Bernie Sanders Surge Continues Despite Mainstream Media Attacks

Much of the mainstream media are now in a state of panic and have moved into full-Bernie- attack-mode. The majority of media narratives, including fear mongering over the Senators health, bizarre comparisons with Donald Trump and reframing the democratic socialist as a nihilistic anti-capitalist, are largely recycled from 2016.

Media-bias against Democrat front-runner Bernie Sanders and his campaign to lead the Party in the 2020 United States presidential election is systemic.

A recent report from media watch group FAIR, titled “Corporate Media Are the Real Sanders Attack Machine,” details the unfavourable coverage of Sanders in publication from the New York Times to the Washington Post, the Atlantic to Politico, and NBC to USA Today.

The media environment was similar for the Vermont Senator during the 2015/16 race against Hillary Clinton. Back in 2016, Sanders was infamously the subject of 16 negative articles – published in just 16 hours – by the Washington Post.

With the biased media reports likely in mind, Sanders quoted Mahatma Ghandi, “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” The quote which was posted on Twitter back in 2015, has proven remarkably accurate during this year’s race to lead the Democrat Party.

First they ignore you

In October, David Sirota – Sanders’ speech writer – accused the media of “ignoring” the campaign‘s recent surge. “In the last week, a wave of polls has emerged showing a genuine, full-on Bernie surge – but you might not know that if you tuned into cable TV or read headlines from the national press corps,” Sirota wrote. “In fact, you might not even know Bernie is running for president.”

Upon investigation, there appears to make a great amount of truth to this claim. At around the same time that Sirota complained of disproportionate media coverage, a study of MSNBC found that not only did the Sanders campaign receive the lowest airtime amongst rivals Biden and Warren, he also received the most negative coverage.

According to the Tyndal Report – an independent analysis of the top evening news programs – the spectre of ignoring Bernie Sanders stretches back to very beginning of his first presidential bid.  In 2015, the report found that of the 17 hours dedicated to discussing US political campaigns on the nation‘s top political shows, Bernie Sanders received a paltry 20 minutes. Meanwhile, Democrat rival Hillary Clinton, who went on to win the Party nominee the following year – received six-times more airtime – garnering a “respectable” 121 minutes.

With such disproportionate media coverage between the two Democrat Party contenders, a local news organization, the Tri-City Hearld, published a letter from one frustrated voter who wrote, “It is amazing Bernie Sanders is known by anyone today.”

Turning towards the print media, a Washington Post-ABC poll of Democrat supporters on who they would vote for in the 2020 primaries and caucuses, showed Joe Biden ahead in first place, Bernie Sanders in second place, and Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren tied for third place. This is how politico headlined their coverage of the poll:

“Harris, Warren tie for third place in new 2020 Dem poll, but Biden still leads.”

As evidenced by the omission of Sanders in the headline, there is seemingly little appetite to acknowledge the Vermont Senators poll result – or indeed his participation in the campaign at all. In the article, the reader‘s attention is drawn away from the headlined poll to a separate poll in which Sanders finishes third – behind Biden and Harris. Politico reports that Harris “surged to second.” No acknowledgment of Sanders’ ‘surge to second’ in the poll headlined is to be found.

Then they laugh at you

Despite such a long-running and widespread campaign dedicated to ignoring Bernie, his socialist policies of free medical care for all, abolishing student debt, and forcing billionaires and multinational corporations to pay their fair-share in taxes, has resonated widely amongst voters. The result has led certain reactionary elements in the media to stop ignoring him, and start ridiculing him.

During the week of the Iowa vote, voices in the mainstream media laboured tirelessly in attempt to convince voters that “Bernie can’t win.” Both the New York Times (Jan 31) and the Atlantic (Jan 27), headlined articles with exactly that claim.

In the New York Times “Bernie-Can’t-Win’ piece, Timothy Egan mocked Sanders as a “grumpy-old-man” and claimed his policies are akin to “Marxist pipe dreams.” Similarly, in the Atlantic, former G.W.Bush speechwriter, David Frum, trotted the same path of ridicule in his ‘Bernie-Can’t-Win’ piece. “‘Left but not woke’ is the Bernie Sanders brand’ sniggered Frum. He is “from the land that time forgot.”

An article by Johnathon Chait in New York magazine (Jan 28) furthered the “Bernie-Can’t-Win” narrative, claiming that “Running Bernie Sanders Against Trump Would Be an Act of Insanity.” Chait attempted to make the case that though socialism has “grown less unpopular” in recent years, it is in fact “not popular”.

Sanders subsequently went on to win the popular vote in Iowa, secure victory in New Hampshire, and rock the political and media establishment with a landslide result in Nevada. It appears socialism is much more popular than some would care to admit.

Then they fight you

With success in Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada, Bernie Sanders is now the undisputed Democrat Party front-runner. In addition, the Sanders campaign has raised a staggering $46.5 million in just February alone. The campaign funds – generated from more than two million small donations – dwarfs the funds raised by media-favourites Biden and Warren.

Much of the mainstream media are now in a state of panic and have moved into full-Bernie- attack-mode. The majority of media narratives, including fear mongering over the Senators health, bizarre comparisons with Donald Trump and reframing the democratic socialist as a nihilistic anti-capitalist, are largely recycled from 2016.

One narrative though which has entered into public discourse more recently, is the attempt to draw comparisons between Sanders and his campaign with dictatorial and murderous regimes.

Chris Matthews, host of the MSNBC chat show Hardball, popularised this narrative ranting that if socialism wins, there could be “executions” in Central Park. Matthews also went on to liken the Vermont Senators landslide win in Nevada “to the shock of France falling to [Nazi] Germany during WWII.”

Mr Sanders was reportedly “so upset” over the claims that Matthews made against him, that members of his campaign “privately expressed their displeasure to MSNBC officials.” The MSNBC host has since issued an on-air apology for his analogy comparing Bernie Sanders to Nazi soldiers, though MSNBC has so-far offered no apology.

On MSNBC’s Meet the Press Daily show, anchor Chuck Todd added fuel to the fire of Nazi-slurs. Todd repeated a repugnant quote from Conservative news outlet, the Bulwark, which described Sanders’ online supporters as “digital brown shirts,” – a reference to the paramilitary wing of the Nazi Party that assisted Adolf Hitler in his rise to power.

Todd’s choice of language unsurprisingly also roused significant anger and upset. Rafael Shimunov, co-founder of the Jewish Vote, called on Todd to resign over his inflammatory remarks. “Chuck Todd [should] apologize and resign for comparing the first major Jewish candidate for President, whose family was executed by Nazis, [to] Hitler. And Jews like me supporting him, [to] brown shirts,” he wrote on Twitter.

In response to the repeated Nazi-slurs on MSNBC, Mike Casca, Sanders’ communication director, had this to say:

“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.”

Such nazi-slurs would be deplorable against any candidate in any democratic election, but used against a jewish politician whose family were murdered during the Second World War, the rhetoric is even more revolting.

Then you win

Bernie Sanders, his campaign, and even his supporters, clearly have been attacked, ridiculed and marginalised as previously predicted in the line from the Indian peace revolutionary.

Regarding the final line of the quote, “then you win” – at this stage it is too early to tell in which direction the race for the Democrat Party nomination will travel, and what twists, turns, and surprises may crop up along the way. That said, with Sanders winning the same amount of delegates (58) as media-favourites Biden (50) and Warren (8) combined, the final prophecy has proven accurate thus-far.

Will Sanders’ momentum continue enough to secure him the Democrat Party nominee necessary to face Trump in the 2020 US presidential election?