The media are more interested in what nasty stuff this guy has
to say about Hillary Clinton than the state of the nation.
The traditional media coverage of Bernie Sanders's first official campaign speech points to what we can count on for as long as the senator is in the race. Everybody, Sanders included, knows his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination is a long shot. And his self-identification as a socialist makes him a perfect target for marginalization even though that socialism is actually social democratic and not the least bit radical by European standards.
His proposed agenda is really not much more than what might be expected—80 years down the road—in an upgrade and modernization of the New Deal. Why this isn't worth serious attention from what are supposed to be society's watchdogs in an age when the right and its enablers are eagerly doing what they can to dismantle or defund New Deal programs says a lot about how concentrated ownership continues to undermine democracy.
Big media apparently won't stick with mere marginalization, however. They are determined to give us stuff like this grotesque piece by Jim Tankersley—Sorry, Bernie Sanders. Deodorant isn’t starving America’s children.
That most television coverage—including MSNBC—couldn't bear to hang around for Sanders's speech Tuesday demonstrates once again one of the reasons it's so hard to have a real political discussion. Simon Malloy at Salon focuses on The media’s sickening Sanders double standard: How the socialist brings out their true colors:
The Bernie 2016 boomlet is clearly a bit puzzling to reporters, who don’t seem to know what to do with Sanders beyond treating him as a foil to Hillary, and so they default to doing nothing, even as every utterance of GOP candidates who are polling below 2 percent merits its own headline. There are clear double standards at play, and one of them pertains to how reporters cover a candidate who is unreservedly liberal versus how they cover “proudly conservative” Republicans. This dynamic is sometimes subtle, and it emerged during an interview Sanders gave with CNBC’s John Harwood.
Income inequality and the distribution of wealth are two topics Sanders hammers away at constantly, and during the interview with Harwood he brought up the fact that the top marginal tax rate for income during the 1950s was somewhere around 90 percent. Sanders’ comment took Harwood aback. “When you think about something like 90 percent, you don’t think that’s obviously too high?” he asked. “No,” Bernie shot back. Sanders’ endorsement of the Eisenhower-era tax structure also raised eyebrows at The New York Times, which observed that Sanders “doesn’t flinch over returning to the 90 percent personal income tax rates of the 1950s for top earners.” In these reactions you can easily spy an undercurrent of incredulity that a politician would enthusiastically advocate for rich people to pay more—much, much more—in taxes.
Whatever else can be said on the subject, long shot though he be, Sanders is a serious candidate with serious proposals and, if the polls are right, several million supporters. He deserves to have those proposals given a fair hearing. Fair doesn't mean uncritical. Whether the candidate is Sanders, Jeb Bush, Hillary Clinton, Marco Rubio or Martin O'Malley, what's most needed in our age of ubiquitous overt and covert propaganda, is a deep look into what they really believe, how they have really behaved in office and what they would probably do or try to do if they managed to win the presidency, however likely or unlikely that may be.
Any realistic candidate full well knows that such coverage hasn't fit well with the agenda of the big media for decades. Sanders has already shown himself adept in interviews at overriding horse-race questions and ones that demand he trash other candidates. Instead he posits questions of his own and answers them. But that kind of response can ultimately reduce the number of interviews he gets.
Making their case to the voters means finding and exploiting the means to overcome that agenda. For Sanders, who is dependent on small donors to fund his campaign, that task will, of course, be far more difficult than for those with coffers brimful of corporate cash.
But we should not interpret difficult as impossible.