Bernie Sanders and the Media

Now that Bernie Sanders has officially initiated his presidential campaign for the nomination of the Democratic Party his marginalization by the media is underway. Recently Sanders gave a speech, in which he said,

“If 99 percent of all the new income goes to the top 1 percent, you could triple it, it wouldn’t matter much to the average middle class person. The whole size of the economy and the GDP doesn’t matter if people continue to work longer hours for low wages and you have 45 million people living in poverty. You can’t just continue growth for the sake of growth in a world in which we are struggling with climate change and all kinds of environmental problems. All right? You don’t necessarily need a choice of 23 underarm spray deodorants or of 18 different pairs of sneakers when children are hungry in this country”.

To anyone with half a brain it is quite clear what he is talking about. He is positing the illusion of choice so many of us experience when we walk into a grocery store, or a pharmacy. Instead of having a real choice as to the economic security of their own lives the 45 million people living in poverty are given innumerable choices in the kind of deodorant, perfume, toothpaste, shoes, shirts, and other consumer goods they can buy; if they can afford to buy them at all. What good is an economy that only provides economic growth to those who are already awash in money? Certainly the absolute standard of living may be increasing due to the incredible amount of total growth and wealth accumulation. In fact, it could theoretically double in size. But when the share of that wealth accessed and controlled by the average working American shrinks, though they might be in an absolute sense increasingly, materially well off, they are also, in a relative sense, increasingly subservient to the ruling class.

The real choice we need is in the economic organization of our society, not just in the distribution of its social surplus, nor in the variety of its consumer goods. But if you are Jim Tankersly of The Washington Post what Bernie Sanders is saying is apparently, “The literal implication of that last sentence is that there some kind of a national trade-off between antiperspirant/Air Jordan variety and food for children. This makes sense if you believe that the government should be allocating the resources in the economy — in this case, directing fewer of them to personal hygiene and footwear and more to child nutrition”.

Issues such as these are so rarely discussed at a national level that it is not too surprising that someone like Tankersly has no idea what Sanders is saying. And of course to Conservatives it really does sound to them like he is trying to take away your liberty by arguing that we don’t need a thousand different versions of armpit perfume. To them he is a socialist simply for making that argument. Of course, like most anything else with the Beltway media and Conservatives, it does not matter if it is true. They will make the argument anyway.

Bernie Sanders is not a socialist. In one of a dozen European countries he is a social democrat, well within the margins of mainstream political and economic orthodoxy. He believes in expanding the welfare state and reigning in capitalism through the strict regulatory management of monopoly capitalism; breaking big companies down into smaller ones, raising wages, raising taxes on the wealthy, etc. A socialist does not want to regulate or reform capitalism, a socialist wants to overthrow capitalism by giving working people control over the means of production and thus control over the distribution of the social surplus.

For simply expressing ideas that are anything but radical in pretty much every country on the European continent Sanders is not credible to many in the establishment media. Plus, the fact that Sanders is not operating a PAC, nor is he going around the country begging billionaires for cash, cash, cash is evidence of his un-electability. Not to mention his Brooklyn accent and his hair, reminiscent of Ernie from Sesame Street. The one context in which much of the press corp. seems comfortable talking about Sanders is in relation to Hilary Clinton; how his campaign will affect Clinton’s, will it push her further to the left, etc.

An amusing tidbit from the New York Times: “Judging from Mr. Sanders’s trip [to Iowa] last week, there is real support for his message — though some Democrats also simply want to send a warning shot to Mrs. Clinton to get her to visit here more”. Yes, your average Democratic Primary voter in Iowa is interested only in attending a Bernie Sanders rally rather than taking their children to the movies, the park, or in some other way spending enjoyable time with their family, for the sake of sending a message to Hilary Clinton about visiting their town more often. The fact that such text can even appear in a paper as supposedly credible as the NYT is evidence of just how awful journalism is anymore.

In the same NYT article a political science professor named Steffen Schmidt from Iowa State University argues that in the wake of Sanders events in Iowa which drew large crowds, sometimes bubbling over in people that some hundred observers or so were forced to watch a rally from outside a local brewery, Clinton should be worried. She should be worried because Iowa Democrats feel neglected and despise Clinton’s listening tour campaign wherein she offers little in the way of policy prescription, but instead hears voters out. Yes, heaven forbid a political candidate offer people an opportunity to express themselves. Yes, I’m sure they feel neglected because Clinton is not making stump speeches to rally the troops. It likely has little to nothing to do with the economic depression through which tens of millions of Americans are currently suffering. But this is par for the course when it comes to political analysis in modern America.



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