The straight line from 'Feel the Bern' to QAnon: Bernie Sanders superfan describes falling down the conspiracy theory rabbit hole

Some of us have argued that devoted Bernie Sanders fanatics can be just as radicalized and fall down as deep a rabbit hole as Trump's True Believers since before Democratic primaries in 2016. But that take has always been dismissed as being a bit out there.

And yet, there she was, a former Bernie Sanders supporter, on CNN Tonight with Don Lemon on Monday, describing how she fell into QAnon after believing that the 2016 Democratic primary had been "rigged" against her candidate.

Identified only as Lenka, she described being part of a group of people disillusioned and feeling cheated Democratic Party who were "doing their own research" on social media about what else this evil, monstrous party was capable of when various conspiracy theories started being dropped in their timelines and newsfeeds.  Those conspiracy theories, which eventually led to QAnon, appeared "believable," Lenka said. "It wasn't that substantial of a jump" from the picture they had already accepted as truth about the Democratic Party, she said.

Lenka and her friends online had already believed the worst about the Democratic Party - that they rigged an election against their preferred candidate - and when someone told them Democratic politicians were also involved in child sex trafficking, it did not seem like a stretch. They fell for it.

Just like Trump hardliners did not come up with the idea of election fraud on their own, neither did Sanders diehards create the equally preposterous idea of a rigged primary spontaneously. Bernie Sanders's rhetoric was directly responsible for his supporters believing in the 2016 Democratic primary version of the big lie.

Sanders's campaign against Hillary Clinton was relentless, brutal, and radicalizing. He demonized the party apparatus from the start, running a scorched earth campaign against the "establishment." Sanders framed his opposition as the enemy. He repeatedly framed Hillary Clinton as a corrupt politician for having given speeches and made some money as corruption as a private citizen. Clinton's widespread support among Democratic elected officials - whose support Clinton had worked for decades to earn - was framed as elites conspiring to keep out an insurgent, akin to Trump's perceived enemies at the 'deep state.' Bernie Sanders told his supporters that 'collusion' among elites and not Hillary Clinton's 4-million vote margin over him, was the reason the primary was 'taken away' from them.

Just as Trump denigrated blue states, Bernie Sanders had dismissed Hillary Clinton's outsized primary victories in states with large Black populations as irrelevant for being located in the "deep South."

If that isn't frighteningly similar to Trump's rhetoric before and after his election, consider this: Bernie Sanders not only dragged out the primary in 2016 long after any realistic chance he had at the nomination had vanished, his campaign appealed to superdelegates - Democrats who were delegates by the virtues of public offices they held rather than directly chosen by voters during the primary process (pledged delegates) - to overturn the will of the primary voters - who had given Hillary Clinton more votes and more pledged delegates, after deriding those very superdelegates as swamp creatures.

And after relentlessly smearing the Democratic Party and its nominee for the better part of two years, the people Bernie Sanders did see fit to stand up for in the 2016 cycle were Trump supporters. Racism and sexism wasn't a problem among Trump's base, Sanders said before that election, and after, he faulted the Democratic Party for losing the white working class.

When you have told your supporters over and over again that the party whose nomination you ran for is corrupt and conspired against you - and them - you cannot feign surprise that some of your most ardent supporters fall into other conspiracy theories that also target the same party and the same people.

Lest you believe Lenka's is the only story of its kind, it is not. Lenka herself admits that a whole bunch of the angry Bernie supporters who'd connected over social media fell into the QAnon trap. And when I posted about the exchange between Lenka and Don Lemon on Twitter, some shared their own run-ins with similar stories.

And more.

The radicalization of diehard Berniebros (I use it as a gender-neutral term) and loyal Trumpophiles are different only in quantity - as it appears a far greater number of Trump supporters have bought into QAnon and election fraud conspiracy theories - but not, unfortunately, in quality.

The thing that may have saved the left from its own version of mass collective hysteria generated by conspiracy theories may well be the fact that at the end of the day, in our party, the adults prevailed.

Like what you read? Leave a Tip. 

💰 Fund the Fight