The myth of inevitability, and why Bernie isn’t done for (yet)
After the New Hampshire primary, you could have been forgiven if you thought that the primary season was all but over. Hillary Clinton had been bested by a substantial margin by the underdog, her route to a coronation now blocked by a socialist-cum-democratic socialist.
Hillary had a solid week of terrible press stories about her flailing campaign and rumors began to fly of an impending “shake up” of her staff (which, by the way, never actually came). Bernie Sanders was riding high, and was reaching out to Latinos and African-Americans to expand his appeal beyond the white, liberal voters that dominated the first two contests. The revolution was nigh!
Only it wasn’t, as we found out last Saturday when Hillary bested Bernie by a small but respectable six points in the Nevada caucuses. A caucus format should have benefited Bernie because of the alleged “enthusiasm gap” between candidates (a gap I would contend does not exist, but that’s for another posting). And Bernie had been outspending Hillary two-to-one on advertising in the run-up to the caucuses.
But he didn’t close the gap, and he lost, and now the media has swung in the opposite direction to declare Sanders and his campaign to be floundering. Bernie has already ensured a couple of days’ worth of bad press, and is likely to face more. The interesting thing here (to me, at least) is that the press has swung so quickly from a Hillary-is-on-the-ropes narrative to a Bernie-is-dying-on-vine one.
Hillary was never the Democratic party’s inevitable nominee. She started her campaign with a number of advantages (a strong donor base, name recognition, foreign policy experience most of her opponents would lack), but there are also a sizeable number of people who would always have sought an alternative. Whether that alternative was Bernie Sanders or Martin O’Malley or Elizabeth Warren is kind of irrelevant — there was always a market for the anybody-but-Hillary crowd. And let’s face it, the press doesn’t like Hillary, they wanted the Democratic primary to be a horse race, and they were going to do what was necessary to achieve that. Any honest person with an even passing familiarity of her campaign’s press coverage would have to agree she’s been treated roughly. The press has been dying to take her down for 20 years or so now, and this campaign is probably it’s best chance to do so.
On the flip side, Bernie isn’t yet toast. He still has buckets of money to spend through March, and is likely to rack up a number of additional state wins. His campaign is in trouble, don’t get me wrong — he’s heading into a couple of weeks of losing much more than he wins, and his path to the nomination is fraught, absent the long-promised indictment of Hillary for all of her evil deeds. Given the level of turnout in the primaries so far, we might legitimately begin to question whether there really is a revolution coming. But it’s not yet time to stick a fork in him.
Maybe the solution is that the press should stop jumping to conclusions. There’s far more analysis than is helpful in the modern media, and far less actual reporting of facts. Thank the rise of the 24-hour news channels and info-opinion-tainment for that. But it would be great if the press could bottle the antics a bit, and just stick to the facts until we have a few more primaries behind us.