I have never been a big fan of Bernie Sanders. His authoritarian tendencies and aggressive attacks on any who would disagree have outweighed the good in him.
The good is his working-class voice, emphasis on economic issues, and some solid ideas. But his recent lashing out at The Washington Post, where he accused the progressive beacon of punishing him, carried an air of populist paranoia — so much so he’s being likened to Donald Trump.
Sanders’ day in the sun was the 2016 presidential race when he seriously challenged Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton for the party nomination. That day is past.
Among Democrats, Sanders trails Joe Biden by 13 percentage points, according to a recent Morning Consult poll. Elizabeth Warren, meanwhile, is almost nipping at his heels.
Sanders may do OK in the first two contests, Iowa and New Hampshire, where the liberal white gentry wields many Democratic votes. But he will undoubtedly crash in the Southern primaries to follow, where African Americans are the deciders. Sanders generally does not bond with black voters, who tend to be more conservative. Quinnipiac puts him at only 8 percent among black Democratic primary voters.
Sanders did himself no good in 2016 when, having been trounced by Clinton in the Southern primaries, he waved away those contests as unimportant. In his worldview, what helps him matters. What doesn’t help him doesn’t matter. You’re for him or against him.
Still, it was surprising to hear Sanders decry persecution by the Post. Amazon paid no taxes last year, he told a crowd in New Hampshire. “And then I wonder why The Washington Post — which is owned by Jeff Bezos, who owns Amazon — doesn’t write particularly good articles about me.”
The Post publishes far less good articles about Trump. And Trump wields a far greater threat against Bezos’ business interests than Sanders ever could. The parallels between Trump and Sanders blaming liberal news sources for their setbacks is pretty glaring. Trump issues frequent Tweets against “the Amazon Washington Post.”
But it’s not just The Post’s picking on Sanders, according to his campaign. It’s “the media.”
“The hyper-overreaction from many in the media to Senator Sanders’ critique reveals a bias,” according to campaign manager Faiz Shakir, as reported by Politico. “There is a sneering, contemptuous disdain that infuses those comments and a willingness to put words into Bernie’s mouth that he just didn’t use.”
The Post‘s executive editor, Marty Baron, would have none of this.
“Sen. Sanders is a member of a large club of politicians — of every ideology — who complain about their coverage,” Baron said in a statement. “Contrary to the conspiracy theory the senator seems to favor, Jeff Bezos allows our newsroom to operate with full independence, as our reporters and editors can attest.”
For the record, Biden reportedly isn’t so happy with his general coverage, either.
Sanders supporters now have Elizabeth Warren to carry the torch on such ideas as “Medicare for All.” Not that it’s wise politics. It polls poorly once the public understands it would mean losing private coverage. Warren does have an electoral advantage over Sanders in calling herself a capitalist as opposed to a socialist. Her speeches are also less of a looping tape.
Interestingly, though, more Sanders supporters back Biden as their second choice than they do Warren. This may reflect Sanders’ populist appeal to working-class voters rather than interest in his programs.
Sanders was never much of a team player in the Democratic Party. Indeed, he seeks the affiliation only when he’s running for office.
Anyhow, his comet is on the way down. It’s legacy time. Sanders should stop the angry thrashing and start a slow stroll for the gates with dignity.