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Bernie, where are you?

October 22, 2016

How The Washington Post neutralized Bernie Sanders and his “People’s Revolution”

thomas-frankThe absence of the mildly social-democratic voice of Bernie Sanders, the Democratic presidential hopeful until last July, has been discouraging to all those of us who were inspired by the possibility of a progressive-minded president.

Indeed, anyone who followed media commentary about the rise and decline of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders will not be surprised to learn that the mass media can take at least partial responsibility for his political demise.

Some of his supporters had hoped that his “People’s Revolution” rhetoric might lead to a third party to finally challenge the mainstream twins that dominate the national political scene.

Alas, that has not happened and Bernie Sanders is already a footnote in the onward press to select a president to replace Barack Obama. His main contribution these days is supporting Hillary Clinton in his home state of Vermont.

Perhaps it is fitting that Sanders has disappeared from the national scene. After all, there is precious little in his once promising policies that Clinton has not watered down or failed to seriously consider making part of her campaign strategy.

So, what happened to Sanders? Why has he dropped out of the political fight? What is to become of his millions of supporters, many of who do not support the Clinton candidacy? Some of the answers came from Thomas Frank’s solid analysis of how Washington Post pundits put the journalistic boots to Sanders.

Calling it an “extermination,” Frank, who openly declares that he was a Sanders supporter, proceeds to expose the “press’s attitude toward Sanders,” self-described as a democratic socialist. But his main analysis was of the Post, the “house organ of a meritocratic elite” in Washington.

“The Post’s pundit platoon just seemed to despise Bernie Sanders,” he writes, and it published a “rolling barrage against him…when it first dawned on Washington that the Vermonter might have a chance of winning.”

They attacked for everything from a lack of “political realism” to insanity with his “magic-wand campaign.” The very thought that a candidate could win any credibility declaring himself a socialist was beyond the pale of American political commentators at the Post.

In just one example, Thomas notes that Charles Krauthammer cautioned Democrats that they “‘would be risking a November electoral disaster of historic dimensions’ should they nominate Sanders.” He adds that it was “cynical advice that seems ever more poisonous today, as scandal after scandal engulfs the Democratic candidate that so many Post pundits favoured.”

“Bernie Sanders ran for the presidency by proposing reforms that these prestigious commentators, for whatever reason, found distasteful,” Thomas concludes. “Rather than grapple with his ideas, however, they simply blew the whistle and ruled them out of bounds. Plans that were impractical, proposals that would never pass Congress – these things are off the table, and they are staying off.”

For those of us who saw the unpredictably large Sanders rallies go uncovered from the first days of his campaign, saw the media simply avoid commenting, and focus instead on the inane antics of Donald Trump, Frank’s analysis provides a start in revealing the political bias of the American mainstream media.

Of course, many thinking Americans have long ago decided that the Big Media are not worth their time. For now, they can consult online news gatherers like Democracy Now, the Young Turks, and other social media that are at least attempting to get at whatever political truths they can find.

Once the money subsumes what is left of those sources, we will need to turn to more underground media outlets as with all People’s Revolutions.

Note: Thomas Frank writes often for Harper’s and other national publications. Some of us remember him appreciatively as the author of What’s the Matter with Kansas? a book that goes a long way to explaining why people in his home state are supporting the very people who are undermining their chances of a better life. For more, see tcfrank.com.

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