Have the media stopped feeling “the Bern”? Or has the Democratic Party, which should probably be renamed the Clintoncratic National Committee, extinguished the fire?
Sen. Bernie Sanders deserves far more attention than he’s getting. The 74-year-old frowzy-haired Democratic Socialist from Brooklyn by way of Vermont raised $33 million in the fourth quarter of 2015. That’s just $4 million less than Hillary Clinton.
People vote with dollars, as any tearful hater of money in politics will tell you. When it comes to Sanders, lots of folks throw in small amounts of cash. So when he raises $33 million in three months, it means a lot of people care.
Beyond the fundraising, poll numbers in early primary states justify a much brighter spotlight on Sanders than the media shine.
According to the Real Clear Politics poll average, Clinton is beating Sanders by 50 percent to 37 percent in Iowa. But he’s investing huge resources there, and in caucuses, it’s passion that brings people out. Clinton inspires passion among more Republicans than supporters.
And Sanders is beating Clinton in New Hampshire, 49-45. New Hampshire borders Vermont and residents know Sanders. But the states are political opposites, so his support there is not without meaning.
So why have the media not maintained a focus on Sanders? I think it’s partly because he’s been consistent in his beliefs for four decades in political life and in his appearances on the trail. That’s commendable. It’s even presidential. But the sixth story or column about Sanders’ support for more and bigger social programs, much higher taxes on the rich, fewer wars, more environmental regulation, and health care and education for all is going to read a lot like the first. Even yesterday’s announcement that he would break up Wall Street was right in line with past proclamations.
With Donald Trump, on the other hand, you get constant shifts in topics. You never really know which ethnic group he’s going to hammer, or what genital slang he’s going to invent or which candidate or media member he’s going to accuse of horrifying shortcomings. The other Republicans, too, are exciting in a sort of “Survivor: Iowa” way.
And the media never know exactly what Clinton is going to support, at least not until she’s seen the morning polls. Whether it’s an oil pipeline, a trade agreement, attacks on other nations or big contributions from Wall Street, she’s willing to be for or against. The slogan would best read: “Hillary: She believes what you believe . . . today.”
And she and her husband are exerting extraordinary control over the party. That’s why the Democrats are having so few debates, and at such odd times. They don’t want Sanders to publicize the fact that he plans to fight for all the stuff Democratic voters have wanted since the 1960s, and Clinton, thanks to “pragmatism,” won’t.
I’m not a Democrat. Much of what Sanders believes hurts my head. But I love him on liberties and peace and justice, and I admire his consistency.
Sanders is a U.S. senator raising tons of money, competing strongly in Iowa, leading in New Hampshire, gaining ground in South Carolina.
He is being stymied by a shallow media take on the Democrats and a party establishment fully committed to a candidate, in Clinton, who would likely be a decent manager of the nation but has huge likability problems and no identifiable moral center.
Clinton’s attempt to control the process is understandable. But the party’s willingness to go along is foolish. And the media’s complicity is shameful.
Lane Filler is a member of Newsday’s editorial board.