“Bernie did well last weekend but he can’t possibly win the nomination,” a friend told me for what seemed like the thousandth time, attaching an article from the Washington Post that shows how far behind Bernie remains in delegates.
Wait a minute. Last Tuesday, Sanders won 78 percent of the vote in Idaho and 79 percent in Utah. Three days before that, he took 82 percent of the vote in Alaska, 73 percent in Washington, and 70 percent in Hawaii.
In fact, 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 100 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.
Clinton’s lead in superdelegates may vanish if Bernie gains a majority of pledged delegates.
Bernie is outpacing Clinton in fundraising. In March, he raised $39 million. In February, he raised $42 million, compared to Hillary Clinton’s $30 million. In January he raised $20 million to her $15 million.
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.
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 ignore Sanders. Early on, the prestigious Columbia Journalism Review noted that Sanders’ candidacy had been ignored by the mainstream media “as nearly as they could a sitting U.S. senator who entered the presidential race.”
The major media can’t see what’s happening 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 the personalities. Political reporting is dominated by stories about the quirks and foibles of the candidates, and about the people and resources behind them.
Within this frame of reference, it seems nonsensical that 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, could possibly win the nomination.
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 that emerge from the hopes and frustrations of millions of Americans. Movements don’t fit into the normal political story about which candidate is up and who’s down.
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 B. Reich was Secretary of Labor under President Bill Clinton.
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