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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez endorsement chips away at ‘Bernie bros’ label

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  • Critics of Sen. Bernie Sanders have long argued that the 78-year-old Vermont lawmaker’s mass of supporters is characterized by sexist white men — so-called “Bernie bros.”
  • Recent endorsements from two of the most outspoken women of color in Congress — Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar — could help to change that narrative.
  • The endorsements might also help sway Democrats who want the next president to be a woman and are torn between Sanders and his progressive ally and 2020 competitor Sen. Elizabeth Warren
  • Ocasio-Cortez called for a “mass mobilization” that is “multi-racial, multi-gendered, multi-generational, and multi-geographic” during her speech at a Saturday rally in Queens. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Critics of Sen. Bernie Sanders have long argued that the 78-year-old Vermont lawmaker’s mass of supporters is characterized by sexist white men — so-called “Bernie bros.”

Recent endorsements from two of the most outspoken women of color in Congress — Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar — could help to change that narrative.

On Saturday, Sanders was joined by Ocasio-Cortez at a campaign rally in Queens, New York that attracted massive, diverse crowd of nearly 26,000 people.

While Sanders focused his speech heavily on his plans to improve the lives of the country’s working class, the freshman congresswoman made an explicit argument for the movement to be “centered” on fighting bigotry and promoting social equality. 

“We need a United States that really, truly, and authentically is operated, owned and decided by working and all people,” Ocasi-Cortez said during her speech. “It is multi-racial, multi-gendered, multi-generational, and multi-geographic. We have to come together, not ignoring our differences, but listening to them, prioritizing them, understanding injustice, understanding that we operate in a context where slavery evolved into Jim Crow, evolved into mass incarceration, evolved into the realities we have today.” 

Read more: How Bernie Sanders’ heart attack helped convince Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to publicly endorse him, after months of indecision

Polling has long undermined the idea that Sanders’ supporters are largely white men. 

About 32% of male and 31% of female Democratic primary voters said they would “definitely” vote for Sanders in a Morning Consult/Politico poll last February.

And about 31% of white respondents said they’d vote for Sanders if the Democratic presidential primary or caucus was held that day. Meanwhile, a larger portion of those who identified as Hispanic (37%), African-American (32%), and “other” (33%) who said the same.

The “Squad” members’ endorsements might also help sway Democratic primary voters who want the next president to be a woman and are torn between Sanders and his progressive ally and 2020 competitor Sen. Elizabeth Warren

Read more: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez joins Bernie Sanders for the 1st time on the 2020 campaign trail, drawing 25,000 supporters to a Queens rally

Sanders has publicly said that his gender and age pose “problems” for him, at least in comparison to Warren, in the Democratic primary.

“I think that there are a certain number of people who would like to see a woman elected, and I understand that,” he told CNN in June. “There are people who would like to see somebody who was younger, and I understand that also. There are a lot of factors out there.”

One attendee who spoke with Insider at the Queens rally said Ocasio-Cortez’s endorsement and Sanders’ energetic return from leave after a recent heart attack were influential in her decision-making process. 

“I’m actually for Warren but after hearing Bernie speak I have a lot of soul-searching and thinking to do,” Alethea Shapiro, a 40-year-old mom of four from Long Island, told Insider on Saturday.  

Shapiro said she also attended Warren’s massive rally in Washington Square Park last month. 

Ocasio-Cortez, a 30-year-old Bronx native of Puerto Rican descent, argued that the country needs a movement that takes American history into account in its policy-making process. She said that Sanders’ advocacy for working-class people has long benefited marginalized communities of color like the one she grew up in. 

Bernie Sanders Rally

Progressive local New York lawmakers on stage at Saturday’s rally.
Hollis Johnson/Insider


“What we need to do in this country is organize a fundamentally positive and welcoming movement, one that is not only mindful of the ugly history that created our ugly inequalities,” she said. “We also recognize the imperialist the imperialist and colonialist history that contribute to our endless wars and immigration crisis.”

Murray Elias, a 66-year-old white man who lives in Manhattan and works in the music industry, said Ocasio-Cortez’s endorsement is strong proof that Sanders’ coalition is increasingly diverse — and much more so than his critics give him credit for. 

“I think it shows that this is not just a movement of what the media or the establishment wants to just label as Bernie bros,” Elias, who attended Saturday’s rally, told Insider of the endorsement. “It’s a lot more diverse than Hillary Clinton liked to paint it in 2016 and it’s even more diverse now.”

Cori Bush, a progress candidate for Congress in Missouri, told The New York Times that the endorsements from Ocasio-Cortez and Omar “knocks away that whole Bernie Bro idea.”

Ocasio-Cortez told the enthusiastic crowd that it was Sanders’ 2016 primary bid that inspired her “to question, and assert, and recognize my inherent value as a human being that deserves healthcare, housing, education, and a living wage.”

She introduced her fellow democratic socialist as “the man, the ally” and described him in familial terms. 

“I call him tío Bernie — maybe to my goddaughter he’s abuelo, maybe to others he’s brother,” she said. “But he’s my tío, Bernie Sanders.” 

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