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Seven-in-10 voters said they would be satisfied if Bernie Sanders were the Democratic nominee. (Photo: AP)


Sanders Takes Michigan, But Mainstream Media Keeps Discounting His Campaign

John Atcheson

For weeks now, the Mainstream Media (MSM) has all but ignored the Sanders campaign and talked about Hillary’s capture of the Democratic nomination as a done deal. 

But, once again, Sanders proved them wrong with a dramatic win in Michigan on Tuesday.

And as for Hillary’s victory in Mississippi? It’s worse than useless. The South is totally irrelevant to Democratic presidential victories and has been since Johnson pushed through the civil rights act.  In fact, it looks like the South is the only place she can consistently win.  

Sanders' victory in Michigan was all the more remarkable given the fact that the MSM has been either ignoring him, distorting his positions, and/or giving Hillary a free pass on issues that should be examined.

So this begs a few questions.

Why Does the Press Discount Sanders?

1) The role of Money.

As usual in American politics, money can explain a lot.  As I wrote last September:  

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.

But as Sanders has closed the gap on Clinton, the press has gone from ignoring to distorting.  With billions of dollars on the line, the last thing the mainstream media (MSM) wants is a revolution.

2) The tyranny of the known and the terror of the unfamiliar:

The day after the Flint, Michigan debate, the majority of the pundits  and the MSM declared Hillary the clear winner.  Yet ordinary citizens overwhelmingly thought Sanders won.  For example, those responding to a Time poll declared Bernie the winner by 87% to 13% for Hillary.  Other surveys of real people had similar results.

Why such a big disconnect?  Media analysts and pundits are trained to analyze political races as horse races.  It’s all about tactics, money raised, who has support from whom, who’s “supposed” to win.

They simply aren’t equipped to understand a phenomena that comes from outside their wheelhouse.  In fact, many resent the presence of an outsider who refuses to play by the same old corrupt rules.  This is clear in the irrational attacks from normally rational players like Paul Krugman. In fact, the entire New York Times and Washington Post editorial staff and most of their news folks seem to be engaged in a institutional attack against Sanders.  Which brings us to …

Five Way the MSM Seeks to Bias the Process

The fact that Sanders is on track to pull out a victory is all the more remarkable when you examine how the MSM seeks to tip the scales in Hillary’s favor.  Here are five examples.

 1) Using “political analysis” as a means of attacking Sanders.

For example, consider for a moment, their coverage of an exchange between Hillary and Bernie in the Flint, Michigan debate. 

Hillary accused Sanders of voting against the auto industry bailouta false accusation as it turns outand then twice interrupted Sanders when he was given time to respond. When Sanders made the perfectly reasonable request that she let him talk when it was his turn, much of the press criticized Sanders for being ill-mannered and many suggested he was bordering on being sexist. 

So, Hillary makes a false accusation; she rudely interrupts Sanders twice, and his reaction is “the story?” Wow.  Really?  Somehow, intentionally distorting your opponents position then interrupting him twice is fine, but asking to be allowed to respond when it’s your turn is not? 

An objective press would have reported this as yet another attempt on her part to distort his positions, and then noted the use of rude – if not crude – tactics to blunt his response.

2) Using “political analysis” to create phony wedge issues.  

Exhibit A has to be the media’s reaction to Sanders’ response to a question about racism.  His response to a question about the experiences of blacks in the ghetto ignited a chorus of criticism, ranging from observations that whites sometimes live in ghettos to not all blacks do

But the message from the press was clear and nearly ubiquitous:  Bernie has no clue about how blacks live and no sympathy for poor whites.

Again, these aren’t reasonable interpretations of what Sanders said.  To arrive at them required a tortuous distortion of what he, in fact, was saying, and a willful disregard for the context of his response. 

He was specifically talking about a conversation he had with some folks from BLM about their treatment in the ghetto.  He made no claim that some whites don’t also live in the ghetto, nor did he suggest that all blacks do.

Note the surgical precision of these accusations form the MSM:  they are designed to create doubt in the minds of women, poor whites and African Americans – all key constituencies Sanders is working hard to win over.  One would almost think the MSM is working for Hillary.

3) Ignoring a key issue that virtually begs for analysis.

The biggest man-bites-dog issue in the Democratic primaries is why Hillary Clinton gets so much support from African Americans.  The MSM routinely reports her big advantage, but never examines it.  It’s stated as if it were her birthright. And make no mistake, if it weren’t for this advantage, Hillary would be trailing in the race by a wide margin.

Yet as Michelle Alexander has pointed out, the policies Clinton has historically backed “decimated” black America.  Her abysmal record started as far back as 1964, when Hillary was campaigning for Barry Goldwater, who promised to re-segregate the south and overturn the Civil Rights Act. Since then, as Alexander points out, Hillary has backed numerous programs that have had massive negative impacts for black and other marginalized communities, including the Crime Bill; so-called 'Welfare Reform'; mandatory sentencing; three-strikes laws; and more.

In the years before Hillary was campaigning for Goldwater, Bernie was marching with Dr. Martin Luther King and demonstrating on behalf of racial equality and desegregation at the University of Chicago.  Many African-American leaders back Sanders, and many more are switching as they learn more about the two candidates.  But Hillary remains much stronger among the Black community at large.

Seems like this rather bizarre phenomenon ought to be worth a bit of “political analysis,” but don’t hold your breath.

4) Fostering the myth that  Hillary has a commanding lead in the delegate count.

Listen to the press or read the papers and you’ll here that Hillary Clinton has an all but insurmountable lead over Bernie Sanders.

Going into the Michigan primary, most sources reported that Hillary was ahead 1130 to 499.  But that includes super delegates, and super delegates are not bound to any single candidate.  Historically, they move toward the candidate with the most popular support as reflected by the voters.  In fact, at this point in the 2008 race, Clinton’s “commanding” lead was evaporating as super delegates abandoned her as Obama began winning races.

The real count pre-Michigan, is 658 for Clinton, 471 for Sanders. That is not a large lead and with states like California, New York, New Jersey, Ohio and Florida coming up and Sanders improving in the polls, easily surmountable.

But what the Establishment wants to do is feed the notion that Clinton’s nomination is “inevitable.”  The reality is, that both candidates have a plausible path to victory.  In fact, if Sanders can crack the lock Clinton has on African-American voters – something that is certainly possible, given the fact that Hillary’s policies have “decimated” Black America – he’s pretty much a lock. 

So why distort the delegate counts?  Well…

5. Feeding the myth of  “inevitability” is designed to reduce Sanders’ support.  

Sanders has been remarkably successful at engaging people who have not participated in the political process or who have dropped out, because they believed the deck is stacked against a real reformer.  He’s given people real hope for the prospect of real change. But even that passion will have a hard time surviving if people believe there is no hope.  Feed the idea that Hillary’s nomination is a done deal, and many of these people will drop out again. 

In fact, that’s precisely what’s being attempted.  Sanders isn’t merely battling Clinton, he’s battling the establishment forces within labor unions, not-for-profit think tanks, and the press. In addition, Sanders is working to win over the justifiable cynicism of people who believe there is no hope for changing the system.

And yet he may yet win.  Here’s why.

We Hold These Truths to Be Self Evident

The presence of money in politicsand the interlocking network of those who depend upon itis the root cause of most of our national ills.  Whether it’s failing to get effective gun control; feeding a massive military industrial complex; shipping trillions overseas to tax havens; exporting jobs through trade agreements; killing ourselves with fossil fuels; incarcerating more people than any nation on Earth; or enduring the lies of a corporate media complexthe cure is in getting money out of politics.

Only one candidate will do thatBernie Sanders.

The people have figured this out.  The MSM hasn’t.  And until they do, they’ll continue to get it wrong.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
John Atcheson

John Atcheson

John Atcheson, 1948-2020, was a long-time Common Dreams contributor, climate activist and author of, "A Being Darkly Wise, and a book on our fractured political landscape entitled, "WTF, America? How the US Went Off the Rails and How to Get It Back On Track". John was tragically killed in a California car accident in January 2020.

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