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August 24, 2019
Since April 29, 2015, when Independent, Democratic Socialist, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders first announced his intention to challenge Hillary Clinton for the Democratic Presidential nomination, the main stream corporate news media (MSM) has ignored, dismissed, ridiculed, misinterpreted, misrepresented, distorted, maligned and otherwise unsuccessfully attempted to undermine his viability as a serious candidate. Bernie is too old and cranky; a Socialist will never get elected in America; Vermont is filled with crazy people; he speaks with a Brooklyn accent; he’s not a real Democrat; but how will he pay for it?; he’s a millionaire hypocrite who owns 3 homes; he’s another white male; he’s a misogynist for challenging Hillary; he’s out of touch with the Black community because Vermont has no Black people; he’s weak on gun control; his wife, Jane, destroyed Burlington College; etc.,etc., etc. You’ve seen, read, heard and know the narrative in the NY Times, the Washington Post, National Public Radio, MSNBC, CBS, CNN, ABC, FOX and all the other major news outlets controlled by the increasingly consolidated monotone press owned by about a half-dozen multinational corporate entities who define the Overton Window (look it up) we’re allowed to observe in the MSM.
Every diversionary tactic has been used to avoid conversation and focus on the serious issues Sanders brings to the table: Income and wealth disparity in America; the urgency of the climate crisis; the lack of affordable health care; the desperate need for comprehensive criminal justice reform; the alarming level of student debt in our country; and, in general, the problems and needs of those who are not part of the upper 1% on the economic scale.
But, the world of information gathering and reporting has increasingly changed since the advent and proliferation of the internet. The population is now exposed to different perspectives than offered by the MSM. As a result, Sanders’ message and the issues upon which his candidacy is based have broken through the artificial wall of information-monopoly and are deeply resonating within the general public that is feeling great economic stress and concern about the future of our country and the world. So great is the weight and gravity of Sanders’ message that virtually all other Democratic candidates have at least partially assumed aspects of his platform. The entire spectrum of ideas and conversation in the realm of politics has shifted his way since 2016, a remarkable turn from the rightward drift we’ve witnessed since the Reagan era in the 1980s.
Upon the announcement of his candidacy for the 2020 nomination on February 19, 2019, the MSM’s anti-Bernie narration resumed, in full force. He is too old and too Socialist; he is a victim of his own success as he now has to compete against younger candidates who are talking about the same issues; his support is waning; he won’t last; and- don’t forget about Joe Biden, the alternative who will bring us back to the good ol’ days of the Obama Administration.
Joe Biden is the Great White Hope of the corporate-owned and controlled Democratic Establishment and their allies in the MSM. Although he is only one year younger than Bernie Sanders, the MSM seemingly has no problem with Joe Biden’s age or his candidacy. He has name recognition as the former Vice-President. He has experience in government as a powerful senator for 36 years from the state of Delaware. Uncle Joe is known for his easy going, likeable, caring personality, the one who was willing to “cross the aisle” and work with Republicans. Everyone likes Joe. And, he’s not a Socialist like Bernie Sanders.
Only, it turns out there are some problems with Uncle Joe. He has a lot of baggage that comes with his history. Yes, he worked with Republicans, but on issues that don’t play so well with Democratic voters in 2019. He “crossed the aisle” when, as Chairman of the Judiciary Committee in the Senate, he prohibited corroborating witnesses for Anita Hill during the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings; when he sided with Strom Thurmond and Southern segregationists to stop busing to integrate public schools; when he wrote and ushered through Congress the draconian anti-crime bill that resulted in the incarceration of hundreds of thousands of black and brown people for minor drug offenses; when he led the movement in Congress to deregulate the banking industry resulting in the financial collapse of 2008 causing hundreds of thousands to lose their homes through foreclosure; when he herded Democrats in Congress to support the Bush/Cheney War in Iraq to cleanse Saddam Hussein’s non-existent “weapons of mass destruction.”
It also turns out that his state of Delaware is the proverbial Cayman Islands of mainland USA, the tax haven of the Credit Card Industry, the sleazy “Pay Day Lending” industry and other nefarious corporate interests. Over the years Uncle Joe has been the recipient of large campaign contributions from those industries, as well as from the pharmaceutical industry, the health insurance industry, the fossil fuel industry and the war industry, in return for his advocacy for their legislative agendas in Congress.
There are more reasons to closely re-examine Biden. Once the 2020 campaign began, and Biden starting appearing in public, especially after the first Democratic debate in Miami, the MSM began to realize there was going to be a real problem with the candidate they had chosen to boost for the nomination. The mythological public image projected by their news coverage didn’t match the reality of who Joe Biden is now. He doesn’t exude the confidence and strength he did when he was standing next to Obama in the Oval Office. While he was always prone to gaffes, dating back to his first run for president in 1988 when he had to end his campaign after being caught multiple times plagiarizing the speeches of other politicians, the miscues were now happening on almost a daily basis. He was revealing a mind stuck in a long-ago time-frame, more reminiscent of Bob Dole than Barack Obama.
Seasoned news reporters and political analysts understand that polls taken this early in presidential campaigns are notoriously inaccurate because most potential voters aren’t yet paying close attention to the process or to the candidates. The general public doesn’t fully tune in until it gets much closer to the early primaries, in late November, December or January. Most people being polled are still answering the question about their favorite candidates based on the media-spun perception of Joe Biden; not the real Joe Biden, as he exists in 2019. But, the people in the news room are aware of everything that’s happening and they see trouble for the Democrats if Biden becomes the nominee. They see trouble when his campaign staff acknowledges they are planning to limit his public appearances because it gets more difficult for him to focus at night. They see trouble when his wife, Jill Biden, records an awkward video in which she asks viewers to vote for Joe, even if he’s not your favorite candidate, because, she implores, he has the best chance to beat Trump.
Biden is not the only problem for the MSM and the corporate-controlled DNC’s plan to nominate one of their own, and not Bernie Sanders, in 2020. They fielded several alternates in case Uncle Joe’s candidacy didn’t work out.
John Hickenlooper, the former Governor of Colorado looked promising. He’d tell the public about Socialism, how unrealistic is Bernie’s Medicare for All plan and how the Vermont Senator would FEDEX a second term to Trump! Hickenlooper soon quit the race when he couldn’t garner more than 1% in the polls and his campaign funds dried up after the 2nd debate.
Then there’s John Delaney, US House member from Maryland, another fine corporate mouthpiece, who thought he would easily slay the Socialist dragon by talking some good ol’ common sense to the American people, explaining why it’s so impractical to have a Medicare for All program like they do in every other modern industrialized country in the world. This used car salesman caricature was swatted down by Elizabeth Warren in one swift and deft motion during the 2nd debate in Detroit, when she asked why he would bother to run for President if his only purpose is to tell the American people what we can’t do. Kudos to you Elizabeth.
Perhaps a more serious challenge to Bernie from the corporatist wing of the Democratic Party is the candidacy of Senator and former Attorney General from the state of California, Kamala Harris.
The strength of Harris as a serious presidential candidate lies in the fact that she fits a profile that many find attractive. At age 55 she is a relatively younger woman of color. She is smart and quick-witted as a trained prosecutor. Harris heightened her public profile with her sharp and savvy questioning during the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court Justice confirmation hearing. Another strength she has in the nominating process is the fact that she represents California, the most populated and delegate-rich state in the nation.
Although Harris experienced a jump in polling popularity after the first debate in Miami that featured her attack on Joe Biden, her past record as a hardline law-and-order prosecutor seemed to catch up with her after an angry exchange with Tulsi Gabbord during the second debate. Her poll numbers collapsed back down into the low single digits at that point.
Harris may be the quintessential finger-to-the-wind politician as she first signed onto and adopted Sanders’ Medicare for All legislation, then backed-off from it, then came back, then backed-off again, then introduced her own version of a healthcare program that doesn’t resemble the original at all and continues to promote the corporate insurance industry that is profiting by hundreds of billions of dollars each year as more than 80 million people in America lack adequate coverage.
As the California Attorney General, Harris vigorously prosecuted and jailed marijuana use offenders before legalization took place. She also vigorously pursued the death penalty even in cases where there was considerable doubt about guilt, to the extent that it took a court order to force her office to release evidence that could have exonerated death row inmates. Against the advice of state social workers, Harris prosecuted and jailed the poorest and most desperate of parents if their children engaged in school truancy. She wanted to be known as tough on crime because that would make her more electable for higher office. It worked. She was tough on crime against poor people and it paid off when she ran for US Senate. She was not so tough, however, when it came time to prosecute Steve Mnuchin’s OneWest Bank in California after that company was caught committing more than 80,000 illegal foreclosure violations. Harris dropped that case and ended the investigation. Later Mnuchin donated $2000 to Harris’s election campaign, the only Democratic campaign to which he donated money.
Harris is also a regime-change war hawk in the Middle East and has publicly condemned Hawaiian US Representative Tulsi Gabbord for daring to attempt to avoid war with Syria by visiting and talking directly with the Syrian dictator, Bashar al Assad. Gabbord is a veteran of the Iraq War and still serves in the National Guard. Harris has never served in the military.
There is still a remnant of candidates with remote chances to catch fire and win the nomination. Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Beto O’Rourke and Kamala Harris are at the top of this list. But, none to this point have shown much promise for growing their popularity in a substantial enough way to become a serious leader for the nomination.
As the result of the continuing attrition among the 20-odd candidates who originally entered the race, many members of the corporate political punditry, for what that’s worth, are beginning to develop the narrative that in all likelihood it will boil down to a 3-way race between Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
Among these three, Biden is on the shakiest grounds for the reasons mentioned above. Warren is in a potentially strong position, as many in the world of corporate punditry see her as a compromise between so-called “centrists” and progressives within the party. But, this is an unstable alliance because Elizabeth Warren is very progressive, indeed, and threatens the established order in much the same way as Bernie Sanders, if not as extensively. Although Warren identifies herself as a “Capitalist” and not a “Socialist” because she “believes in the market,” whatever that means, she still intends to break up the big banks and throw guilty corporate executives in jail; she still intends to institute Medicare for All and eliminate the private health insurance industry. She is not corrupted by corporate campaign contributions (not yet anyway). She is dangerous to the establishment and is not a proponent of the status quo. Whether she remains viable or not will probably be a function of her ability to raise money from the grassroots on the level of Bernie Sanders.
And therein lies her biggest problem. If she relents and goes to corporate donors to fill the gap, she will lose support among progressives. If she stands strong to resist this temptation and chooses to compete with Bernie for small donations, she has a long, hard, probably futile road ahead, because Bernie’s grassroots money making machine is unimaginably enormous, well-oiled and extremely well organized, with literally millions of hardcore, dedicated supporters chomping at the bit to knock on doors, make phone calls, raise money, put up signs and get the vote out, in every state, virtually every county, in the country. Bernie’s campaign is the most tech-savvy political machine that ever existed. He has received more small, individual donations than any candidate in the history of political campaigns and it is growing every day with new names in every state. It’s difficult to visualize the depth and breadth of Sanders’ support network without mapping it out clearly.
So, it may have taken the NY Times editorial staff by surprise when they decided to conduct a study to find out which geographical regions provide the strongest base of donations for each of the candidates. They published the results of this study on August 2, 2019. The medium they use to illustrate the relative strength of each candidate in each region is a map of the United States. Bernie Sanders’ donations are represented by the color blue. All other candidate donations are represented by various other colors, red, green, yellow, etc., but it doesn’t matter because virtually the entire map is dominated by varying shades of blue, with a few scattered small spots of other colors in areas within the home states of each of the other candidates. So dominant is the proliferation of Sanders’ donors, nationwide, that the Times had to create a 2nd map that excludes Bernie’s donors in order to give the reader some information about where all the other candidates are finding some donations.
This had to be a sobering experience for the NY Times staff in the midst of their long history of derisive, dismissive and negative coverage of Bernie Sanders. The visualization of these findings completely contradicts the narrative throughout the MSM about the current state of the race for the Democratic nomination. As stated previously, early polls are relatively meaningless as voters are not yet paying much attention to what’s happening on the ground or within each campaign. But, the candidates with the resources to maintain a long and arduous campaign are the ones who survive deep into the process and ultimately win. In the past, most successful candidates have been the ones with the most money from large corporate donors. But, Bernie’s campaign has changed all that and we are in new territory here. No one has ever before successfully conducted a grassroots campaign as deeply rooted, stable and independent as the 2020 campaign of Bernie Sanders. It will not be undermined by one or more large donors pulling out, the way past campaigns have been terminated. Bernie’s campaign is not dependent on large donors at all, in fact. It is resilient and strong with literally millions of small, impassioned donors, volunteers and top-of-the-line staff members.
This finding by the NY Times study probably won’t change the inherently adversarial relationship between a Democratic Socialist candidate and a news media that represents the perspective and interests of the ruling class. But, it may strike awe into the editorial board staffs of the MSM, as they get a glimpse of the raw power behind the movement led by Sanders, his staff and their multitudes of supporters throughout the country. Perhaps it is engendering more respect and an effort to become more accurate in their reporting, because it is beginning to dawn on them that it’s entirely possible Bernie Sanders will emerge as the next President of the United States.
There are indications that some members of the MSM may be changing their attitude toward Bernie, the NY Times report mentioned above being one factor. But, other forces are at work, as well.
On August 12, 2019, in a rare slap at the news media, Bernie implied that the Washington Post’s well-documented bias in reporting against him could be explained by the fact that Amazon mogul Jeff Bezos owns the newspaper. Bernie has long criticized Amazon’s labor practices dating back years. And the Washington Post has been delivering biased news stories against Bernie’s presidential aspirations since 2015. Earlier this year Bernie openly helped organize an employee rebellion against Amazon to demand they be paid at least $15/hr. The rebellion succeeded and the employees got the raise. It’s safe to say Bezos did not appreciate the bad publicity or being forced by public opinion to raise the wages of all his workers.
The following day after Sanders’ statement on the Post’s biased coverage, Marty Baron, the Executive Editor of the Post, shot back at Sanders, accusing him of perpetrating a “conspiracy theory” and insisting that Bezos never directs their news or editorial department on the content of their articles. Other MSM spokespeople also came to the defense of the Washington Post, as if they themselves had all been slandered by Sanders’ comments.
But, the following days brought a tidal wave of testimonials from progressive publications and individuals who cited crystal clear examples of the MSM bias, including one glaring period at a crucial time in the 2016 primary season when the Washington Post ran 16 negative stories on Sanders in one 16-hour interval.
On August 20th, in response to this hurricane of feedback, perhaps to “prove” their fairness and objectivity, the Post then published a piece by columnist Katrina vanden Heuvel entitled “Bernie Sanders has a Smart Critique of Corporate Media Bias.” In this column, it is explained that the bias of the corporate media against progressives, and Sanders in particular, does not depend on a corporate executive making a phone call instructing editors on the specific content of an article. The bias of a newspaper, radio or television station is already built into the structure of the media outlet, determined by who is hired to begin with to write the stories and editorials. The people who are hired reflect the values and outlooks compatible with the perspective of the owners. If they didn’t reflect those values and perspectives, they would never have been hired. The bias against Bernie Sanders is real in the Washington Post, the NY Times and other MSM news outlets. But, it is effortless. They don’t even realize they are being biased. The bias simply reflects their perspective. The problem is that good, real, objective news reporting is not supposed to reflect anyone’s perspective. That type of copy is supposed to be reserved for the editorial page.
It seemed for a short while that perhaps the Washington Post and other members of the MSM got the message because in the days that followed there was some uncharacteristically objective reporting done on a number of legislative initiatives released by Sanders, including his $16 Trillion climate plan and his amended Medicare for All plan that addressed benefits to union members who would be moved from negotiated private insurance plans to the government run program. MSM reporting on these initiatives actually included debunking some of the unfounded rumors and misconceptions already circulated by those in opposition to Sanders plans. This was new and different.
The other major factor that could be influencing a change in the nature of MSM coverage of Sanders is the evolving and worsening crisis in the White House. Faith in the competence and general sanity of the current President is melting faster than the ice on Greenland. When Trump cancelled his trip to Denmark because he felt insulted by the Danish Prime Minister labeling as “absurd” his offer to buy Greenland, it triggered an alarm in the minds of all reasonable people. This man is genuinely, clinically delusional-and he has a lot of power at his disposal.
Regardless of philosophical differences in how to govern the country, influential people in all walks of life in America, including in the mainstream corporate media, may be desperately searching for a potential leader who exhibits sanity, level-headedness and a sense of solid stability. No one in the current field of Democratic candidates exhibits those qualities more than Bernie Sanders, who has been honest, consistent and strong with the integrity of a rock for the last 40 years in public life.
Don’t get too excited about the potential for reasonableness in the mainstream news media, however. This morning the Washington Post ran a story with the headline, “Trump’s Wall is Child’s Play Compared to Bernie Sanders’ Climate Plan.” This from an institution that claims to respect science and objective journalism. But, this may be a subject for another in-depth discussion.
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