I first met the young woman who honored my with her story when she was a campaign organizer for Hillary Clinton in the summer of 2016. From the outside, she was powerful, self-assured, and hopeful in ways that put my Gen X when-I-was-her-age self to shame. I wouldn't have guessed, even with my election year + anxiety mind, how much she was going through for us. I'm really grateful to her and so angry that all of this happened to her--it's my hope that this story will spread far and wide, and that it will help folks understand why it's still and always important to speak out against the misogyny of our own side, no matter what threats we face from the right.
Written by an Anonymous Hillary Campaign Organizer
TW: Doxxing, Racism, Threats of Violence and Rape, Gaslighting
It’s no secret among people that know me that I worked for Clinton in 2016. My wall is still decorated in posters, my car is covered in bumper stickers, I even have a tattoo that reminds me of the good times on that campaign. However, the worst parts of the 2016 campaign still haunt me wherever and whenever I meet new people working in politics. It’s no secret among people I’m friends with that I was doxxed by Sanders supporters in 2016, but it’s something I’m not “supposed” to talk about.
I joined the Clinton campaign while I was still a student. Originally it wasn’t because I liked Hillary any more than Bernie, as a woman I just wanted to know more about women running for higher office. My facebook was full of friends that supported Bernie, but were happy for me on the campaign. Until Caucus night in Iowa.
The lucky part for Iowa was the Caucuses were so close and went so long that most people were asleep by the time the results came out and most people had to work the next morning, so I was left alone. By the time Super Tuesday rolled around, I had already been doxxed for the first time.
I had gone to bed around midnight Central Time, but a few people I knew on the West Coast were still awake. I woke up to dozens of notifications on my Facebook. A friend-of-a-friend had made a post asking for people to tag the people they knew who were “sHillary sellouts” in the comments. I got tagged by someone I had worked on a class project with right before I left for the campaign. People started by replying with the generic “corporate cunt” or accused me of “voting with my vagina” until one of them decided to click onto my profile and things got a lot more personal. Whatever public info on me they could find, they commented about. In my messenger were people who screenshotted my parents and siblings profiles. They called my dad a “banana” or “coconut” and called him uneducated. I got messages that said my mom, my sisters and I deserved to be beaten and raped.
I’m not sure if they actually sent anything to my family. If so, I never heard about it. But I spent the whole day with my supervisor reporting accounts and trying to lock my Facebook. Some of the threads I couldn’t mute or take down because the doxxers knew that Facebook hadn’t yet figured out a way to let people report comments and my name wasn’t in the original post.
The most common comments and messages in between the threats and slurs were “you’re just too stupid to know Bernie is who is best for you.”
We searched my name on Reddit and tried to get a few posts taken down. I didn’t have a Reddit so it wasn’t worth taking down more than the posts of my personal phone number, email, and address. Taking a look at the account, it appeared to be the same “friend” who tagged me in the first place. Luckily, it didn’t seem to have spread beyond Facebook and Reddit.
After locking down my account, I made a post about my experience. It was a little vague since I wasn’t ready to talk about the specifics, but mentioning “Bernie Bros” rained even more hell I wasn’t ready for. This time from actual friends. Comments talked about how the “Bernie Bros” didn’t exist, how I must be overreacting, how both sides had violent supporters and I was contributing to the violence by mentioning it when I couldn’t provide proof.
The thing is, I was young and dumb. So was my manager. We didn’t know to screenshot the hate and report it up the chain, nobody told us that’s what we were supposed to do until we were trained again a week later. I couldn’t access the hate anymore, I’d already blocked the accounts. People were riled up in support of their candidates so the hate shifted from an anonymous barrage of insults to comments from friends denying my experience. I blocked more people.
As I shifted around in the campaign and my role shifted, so did the hate. Since I was making calls from my personal phone, obviously my personal number got out. Prank calls, hate texts, my number was even scrawled in a men’s bathroom somewhere in Colorado. “A Monica Lewinsky hoe- one of Clinton’s bitches. Call for a good time.” Someone texted it, curious why my non-Colorado area code was in a Colorado bathroom. He was nice enough to scratch my number out, but not without a dick pic first.
From there the barrage of messages decreased significantly. Hate sent to my work email had to be saved in a folder, no deleting anything on the Clinton campaign, and flagged up the chain. I didn’t hear much back, there wasn’t much they could do. After the primaries were over, I did digital organizing for a state’s Democratic Party. Those messages weren’t nearly as personal, they didn’t know who I was, but my work email had 2 folders for the 2 different kinds of hate I was receiving- death threats, mostly directed towards the candidates and superdelegates from that state, and dick pics.
I felt fairly safe and rather confident again, except my new state party was all former Bernie staffers. The email about Hillary “riding a rocket-sized dildo of corporate cash” that made me feel uncomfortable was laughed off by my coworkers and called well deserved. Cheap shots were made at the Clinton campaign’s expense on the Slack channel. The candidates and party chair had all supported Hillary, but the rest of the staff took shots at them too. As a “worker” people didn’t insult me personally or directly, but they insulted where I’d come from to get there.
I sobbed on election night. My coworkers told me to suck it up. It was my fault for supporting the wrong candidate in the primaries. There were a lot of “I told you so’s” as I cried.
The “I told you so’s” and “you just didn’t get that Bernie was what was best for you’s” followed me into a campaign in 2017. My full year of experience with Clinton wasn’t as good as the experience from the guy who volunteered on the weekends for Bernie during the primary. The insults followed me to a campaign in 2018 when one of my coworkers called me a “centrist pussy,” called me an “elitist rich bitch” on my birthday, and laughed in my face about how she drove across 3 states to Michigan just to vote for Jill Stein so the Hillary shills could “get what they deserved.” The gaslighting followed me into 2019 as the same thing started happening again to Warren staffers. I tried to come forward again with my new friends and instead was told “well we hear all these things about ‘Bernie Bros’ harassing people but I’ve never seen it. Hillary staffers don’t share screenshots because it was all made up.”
The thing is, it’s been years at this point. The email accounts I had for work are long gone. The phone that had all the screenshots broke after the primaries in 2016. The Facebook messages and tagged posts are long lost, and the list of blocked names on my Facebook has dwindled as people have deleted their accounts amidst Facebook’s many scandals. The internet has not lasted as long as my memories, especially as I’m continually reminded.
“You just don’t understand that Bernie is who is best for you” has followed me into 2020 as I’ve watched Warren’s staff get caught in the same kinds of hate.
It’s no secret that I experienced hell from Sanders supporters in 2016, but I’m not sure people knew to what extent. I’m watching the same things happen to the Warren campaign, often fueled by the same people as last time. I’ve been told that years have passed and my experiences don’t matter anymore and I should take down the posters and stickers that reminded me of the best year of my life. I’ve tried to move on and respect the best parts, but the worst parts of 2016 still haunt me as I look at the snakes spammed at Warren staffers on Twitter. It’s no secret that Bernie Bros harass people online, right?