The Dirty Establishment Media War To Stop Bernie Sanders


The more they hate him, the more people love him. And by ‘they’, Lucas Grainger-Brown means establishment media cheering for establishment politicians.

You know you’re doing something right when special interests try to shut you down. In the Democratic Party presidential primaries, Bernie Sanders and his platform are routinely transfigured into straw men and pummelled by the punditry. And yet his following just keeps on growing.

The grassroots momentum that Sanders has built against Clinton, the Establishment Democrat candidate, is silenced in the mainstream media. Deliciously, this flagrant agenda seems to be predisposing disenfranchised voters to feel the Bern.

Since March 22 Sanders has won seven states straight with an average 73 per cent of the vote. He won Wyoming yesterday. There is now a difference of 219 pledged delegates between Clinton and Sanders. The media consistently reports this gap as insurmountable. Never mind that there are still 18 states – including California, New York and Pennsylvania, three of the five largest states – and a combined delegate pool of 1941 still in play.

US Presidential Democratic nominee, Bernie Sanders. (IMAGE: Phil Roeder, Flickr)
US Presidential Democratic nominee, Bernie Sanders. (IMAGE: Phil Roeder, Flickr)

What’s more, the poll turnaround has been nothing short of phenomenal.

Over the past 100 days, since January 1, 2016 the RealClearPolitics polling average has swung 19 per cent in Sanders’ favour. The difference is currently 4.8 per cent. There are just over 100 days to go until the Democratic convention in mid June.

Modelling by The New York Times indicates that Sanders needs to win an average 59 per cent of all remaining states to win the Democratic nomination. But averages hide the decisive role that perceptions of inevitability, credibility and electability play in getting out a constituency that isn’t compelled to vote. If Sanders were to win New York on April 19, all bets would be off for the remaining states and the Democratic primary would go from fiercely contested to anyone’s prize.

Wouldn’t that be something? A democratic socialist funded solely by individual voters neck and neck with the super-PAC backed favourite. This, not the meandering muse for #MakeDonaldDrumpfAgain, is the real story of the 2016 Presidential election. Instead Sanders’ rise has been sat on with prejudice by corporate-owned partisans posing as journalists.

CNN and MSNBC have made a smirking parlour game out of patronising Sanders and his supporters. He is cut off repeatedly in public debates. His supporters are ridiculed as cultist ‘Bernie Bros’ and ‘low information’ voters. In op-ed land, Sanders – an elected representative of over 30 years with an impeccable liberal record – is variously a fraud, inexperienced, an idiot, a rumpled old man, a sexist, and a gun lover.

And the news divisions of the big, respectable broadsheets are almost as bad.

On March 7, the day before he won Wisconsin, the Washington Post published one anti-Sanders article an hour for 16 hours. The New York Times endorsed Clinton as far back as January 31, before the primaries had even begun. To give an example of their coverage since then, on March 14 the Times was infamously called out by readers for ‘stealth editing’ an online article that was initially favourable to Sanders back towards the trenchant norm.

Donald Trump speaking at the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. (IMAGE: Gage Skidmore, Flickr).
Donald Trump speaking at the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. (IMAGE: Gage Skidmore, Flickr).

On April 1 the New York Daily News orchestrated a marathon charade of an interview, grilling Sanders with factually inaccurate gotcha questions. Even the Times put down their Clinton pom poms to call foul. Most everyone else ran with the story. The Daily News is still using their gotchas to devise front-page smear jobs.

And now the bit that just makes me sad. Yesterday Sanders announced, with obvious pride, that he had been invited to visit the Vatican to attend a conference on reinserting morality into capitalism. That’s incredible, right? The Vatican effectively intervenes in a political contest based on the moral strength of a candidate. Unheard of. Most news outlets responded by covering an hysterical allegation that Sanders had invited himself for political gain. If you don’t laugh, you’d cry.

Perhaps more damaging than all the instances of belittling Sanders, is the broader suffocation of his campaign. An oft-cited study commissioned by the Times notes that Trump received $1.8b worth of free media up to March 21. Less remarked upon is the fact that Clinton received more than double the free coverage of Sanders, at $746m to $321m respectively. Despite the fact that this contest should be compulsive viewing.

To be honest, Sanders surprised me. I had no idea that a genuine, principled and utterly uncorrupted politician could survive in the bought-and-sold Grindhouse that is the American political system. He really has been advocating equity all his adult life (and, in fairness, that linked article is part of a long-overdue pseudo-restoration of balance at the Times in recent days).

US presidential hopeful, Hillary Clinton. (IMAGE: Karen Murphy, Flickr)
US presidential hopeful, Hillary Clinton. (IMAGE: Karen Murphy, Flickr)

Sanders’ policies are all costed and considered and every bit the return to Roosevelt’s New Deal that America badly needs after Wall Street’s implosion. Ethically, his ideas harmonise with the social justice philosophy of Dr. Martin Luther King, whom he marched with back in 1963.

You and I haven’t heard the actual details of the Sanders’ policy platform because it strikes at the heart of crony capitalism. Not the economy; only inequity. There is a reason Bernie’s off to the Vatican. The reaction against him is a function of a venal Party system that became an oligarchy a long time ago and views progressive economic reform as a threat to its donors.

If anything, however, the Sanders case is heartening. It shows the limits of even absolute media power.

So-called liberal media hacks and their ‘Republican lite’ Democrat owners have been unsuccessfully attacking Sanders for six months now. Every day that Sanders has lasted, an increasing number of Democrats have flipped to him. 84 per cent of Democrats aged 17 to 29, the future of the Party, supports him over Clinton.

Win, lose or get run over by a media pack, the political movement that Sanders has mobilised will reshape leftist politics in America. The corporate media has only itself to blame. Their flagrant bias has created antithetical support among the disillusioned.

As Mahatma Ghandi said, ‘First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you — then you win.’

Lucas is a writer and a postgraduate student at The University of Melbourne. His research interest is the genealogy of Australian conservatism. He blogs at