Turn Left On Main Street
Credit: greghauenstein
June 5, 2015

Bill Moyers and Michael Winship dissect how the press and the political establishment are pooh-poohing Bernie Sanders' candidacy:

Just take a look at the initial press reaction to Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders’ presidential candidacy. As Steve Hendricks observed in the Columbia Journalism Review, “For not going with the flow, and for challenging Hillary Clinton, the big fish many elites have tagged as their own, Sanders’s entry into the race was greeted with story after story whose message — stated or understated, depending on the decorum of the messenger — was ‘This crank can’t win.’”

Hillary Clinton’s “corporatism,” Hendricks writes, “wed to her social liberalism and her imperial hawkishness appeals to those in the moneyed Second and journalistic Fourth Estates who would embrace Republicanism but for its misogynistic, homophobic, racist, science-denying core.” And so Sanders was tarred at the outset as a doomed crackpot candidate, followed then by article after article that fixated not on ideas and policies but on various idiosyncrasies, Sanders’ age and hippie past, the ideology of democratic socialism, and for heaven’s sake, his flyaway hair.

But if Senator Sanders is a crackpot, so are the majority of Americans. The ideas and policies he espouses have far more public support than the journalist habitués of Capitol Hill and Pennsylvania Avenue would have you believe.

Juan Cole of the blog Informed Comment pulled together some of the figures:

Some 63 percent of Americans agree that the current distribution of wealth is unfair. And in a Gallup poll done earlier this month, a majority, 52 percent, think that government taxation on the rich should be used to reduce the wealth gap… A majority of Americans oppose the Supreme Court Citizens United ruling, one of a number of such rulings that have increased the ability of the super-wealthy to influence politics. A good half of Americans support federally financed political campaigns so as to level the playing field… Some79 percent of Americans believe that education beyond high school is not affordable for everyone. And some 57 percent of people under 30 believe student debt is a problem for youth… According to a very recent Yale/Gallup poll, some 71 percent of Americans believe global warming is occurring, and 57 percent are sure that human activity (emitting greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide) is causing it…

There you have it: Far from being an outsider, Sanders is paddling his way along the mainstream of American public opinion. Look at the crowds that are gathering to hear him speak: More than 3,000 in Minneapolis, Minnesota on Sunday, standing room only in Ames, Davenport and Iowa City, Iowa. Reporters can’t help but take notice now. “At campaign stops in early states and elsewhere, the firebrand from Vermont is drawing enthusiastic crowds that are several times larger than those that gather for [fellow presidential aspirant Martin] O’Malley,” notes The Washington Post. And The New York Times: “The crowds at Mr. Sanders’s Iowa events appeared to be different from the state’s famously finicky tire-kickers. Many said they had already made up their mind to support Mr. Sanders. They applauded his calls for higher taxes on the rich to pay for 13 million public works jobs, for decisive action on climate change and for free tuition at public colleges.”

Oh, how the mighty tremble when they hear such things! The murmuring crowd is their worst nightmare. So plutocratic Republican apologists like Peter Wehner, the corporate Democrats of Clinton, Inc., and killjoys like Congressman Delaney will double down against Bernie Sanders, just as they have against all those in politics before them who champion bottom-up democracy. If that means turning “left,” so be it. For Democrats, it’s the way home. They would do well to remember that apocryphal saying, usually attributed to Gandhi: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.

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