We have been discussing the openly hostile treatment of Bernie Sanders on MSNBC by hosts like Rachel Maddow. MSNBC has often been cited with CNN as one of the main voices of the Democratic establishment working against Sanders. On the eve of the all-important Michigan primary, MSNBC was true to form and script with a bizarre question by MSNBC Katy Tur: “Can he continue to blame the establishment if he loses in Michigan?” For those of us who are alarmed by the bias against Sanders by the media and political establishment, the question showed an utter lack of self-awareness. If Sanders loses today, it will come after a concerted effort of virtually every establishment candidate in the country. Why would a loss after such a crushing campaign by the establishment be proof that there was no campaign by the establishment? This does not mean that many voters honestly do not support Sanders’ radical agenda, but Tur’s comments reflects an effort to deny what has been obvious and open in the long-effort to derail Sanders.
I have written about about my unease with the media establishment in its coverage of Sanders, a view strengthened after I visited with Sanders supporters at their massive Ann Arbor rally (here, here, and here). While I disagree with Sanders, I admire the excitement that he had brought to millions, including a huge following of young voters.
Tur’s comments reflect the type scripted coverage that has become the norm for this echo-journalistic age.
“Can he continue to blame the establishment if he loses in Michigan? He said the establishment Democrats have — he said that they pressured Amy Klobuchar, they pressured Pete Buttigieg, although Buttigieg denied it, to drop out of the race and endorse Joe Biden. Can you continue to blame the Democratic establishment if you’re not winning the kind of voters that you said you were gonna win?”
The response from Politico reporter Tim Alberta was “You know, he can try but I think fewer and fewer people are going to buy it, quite frankly.”
For Sanders supporters that I spoke with, there is a feeling of propaganda in such comments. It is certainly detached from any logic. First, the fact that Klobuchar and Buttigieg denied knuckling under to the pressure of the party is obviously predictable and largely meaningless. The point is that there has been an obvious and overwhelming effort of the political and hmedia establishment to derail Sanders, including openly hostile treatment on MSNBC and CNN. A loss today would not be evidence that it did not exist. Rather, a loss would seem to show that the campaign has been successful.
Yet this type of denial has become a mantra on MSNBC, including the recently absurd comment from MSNBC anchor Nicolle Wallace that “The Democratic establishment did nothing for Joe Biden.” The political establishment is entirely lined up against Sanders and both MSNBC and CNN has been unrelentingly hostile to his campaign for months.
As reflected by Tur’s and Wallace’s comments, the Democratic establishment seems now to be moving to the second phase of this project: to convince voters that it played no role in the demise of Sanders. The muscle play against Sanders has left many of his supporters angry and isolated. The establishment now wants them to serve as foot soldiers for Biden. As I discussed, many are not buying the new spin that that the establishment really did not care if Biden won and did nothing to crush Sanders. It is hard to convince these voters that the bus that just hit them was entirely in their head.