Why The Major Mainstream Media Marginalize Bernie Sanders

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By Robert Reich

“Bernie is doing well but he can’t possibly win the nomination,” a friend told me for what seemed like the thousandth time, attaching an article from one of the nation’s leading newspapers showing how far behind Bernie remains in delegates.

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U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders

Wait a minute. Sanders won 78 percent of the vote in Idaho and 79 percent in Utah. He took 82 percent of the vote in Alaska, 73 percent in Washington, and 70 percent in Hawaii.

Since mid-March, Bernie has won six out of the seven Democratic primary contests with an average margin of victory of 40 points. Those victories have given him roughly a one hundred additional pledged delegates.

As of now, Hillary Clinton has 54.9 percent of the pledged delegates to Bernie Sanders’s 45.1 percent.That’s still a sizable gap – but it doesn’t make Bernie Sanders’s candidacy an impossibility.

Moreover, there are 22 states to go with nearly 45 percent of pledged delegates still up for grabs – and Sanders has positive momentum in almost all of them.

Hillary Clinton’s lead in superdelegates may vanish if Bernie gains a majority of pledged delegates.

Bernie is also outpacing Hillary Clinton in fundraising. In March, he raised $44 million, a new high for his White House bid. The campaign’s previous fundraising record was February, when it raised $43.5 million, compared to Hillary Clinton’s $30 million. And most of Bernie’s money has been in small donations – so far, more than 6.5 million contributions from 2 million individual donors.

By any measure, the enthusiasm for Bernie is huge and keeps growing. He’s packing stadiums, young people are flocking to volunteer, support is rising among the middle-aged and boomers.

In Idaho and Alaska he exceeded the record primary turnout in 2008, bringing thousands of new voters. He did the same thing in Colorado, Kansas, Maine, and Michigan as well.

Yet if you read the Washington Post or the New York Times, or watch CNN or even MSNBC, or listen to the major pollsters and pundits, you’d come to the same conclusion as my friend.

Every success by Bernie is met with a story or column or talking head whose message is “but he can’t possibly win.”

Or the media simply disregard Sanders. Early on, the prestigious Columbia Journalism Review noted that his candidacy had been ignored by the mainstream media “as nearly as they could a sitting U.S. senator who entered the presidential race.”

Some Sanders supporters speak in dark tones about a media conspiracy against Bernie. That’s baloney. The mainstream media are incapable of conspiring with anyone or anything. They wouldn’t dare try. Their reputations are on the line. If the public stops trusting them, their brands are worth nothing.

The real reason the major media can’t see what’s happening is because the national media exist inside the bubble of establishment politics, centered in Washington, and the bubble of establishment power, centered in New York.

As such, the major national media are interested mainly in personalities and in the money behind those personalities. Political reporting is dominated by stories about the quirks and foibles of the candidates, and about the people and resources backing them.

Within this frame of reference, it seems nonsensical that Bernie Sanders could possibly win the nomination. He’s a 74-year-old Jew from Vermont, originally from Brooklyn, who calls himself a Democratic socialist, who’s not a Democratic insider and wasn’t even a member of the Democratic Party until recently, who has never been a fixture in the Washington or Manhattan circles of power and influence, and who has no major backers among the political or corporate or Wall Street elites of America.

But precisely because the major media are habituated to paying attention to personalities, they haven’t been attending to Bernie’s message – or to its resonance among Democratic and independent voters (as well as many Republicans).

The major media don’t know how to report on political movements. Movements don’t fit into the normal political story about who’s up and who’s down. And because Bernie Sanders’s candidacy is less about him than about the “political revolution” he’s spawned, the media are at a loss.

The major media have come to see much of America through the eyes of the establishment. That’s not surprising. After all, they depend on establishment corporations for advertising revenues, their reporters and columnists rely on the establishment for news and access, their top media personalities socialize with the rich and powerful and are themselves rich and powerful, and their publishers and senior executives are themselves part of the establishment.

So it’s understandable that the major media haven’t noticed how determined Americans are to reverse the increasing concentration of wealth and political power that have been eroding our economy and democracy. And it’s understandable, even if unjustifiable, that they continue to marginalize Bernie Sanders.

Robert Reich is Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. He was Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration. Republished here under a Creative Commons License from RobertReich.org.

© 2016, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.

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