NYT Reports Large Crowds for Sanders in Iowa–but Isn’t He ‘Unelectable’?

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NYT Reports Large Crowds for Sanders in Iowa–but Isn’t He ‘Unelectable’?

The New York Times reports that Bernie Sanders is drawing large crowds in Iowa–but warns that Iowans may find him “unelectable.”  (Photo: Ryan Hendrikson/NYT)

Reporting on the large crowds attracted by Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign in Iowa, the New York TimesTrip Gabriel and Patrick Healy (5/31/15) stressed that former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is “far ahead in the polls, fundraising and name recognition,” and added:

Her mix of centrist and progressive Democratic views may yet prove more appealing to the broadest number of party voters as well, while some of Mr. Sanders’ policy prescriptions — including far higher taxes on the wealthy and deep military spending cuts — may eventually persuade Democrats that he is unelectable in a general election.

It sounds like it’s the New York Times that’s hoping to persuade Democrats that Sanders is unelectable.

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As we’ve noted (FAIR Blog, 4/20/15), the idea of raising the taxes of the rich is quite popular with the US public. Gallup has been asking folks since 1992 how they feel about how much “upper-income people” pay in taxes, and 18 times in a row a solid majority has said the rich pay too little. For the past four years, either 61 or 62 percent have said the wealthy don’t pay enough; it’s hard to figure why Iowans would conclude that Sanders is “unelectable” because he takes the same position on tax hikes for the wealthy as three out of every five Americans.

Meanwhile, the position that upper-income people pay too little in taxes has never been endorsed by more than 15 percent of Gallup respondents—and it’s usually 10 percent or less. Yet you won’t see the New York Times declaring Republican candidates “unelectable” for advocating tax cuts for the wealthy.

Cutting the military budget isn’t as popular as taxing the rich, but it’s by no means unpopular. It’s not a question pollsters often ask about—almost as if levels of military spending aren’t seen as a fit subject for public debate—but in 2013 Pew asked which was more important, “taking steps to reduce the budget deficit or keeping military spending at current levels.” Fifty-one percent said reducing the deficit; only 40 percent chose maintaining the military budget.

In February 2014, the last time Gallup polled on whether spending “for national defense and military purposes” was “too little, about the right amount, or too much,” a plurality of 37 percent picked “too much.” Only 28 percent said “too little”–but again, you’re never going to see the New York Times declare a candidate to be “unelectable” for proposing to raise the Pentagon’s budget.

Moyers & Co. (6/1/15) carried a well-documented post by Juan Cole that challenged corporate media headlines about Sanders’ “odd views”:

But Sanders’ positions are quite mainstream from the point of view of the stances of the American public in general. Of course, the 1 percent, for whom and by whom most mainstream media report, are appalled and would like to depict him as an outlier.

Columbia Journalism Review (5/21/15) also had a piece by Steve Hendricks that challenged the conventional wisdom that Sanders “can’t win”—suggesting that establishment media like the New York Times were trying to make this a self-fulfilling prophecy:

The Times, for example, buried his announcement on page A21, even though every other candidate who had declared before then had been put on the front page above the fold. Sanders’ straight-news story didn’t even crack 700 words, compared to the 1,100 to 1,500 that Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz and Hillary Clinton got. As for the content, the Times’ reporters declared high in Sanders’ piece that he was a long shot for the Democratic nomination and that Clinton was all but a lock. None of the Republican entrants got the long-shot treatment, even though Paul, Rubio and Cruz were generally polling fifth, seventh and eighth among Republicans before they announced.

Not convinced that the Times is trying to play down Sanders’ candidacy? That report from Iowa included this as an explanation for why he was drawing crowds: “Some Democrats also simply want to send a warning shot to Mrs. Clinton to get her to visit here more.”

Leave it to the New York Times to offer crowds at Bernie Sanders events as evidence of enthusiasm for Hillary Clinton.

Jim Naureckas

Jim Naureckas

Jim Naureckas is editor of EXTRA! Magazine at FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting). He is the co-author of Way Things Aren't: Rush Limbaugh's Reign of Error, and co-editor of The FAIR Reader. He is also the co-manager of FAIR's website.

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