Bernie Sanders supporters are bombarding Elizabeth Warren’s social media accounts with snakes emojis, memes, and GIFs in a ramp-up of the tension that’s been brewing between the two campaigns over the past week.
The barrage of emojis, which are often used by stans of pop stars in the comment sections of someone they’re feuding with (Taylor Swift vs. Calvin Harris or Taylor Swift vs. Kim Kardashian and Kanye West), has boiled over as supporters of both Warren and Sanders have escalated a proxy battle online as the candidates have disagreed over the characterization of a private 2018 meeting where Warren claims Sanders told her a woman couldn’t win the 2020 election, which Sanders vehemently denies. Sanders supporters have called Warren a “backstabber” and a “snake” for reiterating the claim during the debate Tuesday night.
Even as the Warren and Sanders campaigns attempted to move on from the story that caused a rift between their campaigns by easing tensions in group direct messages with prominent followers and again on the debate stage, supporters of the candidates have been warring over their relationship.
The fight between Warren and Sanders supporters has always seemed inevitable. On various platforms, leftists and Sanders supporters have criticized Warren for being a capitalist and for her health care plan, which they see as her campaign backing away from a commitment to Medicare for All. Democratic Socialists of America, which launched its own independent campaign for Sanders, told BuzzFeed News in September that it wasn’t ruling out the idea of distributing materials to canvassers pointing out the differences between the two candidates.
In the lead-up to the debate, Sanders supporters trended a #RefundWarren hashtag demanding refunds from the candidate through ActBlue, the Democratic-aligned fundraising platform, and posted screenshots of emails claiming ActBlue was “experiencing high volumes” of refund requests from Sanders supporters who’d donated to Warren.
A spokesperson for ActBlue told BuzzFeed News that the email auto-replies to refund requests are normal and had already been turned on prior to the #RefundWarren campaign.
In the hours after the Tuesday debate, Warren’s mentions on Twitter have been filled with snake emojis from Sanders supporters who also got the hashtags #WarrenIsASnake and #NeverWarren to trend on Twitter on Wednesday morning. Those moves came as a video of Warren not shaking Sanders' extended hand after the debate went viral.
“Warren lied to Bernie’s face on live TV and the man still offered a handshake which she was petty enough to refuse!” one Sanders supporter tweeted with a slow-motion clip of the moment set to Timbaland and OneRepublic’s “Apologize” that fades to black and white as Sanders walks away, along with several of the hashtags that had been used to criticize Warren.
Some Sanders supporters who’ve been engaged in the Twitter war in the last several days acknowledge that this has been brewing for months.
“The first moment was when she wavered on Medicare for All,” Jeffrey Dudley, a 20-year-old Sanders supporter who requested a refund from the Warren campaign. “That’s when I first thought she was being iffy, but I still left my donations with her because I wanted to support progressive candidates.”
Dudley said the final straw happened over the past week as tension between the Warren and Sanders campaigns reached a crescendo after Warren confirmed what Sanders had said during their private meeting.
“I think she’s actively hurting the progressive movement by causing a stir between two of the biggest progressives,” Dudley told BuzzFeed News.
Jeffrey Dudley's name was misspelled in a previous version of this post.