Chris Matthews of MSNBC said the quiet part loud recently. He asked his fellow panelists if ‘Democratic moderates’ (we will get to that) would prefer Trump over Sanders as President. This fascinating quip offers some insight into a question I have long wrestled with: in a hypothetical Trump v Sanders race, what does the media do? They hate both Mr. Sanders and Mr. Trump (for equally vacuous, non-policy reasons). So how do they cover such a race? Chris Matthews offered some insight into that question, and we will get to that, but for now, I think some analysis of his quote is warranted.
Matthews and the ‘Moderates’, Preface: Unscrambling the Corporate Speak
Chris Matthews offered the following statement on MSNBC
I’m wondering whether the Democratic moderates want Bernie Sanders to be President? I mean that’s maybe too exciting a question to raise. They don’t like Trump at all. Do they want Bernie Sanders to take over the Democratic Party in perpetuity? He takes it over he sets the direction for the future of the party. Maybe they’d rather wait four years and put in the Democrat they like
Some unscrambling of his corporate nonsense is necessary before proceeding. When he uses the term ‘Democratic moderates’, he means establishment insiders (including the media) and corrupt corporatists. The phrase refers to Party Bosses and leadership. His comment does not refer to actual moderate voters (remember them, Chris?). Matthews, in addition to apparently not caring a fig for voters, cannot say that based on the facts. Bernie Sanders, as part of his recent crushing victory in Nevada, actually won among self-described moderates and even conservatives. Even accounting for the fact that that was a single state, and that voters know very little of labels, his base is by no means as narrow as these corporate hacks would have you believe. So, moderates, in Matthews’ mind, refers to party leadership and media insiders (rich people all) and not voters.
Matthews and the ‘Moderates’, Part Two
Matthews then asks if said ‘moderates’ (again understood as corporate and media insiders) want America’s Dad Bernard Sanders to ‘take over the Democratic party in perpetuity’. It is true, as Matthews points out, that a Sanders takeover would set the agenda for years if not decades to come. Matthews and his fellow rich corporate shills cannot handle the idea of a populist left Democratic party that would actually, you know, win elections since their own taxes might be raised a little. Cry me a river: you have officially become the conservatives we long suspected you were. Selfishness manifested as a political ideology describes you perfectly.
Matthews ends his rant with the idea that ‘moderates’ wait four years and put in a ‘Democrat they like’. That remark is best understood as one who knows that their role in politics is to increase funding for the military, cut corporate and rich people’s taxes and be left-wing on social issues. Such a politician would be an acceptable status quo manager, as a good corporate President is supposed to be. Returning to Matthews for a moment, it is actually not clear what he means when he essentially says that these ‘moderates’ wait four years. Are they to sit this election out (whatever that means). Does this amount to a surrender to Mr. Sanders and his movement? If they do nothing, would Sanders and his movement not take over the party precisely as Matthews fears? Mr. Matthews has been rather incoherent and flagrantly emotional on-air recently, but this is something else.
Sanders, Trump and The Media: What to Do?, Part One: Trump
The prospect of a Bernie Sanders nomination leads to a discussion of the media’s treatment of such a general election. As mentioned in the opening, the media despises both of these candidates, but for different reasons. When it comes to Trump, the media’s disagreement is surface-level nonsense about ‘tone’ and ‘civility’. By contrast, for all their outrage, the media actually agrees with Trump’s policies on many economic issues, and on other issues, they ‘resist’ from the right.
As an example, how much critical coverage did you see on MSNBC of Trump’s tax law, under which 83% of the benefits went to the top 1%? Turning to resistance from the right, consider Rachel Maddow’s coverage of Trump withdrawing some troops from Syria. It was, say it with me now, done to appease drumroll – Russia. The media’s ‘criticism’ of Trump is not substantive because they agree with much of what he is doing.
Sanders, Trump and The Media: What to Do?, Part Two: Sanders
Now, you might say that the media’s ‘criticism’ of America’s Dad Bernard Sanders is not substantive either. This is true however he is a true threat to the kleptocratic oligarchy that America has become. Trump said all the right things to different people at different times even if they were contradictory. Sanders has actual plans – sentences with verbs in them – to fundamentally change the increasingly oppressive and stagnant economic system under which the average American lives.
Even if the media hates Trump, I would suggest that they hate Sanders more. America’s Dad is not beholden to interest groups and he cannot be bought. Corporate influence means nothing to him: he represents, as Secular Talk’s Kyle Kulinski said recently ‘big poor’ [a play on big money or big pharma]. A truly diverse, multiracial working-class coalition backs this man, and the media and their fellow members of the insider cocktail circuit are terrified. Finally, much like his predecessor FDR, America’s Dad Bernard Sanders welcomes their hatred.
Conclusion: Out of Touch Media and The Gasoline Firehose
The media does not seem to realise that the more they rage against Bernie Sanders and his supporters, the more popular he becomes. They have taken the mask off and proved the old quip about the media: that it is a group of billionaires paying millionaires to tell the middle-class to hate and fear the poor. I use this analogy often, but I do so because I believe it holds some truth: the media attacking Sanders, and particularly his supporters, is the equivalent of a firehose pumping out gasoline. It will explode in your face. Ignore for a moment the fact that petulant demands of ‘unity’ while slamming voters are mutually exclusive. The larger point is that attacks from the media make him more popular. When he is ‘attacked’ in these ridiculous ways, he raises more money. One SuperPAC running ads against him even stopped doing so because he raised so much money as a result of their hacky ads.
To bring this full circle, Chris Matthews said the quiet part loud: the establishment Democrats hate Bernie Sanders more than they hate Trump. As I hope I have shown here, that says much about not only the nature of the media’s disagreement with Trump, but how they would cover a potential Trump v Sanders general election.
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