *exactly what it feels like to be bulling’s recipient, and I sure as shit can recognize when someone is doing it to others. And I will not stand for it, by anyone, for any reason. In any instance and no matter to whom it’s directed: bullying is the exact-wrong way to influence others and gain respect.

Bernie Sanders—ever since he tweetedYou can be moderate. You can be progressive. But you cannot be a moderate and a progressive” in Feb. 2016—has sort of devolved into Bullying’s Pied Piper. Followers of Bernie have used Trump-esque attacks (some of them violent, misogynistic, homophobic, racist, etc.) to banish people to exile who don’t agree with him, or don’t meet his stringent criteria.

Turns out you can antagonize people who 98% agree with you only so much before we start to speak up and fight back. Today, after Bernie ran as a Dem and enjoyed the resources of the party’s network, he is back as an independent and railing against the Dem party establishment. And his followers are more than happy to oblige.

It’s the 2017 version of “go sit in the back of the bus and be quiet.” Or, Just get off the bus entirely and find your own mode transportation, asshole.

And now we’ve arrived at the crux of Shakesville‘s post. Ryan Cooper wrote a not-very-thoughtful “think piece” about why “leftists don’t trust Kamala Harris, Cory Booker & Deval Patrick.” He posits that “no, no—our objections to these people have nothing to do with race or gender and only about their records.” Which is of course horseshit.

Picking up Melissa’s post already in progress (emphasis mine):

That’s one problem with this piece of apologia. The other is this: ‘Leftists’ is defined to exclude anyone who doesn’t support Bernie Sanders.

Writes Cooper: ‘we’re in for a rather bitter fight for supremacy over the Democratic Party between big money elites and Sanders Democrats.’


So, you’re either a supporter of ‘big money elites,’ or you’re a ‘Sanders Democrat’ and thus a leftist.

That is a garbage construction, which elides that many of the disagreements between ‘Sanders Democrats’ and Democrats are really about process, not policy. 


It further elides how important the Democratic Party is, even when it’s more conservative than ‘Sanders Democrats’ would like, to lots of marginalized people in places across the country where Democrats are often the only ones standing between Republican state majorities and the complete annihilation of marginalized people’s basic rights.

The word “supremacy” is a tell in that sentence. In other words, progressive folk in red states like Jon Ossoff must not run a campaign that appeals to the people he’s representing—he must cow-tow to red-hots who won’t let you into Bernie’s Cool Club even if you renounce anything Hillary Clinton has ever stood for. You’re tainted and damaged goods because you had the gall to support her at all, at any time, and how fucking dare you because Bernie.


“There are certainly a number of people who voted for Clinton who appreciate and value Sanders’ critiques of corporate corruption, yet bristle at his disdain for establishment politics, because we depend on them,” McEwan writes. “In many red states, the near-total lack of progressive infrastructure means that the Democratic Party — the establishment — is the only well-funded institution prepared to hold the line against conservative oppression.

“And it is a mistake — and an incredible fucking insult — to assert that people who approach politics with calculated caution cannot be ‘leftists,'” she adds. “‘Sanders Democrats’ don’t own the left.”

I don’t blame Trump on Bernie supporters, and I would have proudly voted for Bernie in the general. I would have donated and advocated for him, too, had he been the nominee. But the same can’t be said for Bernie’s people—today, Clinton loathing has turned into its own machine, churning out hatred and unrestrained prejudice on other Dems. Do I think Bernie’s wholly responsible for this? No. But I’d like him to work harder to denounce what his supporters are doing.

I wish I had a prescription for this disease, but I don’t. What I do know is being able to name an illness is equivalent to starting a drug trial on humans. We’ll need to test its efficacy, but in time it should be able to help the patient.

Putting a person to a “purity test” is just modern-day bullying. And it has to stop. 🔵


UPDATE: I was flamed for using this graphic without a shout-out, which is a fair point (even though it’s been widely circulated on Twitter). So, here’s my credit:

This super pretty—but complete buggery, bollocky nonsense; totally racist and super-lame; sign of petty liberal purity run amok—graphic comes to you courtesy of Stirling Art.

Feel free to support him on Patreon if you’re so inclined. Reminder for reasoned people: Sen. Kamala Harris (D.-Ca.) hasn’t even announced she’s officially running for POTUS. So I’d urge everyone to take a chill pill. Oh and maybe stop with all this divisive rhetoric against a new Senator.

UPDATE 2: Nina Turner appeared on CNN’s State of the Union and could’ve put this issue to rest, but instead, she furthered the Sanders talking point that anyone who takes donations from Wall Street cannot be “dressed up” to suit his followers and radical purists. (I cued up the footage to the relevant section.) The reality is this: politicians can accept donations from Wall Street and still be vigorous in their regulations and rhetoric. Former President Obama called them “fat cats,” increased regulations and tried to raise their taxes—but still received funding (WSJ) in both 2008 and 2012. Part of our success as a nation is based on predictability and stability; financial markets and the health-insurance sectors rely on it greatly. So someone who accepts donations from Wall Street firms should never disqualify a candidate. Judge them on policy and advocate for them to adopt your positions. Flaming them before they run just makes you look like an asshole.

UPDATE 3 (28 Feb 2020): According to Associated Press, consultant Tezlyn Figaro entered in a non-disclosure agreement with Bernie Sanders’ “Our Revolution” to stay mum on the settlement reached in a now-settled discrimination lawsuit. From the AP: “Figaro said she was fired from the Sanders-created political group Our Revolution a year earlier due to her race and in ‘retaliation for complaining about the organization’s treatment towards her and African-Americans.’ The lawsuit was settled out of court for an undisclosed amount of money. Though the lawsuit was aimed at Our Revolution, it included broad criticism of Sanders’ campaign, arguing an all-white leadership staff ‘was accused of racism’ by black staffers and failed to engage black voters.” This story is completely in-line with my original post that discussed “othering” and bullying coming from Sanders’ staffers. I thought NDAs were a legal mechanism that only Trump used to silence people; I’ll update if/when we learn more.

UPDATE 4 (20 July 2020): Yvette Nicole Brown—fierce in literally everything including Odd Couple and Whose Line is it Anyway?—posted receipts of former Bernie spokeswoman Briahna Joy Gray who’s made disgusting comments about people-of-color who don’t belong to the Our Revolution cult. Given how John Lewis recently passed away you’d think she’d retract and apologize; you’d be wrong in thinking that, of course. Have a look at Yvette’s timeline cuz it’s a thing of beauty.


Will Pollocksideways is an Atlanta-based freelance multimedia journalist focusing on pop-culture, politics, journalism & media, retail, real estate, travel, politics, and human interest. 

He is the author of two books (award-winning Pizza for Good & Leaving Triscuit), with more on the way. Sign up for the mailing list, follow on TwitterFacebook and Instagram—and check out the book links below.

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