The Media Doesn’t Know How to Process the Fact That Bernie Sanders Is Winning

Corporate media has moved from denial to anger.

Jim Naureckas February 25, 2020

Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) speaks to the crowd during the 2019 South Carolina Democratic Party State Convention on June 22, 2019 in Columbia, South Carolina. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

Remem­ber when the big win­ner of New Hamp­shire was third-place fin­ish­er Amy Klobuchar?

Bernie Sanders may have come first in New Hamp­shire, but Amy Klobuchar won,” Bloomberg declared (the media com­pa­ny, not the bil­lion­aire can­di­date who owns it). I would almost argue that a third-place fin­ish for Amy would be stronger and more impor­tant than a first-place fin­ish for Bernie,” MSNBC com­men­ta­tor Adri­enne Elrod assert­ed.

That’s not how it worked out, of course; since Feb­ru­ary 14, Bernie Sanders has gone from a 4‑point lead to a 12-point lead over his clos­est rival, Joe Biden, in nation­al polling aver­ages, while Klobuchar remains in fifth place. In the Neva­da cau­cus­es held Feb­ru­ary 22, Sanders got twice as many final votes as No. 2 Biden, whom Sanders was trail­ing in the polls as recent­ly as ten days earlier.

Cau­cus entrance polls found the Ver­mont sen­a­tor was the top choice of both men and women, whites and Lati­nos (though not African-Amer­i­cans, where he was sec­ond to Biden), all age groups except those 65 and old­er, Democ­rats and inde­pen­dents, union house­holds and non-union house­holds, and those with and with­out col­lege degrees. He had the most sup­port among those described as very lib­er­al” and some­what lib­er­al,” and tied Biden among those labeled mod­er­ate or conservative.”

Nevada Entrance Polls

Accord­ing to the Neva­da entrance polls, Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden were the only can­di­dates to win any sam­pled group by 6 per­cent­age points or more.

So while there’s still some cov­er­age that might be said to be stuck in the denial stage about Sanders — Neva­da Cau­cus­es Win Would Make Bernie Sanders a Weak Front-Run­ner” was a late entry in that genre — for the most part cor­po­rate media have moved on to the next stage of griev­ing, which is anger.

MSNBC’s Chris Mat­tews noto­ri­ous­ly com­pared Sanders’ vic­to­ry in Neva­da to the Nazi inva­sion of France:

I was read­ing last night about the fall of France in the sum­mer of 1940. And the gen­er­al, Rey­naud, calls up Churchill and says, It’s over.” And Churchill says, How can that be? You’ve got the great­est army in Europe. How can it be over?” He said, It’s over.”

(Sanders com­mu­ni­ca­tion direc­tor Mike Cas­ca respond­ed: Nev­er thought part of my job would be plead­ing with a nation­al news net­work to stop liken­ing the cam­paign of a Jew­ish pres­i­den­tial can­di­date whose fam­i­ly was wiped out by the Nazis to the Third Reich. But here we are.”)

James Carville

James Carville on MSNBC com­pared the idea that you can win elec­tions by increas­ing turnout to cli­mate denial.

For­mer Bill Clin­ton advi­sor James Carville on MSNBC mocked the idea of win­ning elec­tions by increas­ing vot­er turnout:

The entire the­o­ry that by expand­ing the elec­torate, increas­ing turnout, you can win an elec­tion is the equiv­a­lent of cli­mate denier…. Peo­ple say that, they’re as stu­pid to a polit­i­cal sci­en­tist as a cli­mate denier is to an atmos­pher­ic scientist.

An actu­al polit­i­cal sci­en­tist might point out that turnout has var­ied over the last five pres­i­den­tial elec­tions from a low of 50.3% in 2000 to a high of 58.2% in 2008 — a dif­fer­ence of some 25 mil­lion votes, far more than the pop­u­lar vote mar­gin even in a rel­a­tive land­slide like 2008. Still, Dead­line: White House host Nicolle Wal­lace was impressed: You’re describ­ing what sounds a lot like polit­i­cal sui­cide,” she replied. I think we need a psy­chol­o­gist to under­stand that.”

I do find it fas­ci­nat­ing that racist lib­er­al whites seem to love them some Bernie Sanders, con­sis­tent­ly,” MSNBC con­trib­u­tor Jason John­son declared on Sir­ius FM’s Karen Hunter Show.

The man cares noth­ing for inter­sec­tion­al­i­ty. And I don’t care how many peo­ple from the Island of Mis­fit Black Girls that you throw out there to defend you on a reg­u­lar basis.

Fred Hiatt, edi­to­r­i­al page edi­tor of the Wash­ing­ton Post, fol­lowed the tired trope of equat­ing Sanders to Don­ald Trump — in this case, because both reject the real­i­ty of cli­mate change.” Trump does so, of course, by reject­ing the real­i­ty of cli­mate change, while Sanders is his mir­ror image in utter unse­ri­ous­ness” with the fan­ta­sy extrem­ism” of his cli­mate plan — because, for exam­ple, he would ban frack­ing. Hiatt’s sole source for his cri­tique of Sanders’ cli­mate plan, incred­i­bly enough, is an oil com­pa­ny CEO—who offered pearls of wis­dom like: Change will not come from chang­ing the source of sup­ply…. You have to reduce demand.”

WaPo: How Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders both reject the reality of climate change

The Wash­ing­ton Post‘s Fred Hiatt accus­es Bernie Sanders of utter unse­ri­ous­ness” on cli­mate change because an oil CEO doesn’t like his cli­mate plan.

Not to be out­done, the news pages of the Wash­ing­ton Post warned that a Sanders nom­i­na­tion could nar­row the party’s already slim hopes of retak­ing the Sen­ate major­i­ty and fuel GOP dreams of reclaim­ing the House.” The arti­cle offers a vari­ety of lines of attack that might deflect the Sanders threat, includ­ing the asser­tion that Sanders had the worst stand­ing against Trump among col­lege-edu­cat­ed white women,” the (false) claim that he is propos­ing to take away the health­care of 180 mil­lion peo­ple,” and the asser­tion that Bernie Sanders is a social­ist who sup­ports un-Amer­i­can, big gov­ern­ment plans that will spend tril­lions of dol­lars, lead to high­er tax­es, and destroy our way of life.”

To tout the effec­tive­ness of such attacks, Mike DeBo­nis and Michael Scher­er inac­cu­rate­ly report­ed that the sen­a­tor from Ver­mont has not yet been sub­ject­ed to a neg­a­tive paid adver­tis­ing effort.” In fact, in Iowa and Neva­da, the AIPAC-allied super PAC Demo­c­ra­t­ic Major­i­ty for Israel spent a total of $1.4 mil­lion on neg­a­tive ads tar­get­ing Sanders — focus­ing not on his crit­i­cism of Israel, but on his social­ism and health issues. (By com­par­i­son, Klobuchar spent a total of $2.5 mil­lion in adver­tis­ing in these states.)

The New York Times like­wise laid out a litany of attack lines against Sanders:

In the ear­ly years, there was his com­men­tary on gen­der rela­tions fea­tur­ing a rape fan­ta­sy, his sup­port for the San­din­istas and his hon­ey­moon in the Sovi­et Union.

Once he entered Con­gress, there were votes to shield gun man­u­fac­tur­ers, a com­mit­ment to remain­ing uncom­mit­ted to the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty, and secret plans to mount a 2012 pri­ma­ry chal­lenge against Pres­i­dent Obama.

And more recent­ly: the FBI inves­ti­ga­tion into his fam­i­ly, the heart attack, the resis­tance to detail­ing the costs of his sig­na­ture pol­i­cy pro­pos­al, Medicare for All.”

NYT: Bernie Sanders, the Teflon Candidate, Faces Sudden New Tests

The New York Times pub­lished anoth­er in a long line of attacks on Bernie Sanders that insist that he’s nev­er been attacked.

In what has become a trade­mark of arti­cles attack­ing Sanders, the arti­cle assert­ed that there have been no such attacks: He has not faced the same vet­ting and scruti­ny that oth­er front-run­ners have faced,” reporter Lisa Lerer claimed, quot­ing the head of the Big Tent Project, anoth­er dark mon­ey group run­ning ads against Sanders. The real­i­ty is that Sanders has been repeat­ed­ly attacked — by rivals and by cor­po­rate media — going back to the 2016 race and con­tin­u­ing through to the cur­rent race. Remem­ber the Wash­ing­ton Post’s 16 neg­a­tive sto­ries about Sanders in 16 hours?

Accord­ing to Joe Lock­hart, for­mer press sec­re­tary for Pres­i­dent Clin­ton and more recent­ly a cor­po­rate com­mu­ni­ca­tions con­sul­tant whose clients have includ­ed Microsoft, Ver­i­zon, Pfiz­er, the Sau­di gov­ern­ment and the US Tele­com Asso­ci­a­tion, what’s need­ed are more such attacks on Sanders, and pron­to. In an opin­ion piece for CNN, Lock­hart insisted:

Bloomberg needs to use the next $400 mil­lion in ad spend­ing to attack Sanders on his poten­tial weak­ness­es in a gen­er­al elec­tion and high­light how far left his cam­paign is. Hit­ting him on his past record on guns is a must…. Sanders’ praise of Sovi­et-backed regimes is ripe for polit­i­cal attack ads.

CNN: Bloomberg needs to take down Sanders -- immediately

Joe Lock­hart urges Bloomberg to real­ize that his ene­my is not Trump. It’s Sen. Bernie Sanders.”

Lock­hart is open about Bloomberg hav­ing only a mon­ey-based strat­e­gy: With his dis­as­trous per­for­mance in the Las Vegas debate, it appears he won’t be build­ing any organ­ic momen­tum in this race. He has to buy it.” Bloomberg, in turn, has made it clear that his plan is not to get the nom­i­na­tion by get­ting the most votes in the pri­maries, but to deny Sanders a major­i­ty of del­e­gates and then become the choice of the con­ven­tion with the help of unelect­ed superdel­e­gates. As Politi­co reported:

Mike Bloomberg is pri­vate­ly lob­by­ing Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty offi­cials and donors allied with his mod­er­ate oppo­nents to flip their alle­giance to him — and block Bernie Sanders — in the event of a bro­kered nation­al convention.

Now, the prospect of a recent­ly Repub­li­can bil­lion­aire launch­ing a scorched-earth attack on the party’s most pop­u­lar politi­cian to buy the nom­i­na­tion seems like a recipe for elec­toral dis­as­ter — promis­ing not only a Trump re-elec­tion, but a Repub­li­can recap­ture of the House and a sweep of state­hous­es that would ensure ger­ry­man­dered GOP dom­i­na­tion of pol­i­tics at least through 2030. Is that enough to dis­suade the Demo­c­ra­t­ic estab­lish­ment from fol­low­ing such a path?

There are already signs that some cor­po­rate Democ­rats might see a Trump vic­to­ry, at least, as a small price to pay for a Sanders defeat. I think I might find it hard­er to vote for Bernie than for Trump,” for­mer Gold­man Sachs CEO Lloyd Blank­fein, a backer of Hillary Clin­ton and a fre­quent vis­i­tor to the Oba­ma White House, told the Finan­cial Times At least Trump cares about the econ­o­my,” said the bil­lion­aire, who wants to be described as well to do” rather than rich.

And MSNBC’s Matthews point­ed to a sil­ver lin­ing for cor­po­rate Dems in Trump’s re-elec­tion. I’m won­der­ing if Demo­c­ra­t­ic mod­er­ates want Bernie Sanders to be pres­i­dent?” he said. Do they want Bernie to take over the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty in per­pe­tu­ity? Maybe they’d rather wait four years and put in a Demo­c­rat that they like.”

Trans­la­tion: After four more years of Trump, Demo­c­ra­t­ic vot­ers will set­tle for any­one who’s not Trump, like par­ty elites think they ought to.

This arti­cle first appeared in FAIR.

Jim Nau­reckas is the edi­tor of FAIR​.org, the media crit­i­cism web­site, and has edit­ed FAIR’s print pub­li­ca­tion Extra! since 1990. James Wein­stein gave him his first job in jour­nal­ism, when he hired him in 1987 to write about the Iran/​Contra Scan­dal for In These Times. He is the co-author of The Way Things Aren’t: Rush Limbaugh’s Reign of Error, and co-edi­tor of The FAIR Read­er. He was an inves­tiga­tive reporter for In These Times and man­ag­ing edi­tor of the Wash­ing­ton Report on the Hemi­sphere. Born in Lib­er­tyville, Illi­nois, he has a poli sci degree from Stan­ford. Since 1997 he has been mar­ried to Janine Jack­son, FAIR’s pro­gram director.
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