Not Quite All Things Considered: Why the Mainstream Media Discounts Bernie Sanders

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Not Quite All Things Considered: Why the Mainstream Media Discounts Bernie Sanders

It's not just NPR discounting Bernie Sanders.  (Photo: Todd Huffman/flickr/cc)

Recently, on All Things Considered—you know, that bastion of liberal media—Mara Liasson , talking about the prospect of Joe Biden running for President said:

              There are many Democrats who think it would be good for Hillary Clinton because she'd have a serious opponent, and it would help her become a better candidate. Right now, she's basically running against herself and her problems. (emphasis added)

Do you detect a missing elephant in the room, here?  Bernie Sanders is ahead in New Hampshire and pulling close to even in Iowa, rocketing up the polls across the country, and pulling in record-breaking crowds at every stop, but Hillary’s “running against herself” and doesn’t face a “serious” candidate unless Joe Biden gets in the race.  In fact, throughout the entire exchange between Rachel Martin and Mara Liasson, Bernie Sanders isn’t even mentioned. 

Talk about clueless.  And NPR isn’t alone. 

When Bernie is mentioned by pundits in the MSM, it’s usually quickly followed by a statement that describes him as “unelectable” or “not a serious candidate.”  The New York Times, The Washington Post, the LA Times, and the major networks have all adopted this meme.

So what’s going on? 

Well, money explains part of it.  Federal campaigns are expected to spend $4.4 billion in the 2016 election cycle, and typically, two thirds of that will go to advertising.  So the MSM—which, as Bernie Sanders points out, is dominated by just 6 major corporations—has a vested interest in ignoring a candidate who’s serious about campaign finance reform.  So do the various fat-cats who are purchasing candidates outright.

But money doesn’t explain it all. For example, NPR doesn’t directly profit from campaign spending, nor do progressives like Bill Maher, or any of the political pundits from academia and bi-partisan think tanks. Yet most mindlessly repeat the “Bernie can’t win” mantra or ignore him altogether.

So, why is the chattering class missing the elephant in our collective national living room?

Well, basically they’re in the same position as the hapless Mr. Jones, in Bob Dylan’s Ballad of a Thin Man: ” ‘Cause something is happening here but you don't know what it is. Do you, Mr. Jones?”

And what, exactly is happening here? 

To understand this we have to go back to the 2014 mid-terms when the MSM was completely blindsided by the scale of the Republican domination at the polls.  Oh, they were predicting the usual gains an opposition party typically gets in the mid-terms, but nothing like what happened. Many of the inside-the-beltway pundits interpreted this as yet more evidence of their favorite delusion: that the US is a right-of-center country politically. 

Of course, it is no such thing, as polls have been showing for some time now. 

The fact is, the real winner in 2014 was “none of the above.”  With Democrats running from Obamacare and anything else Republicans happened to be attacking—which was just about everything short of bat-shit crazy right-wing lunacy—the progressive majority had no choice and they shunned the elections like they were Ebola transmission centers.  In fact, 2014 set a record for the lowest turnout (34%) since World War II—and the only reason that was lower than 2014 was that a sizable portion of voting age males was overseas and unable to vote. 

This kind of turnout shouldn’t surprise anyone. If people’s choices are between a Democrat who seems to have no real convictions, or a Republican who cares passionately about issues grounded in fear, hate, bigotry, jingoism, sexism and/or greed why bother? So the frightened, hateful, sexist, jingoists showed up in disproportionate numbers.

This was the culmination of more than three decades of Democratic candidates who were in many respects, indistinguishable from Republicans.  They were either owned by corporate America, or too afraid to run on their beliefs, or some deadly brew of the two together, and voters had finally had enough.  Throw in Citizens United, and the stage was set.

The final straw was that Obama’s hope and change ended up in hopelessness and despair, with Goldman Sachs south running the Treasury Department, more war, more Patriot Act nonsense, and a series of pre-emptive capitulations and “grand bargains” that would have rolled back the New Deal.  The vast majority of voters simply decided it was a rigged game and they stayed home in droves.

So here, Ms Liasson, MSM, and Mr. Jones is what’s happening.  For the first time since Reagan, a Democrat—well, actually an Independent—is running on progressive policies and giving people a real choice.  And the likes of Hillary Clinton and even Joe Biden, are going to get their heads handed to them.

So Mr. Jones and friends, the self-interested and deluded may continue to ignore, dismiss or discredit Mr. Sanders, but the voters surely will not. 

John Atcheson

John Atcheson

John Atcheson is author of the novel, A Being Darkly Wise, an eco-thriller and book one of a trilogy centered on global warming. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the San Jose Mercury News and other major newspapers. Atcheson’s book reviews are featured on Climateprogess.org.

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