A Confused Democrats Guide to the Bern: Bro-ing for the Common Good

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I was a delegate to the 2004 convention, where I first learned that establishment Democrats were not my bros.

The number one definition for “bro” in the Urban Dictionary is “ Friend; commonly used in greetings.” Let’s stick with that one.

What Bro-ing is and What Bro-ing is not — Taking Back the Bro

Bro-ing is not threatening people. It’s not the Nazi flag unfurled at a Bernie Sanders event or the Charlottesville tiki-torch men shouting “Jews will not replace us!” It’s not Chris Matthews and Chuck Todd comparing Bernie supporters to the Nazi invasion of France. It’s not anything Liz Warren has complained about.

Bro-ing is being a friend. Bros are the people fighting hard against a rich, powerful and ruthless oligarchy that’s done nothing but start wars, cut programs for people who need help, and throw money at the already wealthy. Bros are the friends of people who need friends the most, the poor, the sick, the discriminated against.

A bro wouldn’t lie to you or spread party talking points, but a bro might call you a useful idiot or tool for people who don’t care about you. A bro will tell you when you’re wrong or maybe even make fun of you when you’re wrong. Sometimes you need a bro to tell you the truth, even when it hurts.

Bro-ing Through History

The United States has a long, proud history of bro-ing. The founding fathers…. bros. They stood up to England, the most powerful monarchy at the time where one man’s whims, one physically and mentally ill man’s whims counted more than the millions he ruled. John Oliver recently mocked the Bill of Rights for adding a right against quartering. Quartering was the old practice of housing the military in your home. Not so funny when it happens to you, they trash your stuff and eat you out of house and home. The British really did that to colonists. The founding father bros, considered criminals, miscreants and traitors by the British, stopped it once and for all.

The next group of American bros were the abolitionists and engineers of the underground railroad. Harriet Tubman… a bro. She helped free around 300 people from slavery and it wasn’t popular and was completely illegal when she did that. The establishment wanted her imprisoned or dead convincing people she was a thug. To this day, many Americans say terrible things about Tubman as she was supposed to become the new face of the twenty dollar bill replacing slave owner Andrew Jackson. The Trump administration refuses to manufacture the bills even thought they’re printing money right and left to cover over a bad economy.

The suffragettes were the ultimate female bros. Alice Paul was baddass to say the least enduring prison and forced feedings when she began a hunger strike to protest prison conditions. The establishment called her every name in the book too, they claimed Paul and the other women protesters were engaging in prostitution when they were in the streets fighting for women’s rights. The establishment also used WWI sedition laws to stop the women’s movement which is why it took until 1920 to ratify the 19th Amendments.

Another deserving person refused the bro title until now, Upton Sinclair. Sinclair challenged the powerful meat packing industry and uncovered bad working and eating conditions. He was called a “muckraker” by the establishment but they were the ones who created the muck.

The bros of the late 19th and early 20th centuries ended slavery, bondage of women, child labor, dangerous work conditions, starvation wages and a lot of other ills of the monarchy and oligarchy eras. The establishment berated them and got the populous to hate them until people woke up and realized the bros were right.

Bro-ness waned in the 1920 when WWI made everyone cynical and tied to get rich buying stock on margin, on a completely unregulated stock market where, like gambling, the house always won. FDR bro-ed the 1930s with his New Deal, programs to create jobs, feed the starving and modernize the nation’s infrastructure along the way. A mere 20 years later, the followers of FDR were called communists and a congressional committee ruined their lives.

Bros of the modern era include the civil rights workers and the young people who protested the Vietnam War. They were also referred to badly by those who owned the ills to keep power or make money. They were also spied on by the federal government, and some were murdered, Medgar Evers, MLK, Fred Hampton among the dead.

LBJ made huge mistakes regarding Vietnam, but he was a partial bro when he signed the Civil Rights Act and started the Great Society. Before we counted food items we’d spare for the poor, LBJ wanted to eliminate hunger and poverty. The Great Society included Medicare, Medicaid, Welfare, jobs programs, education programs, national endowment for the arts, PBS, mass transit, housing, consumer and environmental protectionss. Only some of it got done because of attacks on the bro-side of LBJ by the right. They used a law and order argument pointing to urban unrest when MLK was murdered. Advocates of the Great Society were berated as overspenders and other names I won’t use but berated people for being black or caring about black people.

Then, bro-ness went out of style. For some unknown reason, a lot of people believed Reagan who lied about crime, lied about the use of welfare programs, lied about Iran, lied about Nicaragua. The Clintons outdid Reagan in his attacks on people trying to do the right thing and turned the Democratic Party into the Republican party, pushing the Republicans so far to the right that they’re outright fascists and tend to unfurl Confederate and Nazi flags at events for Black and Jewish people.

Why the Bros Fight Now

Fighting the establishment is not fun and never easy. I worked for single payer health care reform in the Obama era and was berated for it over and over by people lying about the effectiveness of ACA (Obamacare), the public option, death panels and mostly attacked by those claiming to be friends of health care reform, HCAN, MoveOn, OFA.

Medicare for All isn’t new. It was the promise. When Medicare was first created in 1965 as part of the Great Society, the idea was to start with senior citizens and then go down in age until everyone was covered.

Other bro issues are the issues that Democrats claim as their own but rarely do anything about, or just nip at the heels. These include climate change and the environment, racial and gender equality, poverty, housing, financial reform (hints: Obama care barely helped, it insured a minority of people and subsidized insurance for a minority of people and and in many cases just increased premiums, deductibles and copays. The CFPB was a nip at the heels agency).

The point is that the Bros want to get it done like the Founding Fathers got it done. Like Harriet Tubman got it done. Like Upton Sinclair got it done. Like FDR got it done. We don't’ want to ineffectively nip at the heels of serious problems leaving the majority of all that’s good in the world to a very small number of rich people. We’re sick of paying lip service to an entrenched ruling class to get the bare minimum of reform and then having it rolled back again.

Joe Biden isn’t a bro. He isn’t even a true Democrat in his heart because he, like the Clintons, abandoned the dreams of the New Deal and Great Society. Biden wants, not to expand Medicare, but cut it and cut Social Security. His major claim to greatness is that he’s worked with all the people who have worked against the bros for decades. He supported segregationists. See here too. He helped credit card companies gouge people and refused bankruptcy protection from the victims of credit cards and gouging student loans. And climate change, not exactly Joe Biden’s thing. Bernie Sanders went to Standing Rock. Joe Biden did not. And, Joe Biden doesn’t think a women really has a right to control her own body and doesn’t think people of color deserve their bodies at all. Democrats for Joe Biden might not fully understand that they’re working against the Democratic agenda. Maybe they need some light bro-ing in the form of correcting, cajoling and light teasing to get them to snap out of it.

Now that we’re getting serious about what is and is not Bernie Bro-ing, let’s talk about this long history of berating the friends who worked and fought for rights and justice. The establishment always calls them names and tries to get the majority of people to hate them. That’s the whole idea of the “Bernie bro” to the Republican and Democratic establishments. Tear down and eliminate our ability to be bro’s, friends to each other, so they can keep their power and money. But, if you’re on the side of the bros, you’re on the side of a long history of fighting for people. Take back the bro. Be the bro.

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