On Monday, February 24, a story was published showing that a staffer for the Bernie Sanders’ campaign has been reportedly tweeting inappropriate and insensitive tweets about Sanders’ rivals on Twitter.
After the story came out, the staffer was fired. The ordeal, however, has led to renewed concern that a number of Sanders supporters are engaging in campaign tactics, especially online, that have instead, served to discredit and undermine his campaign.
Some analysts call Sanders’ most loyal online supporters “the swarm” in reference to the way they mercilessly attack any perceived slight against their favorite candidate. Others say that the passion in his grassroots army is what has propelled his campaign to the front of the pack.
“Disgusting behavior” will not be tolerated
Before he was removed, the staffer had worked as the Michigan Field Director. Many of the tweets had been sent out over the last year.
Most of the tweets in question are said to mock or degrade Sanders’ rivals on personal terms, some of them with sexual overtones. In response, Mike Casca, the Communications Director for the Sanders campaign said, “we are running a multiracial, multigenerational campaign for justice where disgusting behavior and ugly personal attacks by our staff will not be tolerated.”
The problem with certain supporters behavior is not a new issue for Sanders. For years, the campaign has been dogged by accusations that Sanders has allowed, willingly or not, a toxic subculture to manifest itself among his supporters.
Just last week, Sanders had to again publicly condemn a segment of his supporters who had made “vicious attacks” on members of Nevada’s Culinary Union after the organization criticized Sanders’ universal healthcare proposal.
Sanders and rivals respond
According to Sanders, the behavior of a few disingenuous supporters doesn’t reflect the overall character of his campaign.
“We have over 10.6 million people on Twitter, and 99.9 percent of them are decent human beings, are working people, are people who believe in justice, compassion and love. And if there are a few people who make ugly remarks […] they are not part of our movement,” Sanders said earlier this week.
Others are more wary. Speaking at the Democratic debate in Las Vegas earlier this month, Sanders’ rival Pete Buttigieg made it clear that he feels Sanders is partly to blame for his supporters’ behavior.
“I think you have to accept some responsibility and ask yourself what it is about your campaign in particular that seems to be motivating this behavior more than others,” he said.