Bernie Sanders is surging in polls from Iowa to California. He consistently polls as the most trustworthy Democratic candidate and the most likely to beat Donald Trump. He leads Democratic candidates in fundraising by a healthy margin. And this is while many media organizations have attempted to downplay his campaign or outright ignored it.
Clearly that strategy hasn’t worked, so it must be time to go after Sanders instead.
This week alone, four major publications published hit pieces on Sanders. POLITICO reported on exacerbated Democrats desperate to stop him. The New York Times focused a triple-byline story on the tired nasty Bernie Bro narrative. The Atlantic commissioned“Axis of Evil” speechwriter David Frum to write that “Bernie Can’t Win.” And on Tuesday morning, the New Yorker’s resident centrist whiner Jonathan Chait equated a Sanders nomination to “insanity.”
It’s no coincidence that these stories all published less than a week before the Iowa caucuses. Establishment types hoped Sanders would simply fade out of the race. Ignoring him didn’t work and now they’re panicking over the very real possibility of Bernie winning Iowa and building momentum from there.
But the real irony is that these stories effectively cancel each other out. POLITICO and the Times make Sanders seem like an unstoppable political force backed by an army of internet trolls. Frum and Chait, meanwhile, paint Sanders and his campaign as hapless, unpopular and incapable of winning a general election against Trump. Both narratives can’t be true at the same time. And in this case, neither are.
Chait says that Sanders positions are “unpopular.” But the truth is that Americans largely agree with Bernie on issues ranging from healthcare to cancelling student debt. This isn’t the first time Chait’s severely misdiagnosed a political moment. Far from it, in fact. When Trump was surging in the Republican primary, Chait told liberals they should welcome a Trump candidacy in 2016. He famously proclaimed Trump wouldn’t win Michigan (narrator’s voice: Trump did). As recently as September, Chait wrote that Elizabeth Warren was “on a trajectory to win the Democratic presidential nomination” despite not leading any polls.
Frum is as bad a political prognosticator as Chait. He’s spent the years since Trump’s election fashioning himself as a reasonable Republican who knows how Democrats can win elections. But his claims that Sanders hasn’t faced substantial opposition research is simply untrue. Frum’s piece is mostly comprised of linking out to other publications touting reasons Sanders isn’t electable; he offers no original thoughts or empirical evidence to support his argument.
Maladroit opinion writers like Chait and Frum are easy to clown. It’s even easier to make fun of The New York Times when it commits three writers to a piece about Bernie Bros. The story’s supposed victims of bro harassment could easily be characterized as anti-Sanders trolls, particularly Oregon-based lawyer Candice Aiston, whose twitter behavior was combative enough to warrant her suspension from the microblogging social media platform.
— Joe Biden is a Racist (@BethLynch2020) January 27, 2020
In years past, pieces like these could tank a candidate’s chances. But this many negative pieces right in a row is actually a good sign for Sanders. It proves two things: that the media and entrenched establishment are finally taking him seriously, and that his supporters can quickly recognize bad faith arguments against their candidate.