For a long time, as he campaigned for president, a wide spectrum of establishment media insisted that Bernie Sanders couldn’t win. Now they’re sounding the alarm that he might.
And, just in case you haven’t gotten the media message yet — Sanders is “angry,” kind of like Donald Trump.
Elite media often blur distinctions between right-wing populism and progressive populism—as though there’s not all that much difference between appealing to xenophobia and racism on the one hand and appealing for social justice and humanistic solidarity on the other.
Many journalists can’t resist lumping Trump and Sanders together as rabble-rousing outliers. But in the real world, the differences are vast.
Donald Trump is to Bernie Sanders as Archie Bunker is to Jon Stewart.
Among regular New York Times columnists, aversion to Bernie Sanders has become more pronounced in recent days at both ends of the newspaper’s ideological spectrum, such as it is. Republican Party aficionado David Brooks (whose idea of a good political time is Marco Rubio) has been freaking out in print, most recently with a Tuesday column headlined “Stay Sane America, Please!”
Brooks warned that his current nightmare for the nation is in triplicate—President Trump, President Cruz or President Sanders. For Brooks, all three contenders appear to be about equally awful; Trump is “one of the most loathed men in American public life,” while “America has never elected a candidate maximally extreme from the political center, the way Sanders and Cruz are.”
That “political center” of power sustains huge income inequality, perpetual war, scant action on climate change and reflexive support for the latest unhinged escalation of the nuclear arms race. In other words, what C. Wright Mills called “crackpot realism.”
Meanwhile, liberal Times columnist Paul Krugman (whose idea of a good political time is Hillary Clinton) keeps propounding a stand-on-head formula for social change—a kind of trickle-down theory of political power, in which “happy dreams” must yield to “hard thinking,” a euphemism for crackpot realism.
An excellent rejoinder has come from former Labor Secretary Robert Reich. “Krugman doesn’t get it,” Reich wrote. “I’ve been in and around Washington for almost fifty years, including a stint in the cabinet, and I’ve learned that real change happens only when a substantial share of the American public is mobilized, organized, energized, and determined to make it happen.