Progressive Bernie Sanders is in a tough battle with elitist Joe Biden to be the Democratic Party’s nominee to take on Donald Trump in November’s presidential election. And one tactic Sanders’ opponents have used to try and undermine his campaign is to paint his supporters as bullies. But a data scientist has now shared analysis which exposes these attacks as just another smear.
Elizabeth Warren was one of the main Democratic candidates who many expected to endorse Sanders after dropping out of the race. But she has controversially failed to do so, and her accusations of “online nastiness” from some alleged Sanders supporters may be part of the reason for her conspicuous fence-sitting.
As Salon editor Keith A Spencer has explained, many pro-establishment figures have long sought to spread “the idea that Sanders’ supporters are somehow uniquely cruel, despite Sanders’ platform and policy proposal being the most humane of all the candidates” (and despite popular perceptions that they’re not especially aggressive). For him, this ignores the fact that:
- People’s online behaviour is often more negative, but this is across the board.
- “Pundits systematically ignore when other candidates’ supporters are mean online”.
- Because of Twitter being prone to propaganda and bots, looking at tweets is “not a reliable way of gauging public opinion”.
With this in mind, he says, many progressives think Sanders’ opponents have been perpetuating the myth of aggressive ‘Bernie Bros’ “in bad faith”. And now, “a computational social scientist and graduate student at Harvard University” has produced some data which suggests they may be right.
Jeff Winchell has undertaken an analysis of candidates’ Twitter followers; and he concluded in an interview with Spencer that:
Bernie followers act pretty much the same on Twitter as any other follower.
Candidate's Twitter followers don't differ much in the chance someone's tweets are negative.
New Update: Adds Microsoft's Deep Learning-based sentiment analysis algorithm. It predicts the chance of positive text. Textblob's algorithm rates tweets from -1 (neg) to 1 (pos). pic.twitter.com/1tIyoRI5g2
— Jeff Winchell (@CompSocialSci) March 7, 2020
Meanwhile, the establishment marches forward…
The Democratic Party establishment is clearly favouring Joe Biden, and many progressives think 2020 could be a repeat of Hillary Clinton’s disastrous campaign in 2016, if not worse. Party elites have apparently weakened debate rules so Biden and Sanders will be sitting (rather than standing) in their next clash. The debate will also allow for less ‘back and forth’ between the two candidates. The party also changed its rules to stop progressive candidate Tulsi Gabbard from entering the debate. Gabbard’s presence may have provided an extra challenge for Biden, who has performed very weakly in debates so far. There are serious concerns that Biden’s apparent cognitive decline may be one of the reasons the party establishment is trying to protect him.
With the Democratic establishment firmly behind Biden, he’s continuing to pull off more primary victories. And with the progressive Sanders campaign now on the back foot, it looks like Biden is already planning a potential corporate takeover if he manages to get the nomination and beat Trump:
Possible Biden picks:
Jamie Dimon (JPMorgan): Treasury
Anna Finucane (BofA): Treasury
Mike Bloomberg: World Bank
Deval Patrick (Bain Capital): VP
Tom Nides (Morgan Stanley): Commerce
Warren is still figuring out who or whether to endorse a candidate. https://t.co/dHXMH8RIf4
— Alex Kotch (@alexkotch) March 9, 2020
With this in mind, now is not the time for Sanders to be nice and call Biden “a very decent human being”. It’s time to take the gloves off. Sanders needs to shut down the vile smears against his supporters. And he needs to shout from the rooftops about Biden’s dangerous elitism. Nothing less will do.
Featured image via Flickr – Gage Skidmore
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