With just one week to go before the Iowa caucuses, the media, even the so-called liberal media, is still having trouble taking Bernie Sanders seriously. He’s surging in both early primary states, but conventional wisdom-types are still pumping out the same boring lines about how he’s naïve and unelectable. “No he can’t” is still the mainstream media’s default take on Bernie Sanders.
“It’s been a nice run,” the thinking goes, “but he’s just not electable. And if even if by some stroke of luck he were elected, he doesn’t understand politics enough to get things done while in the White House.” That’s basically what the Des Moines Register’s Lynn Hicks said on “Morning Joe” when he was asked to explain why his paper endorsed Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee for president.
The Des Moines Register has never correctly endorsed Democratic winner of the Iowa caucus, so we should probably take this criticism with a grain of salt. But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s now the political establishment’s main attack on the Bernie campaign. And what’s really disturbing is that many so-called liberals are going along with it.
For example, Paul Starr, the cofounder of The American Prospect, one of the country’s leading liberal magazines, has a piece in Politico Magazine in which he argues that Bernie Sanders is a flawed candidate because he believes too much that he can change our dysfunctional political system for the better.
Even if Bernie does manage to get elected, people like Paul Starr argue, he won’t get anything done because he’s asking for the moon and our political system is just too broken to handle this kind of actual, real change.
Although it’s not as vicious, this line of thinking is arguably even worse than the “Bernie’s a socialist and that scares people” line of attack. That’s because it kills what made, or used to make, the Democratic Party great: its belief in doing what everyone said was impossible.
Just in case you forgot, it was Democrats who won World Wars I and II; it was Democrats who brought us out of the Great Depression; and it was Democrats who took us to the moon, even if a Republican was president when Neil Armstrong stepped on its surface.
Oh, yeah, and it was Democrats who, because they believed in the power of government to do good, created programs like Social Security, unemployment insurance and Medicare that to this day are the backbone of the American Dream.
And I’m talking about the real American Dream, my Dad’s American Dream, where you work hard and retire comfortably – a far cry from Reagan’s fake American dream, which is just to get as rich as possible and damn everyone else.
But back to the Democratic Party.
From the New Deal until the 1990s and Al From’s bloodless DLC coup that made triangulation and corporatism the name of the game, Democrats actually stood for something noble. They stood for that the idea we can move the US forward and make it a better country, even if all the cards were stacked against us.
For many in the Democratic Party, those days are over, and you don’t need any more proof of that than the Democratic establishment’s attacks on Bernie Sanders.
Unlike Hillary Clinton, who, as Robert Reich points out, “is most qualified to head the political system we have,” Bernie Sanders is, according to Reich, “the most qualified to create the political system we should have.” That, of course, is part of Bernie’s appeal.
Democratic voters were promised real “hope and change” seven years ago when Obama first ran for president, and they got the Heritage Foundations’ version of health care reform, very minimal Wall Street regulation without a single bankster going to jail and a stimulus package that was polluted with a huge pile of tax cuts for rich people and big corporations.
In Bernie Sanders, many Democratic voters see the candidate that Obama pretended to be but never was.
In Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, many see a candidate whose message basically boils down to “what Obama did was good and we really can’t do much more, so pick me to serve as president.”
Clinton’s current political positioning is based on a total misreading of the American people, who are way more progressive than the mainstream media make it seem. Americans do want real hope and change. Bringing about that change won’t be easy, but it’s worth trying. It’s what FDR, JFK and LBJ would think, and it’s what today’s Democrats should think, too.
In this election, it really is “No, we can’t” versus “Yes, we can.”