Thursday, February 13, 2020


This clip is going viral in certain circles:

A New Hampshire voter who says she liked several candidates across the spectrum (Michael Bennet, Elizabeth Warren) tells MSNBC's Ari Melber that his channel, which she watches "constantly," motivated her to vote for Bernie Sanders because, in her opinion, it's too critical of Sanders.

This echoes an argument made by The New Republic's Alex Shepard:
... the supposedly liberal network, MSNBC, has become a serious obstacle [to the Sanders campaign], pumping out Republican anti-Sanders talking points with increasing frequency.

After last Friday’s Democratic debate, Chris Matthews waxed apoplectic about what electing a socialist could mean for America. “I have an attitude towards [Fidel] Castro,” he said. “I believe if Castro and the Reds had won the Cold War there would have been executions in Central Park, and I might have been one of the ones getting executed. And certain other people would be there cheering, OK?” ...

Two days later, James Carville, Bill Clinton’s former campaign guru, went on Morning Joe to rant about how a Sanders nomination would bring about the apocalypse. Literally. “The only thing between the United States and the abyss is the Democratic Party,” he said. “That’s it. If we go the way of the British Labour Party, if we nominate Jeremy Corbyn, it’s going to be the end of days.” The same day, Chuck Todd, who also hosts NBC’s Meet the Press, read from an article from the right-wing website The Bulwark comparing supporters of Sanders, who is Jewish, to “brownshirts.”

And in the lead-up to Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary, Lawrence O’Donnell argued that the real story was that Bernie was losing momentum because his poll numbers were down from the last Democratic primary—even though he is now facing more than a half-dozen opponents, compared to 2016, when he faced one.
And today we have Politico's John Harris writing about Sanders's lack of transparency on his health. Harris sees this as a general rebuke to the media.
Where are those medical records you promised to show us, asked NBC News’ Chuck Todd last weekend on “Meet the Press.“ Sen. Bernie Sanders sounded polite enough, as he exhaled a puffy cloud of obfuscation.

It was not hard to translate Sanders’ word cloud: Go to hell, Chuck.

... the Sanders’ evasion highlights the dilution of mainstream media’s institutional power....

Obscured in the heat and noise of conflict is how much institutional power to set the agenda and enforce minimum standards of public conduct has shifted away from the news media.
I don't know whether Sanders will win the nomination and I don't know whether he can win the general election, but if he's the nominee, he may be the first Democrat who can do what Republicans do routinely: run again the press.

That slogan didn't work for George H.W. Bush, but the attitude worked for Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and Bush's son. The attitude helps Trump build voter loyalty.

No Democratic presidential candidate has tried seriously to use resentment of the media in a campaign. I don't like it when Republicans do it, and I don't think I'll like it if Sanders does it (even though I complain regularly about the media myself), because in a campaign it comes off as right-wing framing, and as an assault on an institution that, when it functions properly, can serve as a check on politicians who abuse power.

I may not like it, but I know it works. It will be fascinating if Sanders consciously tries to leverage popular suspicion of the media, or if his voter base remains passionate in part because of distrust of the press. It's a weapon Democrats haven't used -- and it can be a powerful one.

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