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Bernie Drops Out: A Post Mortem

America’s Dad Bernard Sanders has ‘suspended his campaign’, which is politician speak for dropping out. The result is that former Vice President Joe Biden is the Democratic Presidential candidate for 2020. I wish you luck, Mr Vice President, for you shall need it. But I digress. This piece is about the Sanders campaign, the lessons to take from it and its legacy. I am going to lay some blame at the foot of the media; I do not think we can legitimately deny that the media’s bias against Sanders played some role in his lack of success.

That said, any suggestion that I writing an apologia for Senator Sanders and his campaign will hopefully be mollified by the criticism I will level at both him and his campaign. They, and indeed Senator Sanders himself, were far from flawless in their campaign strategy. Both proved inflexible and to some extent politically tone-deaf in their reactions to circumstances on the campaign. I am sad that his run is over, but there are lessons to learn. Some of what follows may not be pleasant for Sanders’ supporters.

Dad Drops Out: What Happened

Folks are well aware that, following the simultaneous withdrawals of Mayor Pete and Amy Klobuchar, Biden did extremely well on Super Tuesday. Following his predictable win in South Carolina, the former Vice President had the momentum. The withdrawals of Mayor Pete and Amy Klobuchar and the establishment coalescing around Biden is what Secular Talk’s Kyle Kulinski called Bloody Monday. Sanders stayed on, however, despite petulant screeching from the establishment that he drop out. Well, you got your wish, you bastards. To paraphrase Sir Robert Walpole, you have your candidate, I wish you well.

Dad announced his withdrawal, citing the painful truth that no viable path to the nomination exists. He is behind by 300 delegates and the numbers simply do not work. These are the facts of the situation, facts that he expressed very eloquently and I encourage you to read his statement.

Dad Drops Out: Why, Part One: The Media

We need to consider many factors to explain why a candidate who is in line with mainstream American voters’ opinion faced such a struggle. Note that I said voters’ opinion. Mr Sanders’ policies are popular among the people (even a Fox News audience cheered for M4A). The corporate sycophants in the media, who are as corrupt as the politicians, could never support a populist. So the media consistently portrayed Bernie in the most negative light possible. As critical as many people are of the media (guilty), we must accept that they do have a wide range of influence.

Despite terrible levels of trust in the media, they still have massive amounts of influence. Like it or not, the way the media portrays a candidate shapes their image. The flagrant dishonesty in the media’s coverage of Sanders is well known, but this example I think illustrates it well. Sanders praised former Cuban dictator Fidel Castro for his literacy programme. Naturally, this drew outrage from the professional pearl-clutching brigade and suddenly it was ‘Sanders loves Dictators’. What he actually said, if you intentionally dishonest actors could remove your heads from your rectums for a moment, was that Castro’s literacy programme was a good thing. That is all. Sanders still condemned the regime, he still said authoritarianism was evil, still said political prisoners in gaols was inappropriate. But the media did not care.

The N-word and the F-word are no longer what you think they are. Instead, they are Nuance and Facts. Both are every bit as taboo as ngger and fck and neither has a place in ‘polite’ and ‘civil’ corporate media conversation. The narrative is what matters, in this case, Sanders Bad. The media has much to answer for in the fall of the most popular candidate in recent memory.

Dad Drops Out: Why, Part Two: Strategic Flaws and Weaknesses

For all the flaws of the media, and they are legion, the Sanders campaign, and indeed the Senator himself must bear ultimate responsibility. In the early states, meaning those before Bloody Monday, Sanders’ strategy had been to secure a solid 30% of the vote. This is because, simply put, that was all he needed in such a crowded field.

But once it was a 2 man race, the strategy needed to evolve; and it did not. Sanders’ stump speech did not change, not did his labelling or marketing. He continued to appeal mostly to younger voters, openly calling himself a Democratic socialist. In addition, he started the #nomiddleground campaign. This portrayed him as uncompromising and, yes, somewhat of an extremist. Right or wrong, this would not play well with older voters, who are the more likely voters. These were major strategic blunders on the part of the campaign.

Dad Drops Out: Why, Part Three: Tactical Problems

There were tactical blunders, too. When Sanders was asked if he thought Joe Biden could beat Trump, he responded ‘I do’. Wrong answer, Dad. You were in a primary, Sir. When the media asks you if your opponent can fulfil the role the two of you are competing for, you say No. You say that you are the better candidate. What kind of alternative says that the other guy can do the job? The primary is a job interview for the role of Nominee. If you were at a job interview and they asked you ‘Do you think the other guy can do the job?’ you answer ‘I am the best candidate’. You make your case, which you did not do. Your inability or unwillingness to make your own case cost you dearly.

Finally, Sanders displayed considerable personal weakness on the campaign. He frequently referred to Joe Biden as ‘my friend’, called him ‘a decent guy’ and so on. This lack of a ‘killer instinct’ crystalised in his utter refusal to call out Biden’s corruption. Biden openly said that he had ‘prostituted myself’ to moneyed interests. Bernie allowed his personal friendship with Biden to get in the way of doing his political duty, which was to expose Biden for the corrupt corporate insider that he is. Sanders had no such problem exposing Mrs Clinton’s corruption. No friendship there, I guess.

Bernie Sanders as Prophet: The Way Forward

As critical as the previous paragraphs were of America’s Dad, his campaign is still a watershed moment in American History. As Chomsky said, Sanders has fundamentally changed the conversation. Ideas that were unthinkable even two years ago are now part of the conversation. The media largely dismisses them, but the very fact that they have to respond at all speaks volumes. Politicians, too, are forced to respond to the ideas of M4A, tuition-free public college and eliminating student-loan debt. The conversation is changing. Sanders’ focus on the issues, sometimes unfortunately to the exclusion of smart politics, has brought that style of campaign back to the forefront of politics. Long may this continue.

The Sanders campaign also received donations not from Wall St or other corporate interests, but from regular Joe and Jane citizens, averaging, per his suspension statement, $18.50. Thus a populist campaign funded by small-dollar donations is possible. With a few minor tweaks and adjustments, great success may be had using this model.

Bernie Sanders is the canary in the coalmine, setting many a useful precedent for his successors to follow. Who those successors are remains to be seen, and we must acknowledge that a void in left leadership does exist since Sanders will not run again. The Presidential campaigns of America’s Dad Bernard Sanders represent major milestones in American history. His legacy is considerable and must not be forgotten. Forward, Progressives. Dad showed the way, and it now falls to you to pick up the baton.

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24 comments

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  1. Jennifer A Meyer-Smith

    Why don’t black Americans vote for Bernie?

    That’s what amazes me. Why vote for Biden over Bernie?

  2. Michael Taylor

    Jenni, what a better place the world would be if Bernie was president.

  3. Paul

    Jennifer A Meyer-Smith, it is such a pity people don’t vote the way you think they should. Damn Democracy!

  4. Jennifer A Meyer-Smith

    True Michael, but again I wonder what does Biden offer Black Americans that Bernie doesn’t?

    Surely, it is not simply the rise to the established Middle/Upper Middle-Classes that will make them even more the fodder of the Biden view of socio-economic society.

  5. Phil

    Andrew Cuomo will be parachuted in at the Democratic Convention. Biden’s not fit for purpose.

  6. RosemaryJ36

    Jennifer – his long and close relationship with Obama might explain it!

  7. Michael Taylor

    Phil, Cuomo’s kicking goals at the moment.

  8. Matters Not

    Don’t think Biden can win – on his lonesome – but there’s still quite a few variables in play. Trump, of course, can lose – all by himself. Seems likely Biden will pick a woman as a running mate but that may prompt Trump to ditch Pence (already given him a hospital pass on the COVID task force) and maybe run with someone like Nikki Haley.

    Cuomo says he won’t run. But who knows. Sanders is essential to get the young, university educated demographic out to vote.

  9. Michael Taylor

    MN, don’t be surprised if the woman Trump picks as his running partner is his daughter Ivanka. 🤮

  10. Phil

    Cuomo says he won’t run. But who knows. Sanders is essential to get the young, university educated demographic out to vote.

    Yep agree with that. But with Cuomo it shows how shallow their politics is. Cuomo is another austerity merchant. He cut billions out of hospital spending not that long before Covid 19. He is a sleaze and you can read him like a cheap novel. I’m plugging for Coumo and Michelle Obama. We shall see soon enough. I think Trumps toast no matter who they run. There could well be a half a million dead there before the elections.

  11. Matters Not

    Ivanka? I thought she was destined to head up the World Bank? Word is she can add and subtract with the best of them – although again, word has it she’s not too hot on the multiplying and dividing and besides she has her fashion business to run. Shakes head.

    Michelle Obama would be mad even to dip her toe in the water. Not going to happen. But now Biden is all but confirmed, expect Obama (both) to do plenty of appearances on the campaign trail

  12. Matters Not

    Re the half million dead. Trump will move to make this disaster an electoral winner. Already the Republican base think he’s doing an excellent job in managing this crisis. Note that one expert death estimate was a total somewhere between 100 000 and 220 000. Trump now only speaks of the 220 000 figure (the top of the range) so when the final figure comes in somewhere below, he’ll claim that he saved thousands and thousands of lives. (Too easy.)

  13. paul walter

    Truly bankrupt America caught in a complacent trance and caught out by Covid19 and the recession it is
    inducing.
    Against this, the stupifed Democrats not able to field a credible candidate against the most disreputable politician of all, Donald Trump, for not one, but two elections in a row.

  14. Kaye Lee

    Hang on, I thought Jared Kushner was running the COVID taskforce now that he has brought peace to the Middle East, solved the opiod crisis and built the wall.

    He “solicited help from the father of the fashion model Karlie Kloss, his sister-in-law, to ask a Facebook group of doctors what should be done about the virus.”

    “I have all this data about ICU capacity,” Kushner was quoted as telling Trump by a White House source speaking to Vanity Fair. “I’m doing my own projections, and I’ve gotten a lot smarter about this. New York doesn’t need all the ventilators.”

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/05/jared-kushner-coronavirus-aid-trump-governors

  15. Phil

    ” Re the half million dead. Trump will move to make this disaster an electoral winner. ”

    Disagree, just a cursory read of the comments on Youtube and other sources ref the information on the economy by a lot of the pundits, tells me Trump is toast. I have friends in Arizona anecdotal evidence to be sure but, they tell me the mere mention of Trumps name according to them, may get you shot. Sure the Rednecks with one tooth in their mouth and a squirrel on their head for a hat, still love him.The total of 220 000 deaths is a very conservative estimate. We shall see, there is nothing certain at this stage. I will stick with Cuomo taking over from Biden. Who said a week is a long time in politics?

  16. Aortic

    Love the quote from H L Mencken which is so appropriate. ” As democracy is perfected, the office of President represents, more and more closely the inner soul of the people. On some great day the plain folks of the land will reach their hearts desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”

  17. paul walter

    Thanks Aortic.

  18. Andrew Smith

    By US, not Australian, standards Sanders is viewed and presented as a left wing socialist. He may have much appeal with younger generations but many don’t bother voting in US elections vs the ageing and more conservative upper median age cohorts; he also has unclear support from the black vote. Further, he may be prone to being crucified in and by the mid west and/or God botherers (plus media) for whom there is much antipathy towards Jews, practising or not (except for the Jewish and Israeli responsibility to prepare Jerusalem for ‘The Rapture’).

    Biden’s advantages include being Obama’s VP, probability of Obama becoming involved, the black vote and especially getting them out to vote, and his age which matches many in the electorate nowadays.

    Further, there must be a consolidated anti-Trump coalition that can appeal to Republicans too, while younger and/or more left voters must compromise for real politik and neither stay home nor vote for vote splitting non entities, even if it may feel ethical; ‘liberals’ in the US are too nice while the GOP and their media manipulators get down and dirty……

  19. Terence Mills

    A US based relative anticipates that this will be the darkest and dirtiest election in American history as the Trump dynasty have decided that they will stay in the White House.

    Already there are sexual harassment innuendoes being floated against Biden which date back to 1993 and that’s just the beginning.

    FOX have decided to back-in Trumps mis-handling of the Corona Virus pandemic despite his personal intervention in stopping recommended separation and exclusion measures – the Columbia Journalism School has listed 168 journalism professors, professionals and academics who joined in signing an open letter to the owners of Fox News, critical of the cable network’s coronavirus coverage and urging it to stop spreading “misinformation.”

    “The misinformation that reaches the Fox News audience is a danger to public health,” the professors wrote Rupert Murdoch and Fox Corp. CEO Lachlan Murdoch on April 1. “Indeed, it is not an overstatement to say that your misreporting endangers your own viewers — and not only them, for in a pandemic, individual behavior affects significant numbers of other people as well “.

  20. John Boyd

    Good article. Bernie is a breath of fresh air, but we have to be realistic and acknowledge the problems that you outline. To me there are similarities with the Corbyn phenomenon in the (not so) UK, and even own Labor campaign, which was criticised by the Emerson review for its lack of tactical flexibility.

    Surely the way forward has to be for the Sanders and Warren teams to get together with Biden, work out policy objectives that they can all support, and they can use to try to swing their supporters behind him.

  21. Jennifer A Meyer-Smith

    Hey John Boyd,

    is there still time for the Sanders team to take that angle you expediate?

  22. Jack Cade

    On George Galloway’s MOAT today, he discussed with a US commentator the fact that Sanders won the first 3 primaries, and nobody who had ever won the first two primaries failed to be the candidate. So what happened? Apparently Obama happened. Rang all the other candidates and suggested they pull out, bar Warren, who was asked to stick around and suck some progressives out of Bernie’s support.
    As Galloway suggests, the Republicans and the Democrats are cheeks of the same arse.
    Until the US gets a viable third party, the Corporates will continue to rule.
    In the UK, the latest news is that the Labour Party concocted the ‘ Corbyn is anti-Semite’ scandal quite deliberately – just as the Democrats decided ‘anybody but Sanders’, the Blairites decided they’d prefer Johnson to Corbyn.
    Corbyn got the highest vote in Labour Party history in 2017, and the Blairite Rump set out to undermine him immediately.
    Mind you, he didn’t help himself by keeping some of them on his front bench…

  23. Carl Marks

    Jack Cade, it is hard not be bitter at centrists.

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