A spectre is haunting the Democratic Party--the spectre of Bernie Sanders. And all the powers of legacy media have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this spectre.
Last week, as Americans prepared to cast the first votes of the 2020 presidential campaign in Iowa, a sandbag brigade of centrist columnists suddenly assembled to build a wall to contain the overflowing river of popularity that Bernie Sanders was enjoying, popularity that had long been clear to anyone who didn’t own a private parking space.
Today, as the outpouring of support for the democratic socialist from Vermont has topped their hastily built levy, the gatekeepers of conventional wisdom wade through the flotsam of their writer’s dens and ask themselves: “How has this happened again?”
In the years following President Trump’s election, the centrist intelligentsia of both left and right surveyed the ruined political landscape and, foreseeing what would come next from the restive American public whose motives they no longer understood, arrived at an unspoken compact: Not Bernie, Not Ever. The next standard-bearer for the Democrats would receive the nods of Jamie Dimon and Jeff Bezos or they would not rise at all.
And so a bubble of self-delusion swelled as MSM pushed now Beto, now Kamala to the front of the pack, avoided any mention of national polls showing Bernie’s tight second place position in favor of Pete Buttigieg’s amazing fourth place performance, and in essence, cancelled Bernie Sanders as any kind of presence in the contest, much less a contender.
But as Iowa approached and Bernie’s numbers refused to shrink, the bubble at last split open.
First there was the calamitous and sexist effort by Elizabeth Warren, in co-ordination with CNN, to #MeToo Bernie with an unverifiable claim that, in private, Bernie had told Warren that a female candidate could not overcome Trump’s chauvinism. One million snake emoji’s later, Warren, once the grin-and-bare-it candidate for wealthy moderates, now looks like an also-ran.
Then, a bigger blow to the movement to un-person Bernie arrived when podcast heavyweight Joe Rogan, a moderate progressive with a fan base of tens of millions of skeptical, anti-establishment bros, tossed his support to Senator Sanders. Bernie had now successfully parried a jab from the waning palookas of cable news and returned with a strong right hook from New Media.
With Bernie suddenly a full length ahead of Joe Biden heading into Iowa, the panicked commentariat responded with one editorial after another, each a grave and pious bull demanding an immediate halt to this catastrophe in the making, and many of them penned by Never Trump conservatives tired of living in the thickets.
Most of these decrees bore an iron-fisted headline seemingly meant to crush the spirit of resistance through sheer force of will. “Bernie Can’t Win” was the edict from David Frum, who trotted out what was to be a near unanimous (some might say “coordinated”) bill of particulars against Bernie.
“Bernie Sanders is a fragile candidate. He has never fought a race in which he had to face serious personal scrutiny,” Frum warned. “The Trump campaign will not steer clear. It will hit him with everything it’s got.”
Shocker. And what will those armaments be?
It will depict him as a Communist in the grip of twisted sexual fantasies, a useless career politician who oversaw a culture of sexual harassment in his 2016 campaign. (…) The members of the team around Sanders…have been the Minutemen fighting the Redcoats, picking off the other side’s regulars from behind trees and fences. Now they are about to experience what happens when a militia faces off on an open field against a ruthless modern army with cluster bombs and napalm. They will be shredded and torched.
Frum, an Iraq War salesman, would know all about shredding citizen soldiers with cluster bombs. But Frum’s own article proved that Bernie has a deft skill at avoiding the obvious ‘gotcha’ landmines that a less “fragile” pol would gladly stomp on.
The evidence was a Democratic debate in LA where a moderator tried to slip an albatross around Bernie’s neck with a question about a recent uptick in deaths of black transgender prostitutes. Bernie artfully moved the topic towards health care, his wheelhouse. Elizabeth Warren, on the other hand, took the bait and pledged that she would turn her every Rose Garden appearance into a Transgender Day of Remembrance. Is it any wonder that Bernie is sprinting to the finish line while Liz Warren is stuck scraping this kind of dog shit off her shoe?
Over at the Bulwark, the online residue of Bill Kristol’s scuttled neo-conservative flagship the Weekly Standard, novelist William North Patterson’s issues with Bernie shared the same concern-trolling character as Frum’s. William began with a similar extinction level headline (“This Is How Trump Would Destroy Bernie Sanders”), and then warned that:
Sanders remains more likely to split the party than win its nomination. And in the unlikely event that he does, Democrats would then be tethered to the candidate of Donald Trump’s most ardent dreams.
Citing no less an expert on deviancy than tentacle porn fetishist Kurt Eichenwald, Patterson cautioned that Bernie is , of course, a pervert…
When he was 31, Sanders wrote a fictitious essay in which he described a woman enjoying being raped by three men.
…Before dumping cold water on the idea that soft-hearted Bernie could withstand the Hiroshima that awaits him once he wakes the sleeping giant of Trump:
From Clinton, Sanders enjoyed a privileged immunity. What Trump would dispense is Hobbesian savagery.
(Trump, of course, will offer no toys for Bernie to play with. Yes, Donald Trump is currently accused of molesting half the female population of earth. Yes, he was a friend of Jeffrey Epstein’s. Yes, President Donald Trump once lost a battle of wits to an umbrella. Yes, at official functions Trump must be steered like an RC car by his handlers. And yes, it is true that the president sometimes steps to a podium with pupils the size of dinner plates to describe the latest developments in a brewing war with Iran while slurring and mispronouncing simple words. But trust me, these are things that Bernie Sanders’ rumored army of online a-holes will never be able to weaponize.)
For Patterson and his ilk, facing the truth that Bernie is the man for this hour is like pouring salt on a slug, The inescapable fact that a person with an unimpeachable track record of public service is the natural, inevitable answer to a president with the ethics of Baron Harkonnen is something that Republicans-in-exile cannot bear to hear. This is why Michael Gerson, writing for the Washington Post, warns Democrats that:
Trying to make Trump into a symbol of Republicanism is not only substantively absurd; it would also be strategically disastrous. (…) Trump must be seen as an aberration, as sui generis. Those who embrace his cause are not being good Republicans but bad ones. They are engaged in something novel and nasty.
New York Times’ columnist and race realist Brett Stephens similarly demands that Democrats not bruise the conservative ego with a choice as stark as the one posed by Bernie Sanders:
The winning Democrat will need to make Trump’s presidency seem insignificant rather than monumental — an unsightly pimple on our long republican experiment, not a fatal cancer within it.
(You can call it a case of cooties all you want, kiddo, but that blood in your handkerchief ain’t lying.)
Conservatives, however, aren’t the only ones with their egos on the line. Centrism makes for strange bedfellows, so here comes Jonathan Chait with his Bernie-bashin’ article for the Intelligencer. Surprise! It’s the same list of non-obstacles that the conservatives crapped out.
We’ve got the hysterical headline (“Running Bernie Sanders Against Trump Would Be an Act of Insanity”), warnings of Hobbesian savagery on the horizon (“Sanders has never faced an electorate where these vulnerabilities could be used against him”), perversion (“bizarre youthful musings --such as his theory that sexual repression causes breast cancer”) and then, of course, the bunker buster:
Many people have gotten the impression “socialism” is actually popular, which is absolutely not the case.
(tap tap) Is this thing on? Perhaps you didn’t hear me: I said “SOCIALISM”!!
The most comical aspect of every one of these attempts to sting Bernie with his own ideology is the realization that the word “socialist” doesn’t vaporize the competition the way it used to. Bernie’s willingness to slap his big red balls right on the table is half of his appeal, and it’s as daring and welcome a “fuck you” to the gatekeepers as was Trump cockslapping Jeb Bush with the Iraq War his brother started.
To the MoveOn wing of the Democratic Party who are now at risk of being cast into the wilderness the way conservatives were in 2016, it is their very political identities that are at stake. Is anyone surprised that a soft-palmed limp dick like Jonathan Chait — who in 2016 watched protesters shut down a planned Trump rally in Chicago and called it a “horror” — looks upon the rumpled hunchback from Vermont and sees a Balrog?
But the ersatz Left wasn’t done yet! Matt Bennett, an executive vice-president for Third Way (a corporate-pork fueled think tank trafficking in wet-blanket neo-liberalism) took to the pages of USA Today to deliver the standard line against Bernie that you, dear reader, now know by rote: apocalyptic headline (“Democrats court doom by backing Bernie Sanders”), the Red Scare (“Trump will rightly call Sanders ‘socialist’…The charge would stick”), and Bernie’s lifetime spent in a cocoon of privilege (“Sanders has never won anything that really matters outside of Vermont”).
Surprisingly, there is nothing about Bernie shoving pineapples up his ass or anything of that sort, but there is a warning that in the former Blue Wall states (where Trump’s support remains soft), Bernie risks losing precious swing voters, those gormless clucks and last minute coin tossers whose vote could hinge on the whiteness of a candidate’s teeth or the number of contrails in the sky on election day.
It’s a risk worth taking
The final nail in the coffin for these debunked palm readers—who, mind you, claim that defeating Donald Trump is their number one priority--comes from the Orange One himself. Thanks to Lev Parnas, the Trump Mafia soldier turned stool pigeon, we now know exactly which candidate puts a finger up Trump’s spine.
At a swank dinner held at Trump Tower in 2018, Parnas recorded a conversation that took place between Donald Trump and some of his biggest donors and sycophants. There, as steel magnates and real estate moguls fellated the President’s ego with Linda Lovelace exuberance before politely requesting that Trump make good on the favors they had purchased, the President himself confessed the one name that gives him butterflies.
If Bernie would have been vice-president it would have been tougher…he basically says we’re being screwed on trade, and he’s right. Had (Hillary) picked Bernie Sanders it would have been tougher. He was the only one I didn’t want her to pick.
If the New York Times heard this audio before making their Iowa Caucus endorsement, do you think it would have made a difference? When you consider the invertebrate courage that went into their meaningless split decision for Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar, probably not.
But more importantly, who cares? Can political handicappers this handicapped even be said to matter anymore?
Whatever the next few months portend for the final confrontation in November, what’s clear is that journalism’s Middle Class soothsayers have chattered their last bit of credible wisdom for this age. Their fingers can no longer find the pulse of the American voter. They blew the call on Trump, and now they have failed to comprehend Bernie—two halves of a new paradigm that the old school pundits ensconced at the Times and the Atlantic and New York magazine can not see taking shape all around them.
The Chaits and the Frums, the Brooks’ and the Stephens’… their race is run. The future of measuring and moving the thoughts of the electorate belongs to knuckle-draggers like Joe Rogan, Chapo Trap House… even Tim Pool. They are the ones escorting the Bobos and the bedbugs out of the Pundits Club and tucking them into their limousines.
(Oh, you drove yourself here in your Model S, Mr. Patterson? Thanks for caring about Mother Earth. Safe home!)
When not bayoneting Romanovs, Jason Yungbluth draws comic books, including one called Weapon Brown.
Previously: The Rise of Skywalker