By Sean Connolly, editorial columnist
Last Saturday, I watched the Nevada Democratic caucus on CNN. I was disappointed that Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., lost, but what stuck with me was CNN’s commentary. CNN often offends and disappoints me, but I want to talk about one issue specifically: Their constant insistence that Sanders is unelectable.
CNN and other mainstream media sources have strongly implied, and sometimes outright stated, Sanders can’t win. The myth that Sanders is unelectable has been popular for the entirety of his campaign, despite its disconnect from reality. Anyone who had been paying attention would have known Sanders would do well, yet the media constantly acts as if his results are shocking. Bernie isn’t a phenomenon; he’s riding the waves of grassroots movements that have been fighting for a long time on the same issues he has, from the “99 percent” movement to the Fight for $15.
He isn’t “radical,” a title that political commentators throw on him in a way that implies it will be his inevitable downfall. His views are actually largely mainstream; many, like myself, wish he were more to the left.
Of course, the ongoing myth that Sanders is unelectable is partly what Hillary Clinton’s campaign is counting on. Exit polls from the New Hampshire primary show that 12 percent of Democratic primary voters considered electability to be the most important quality in a candidate, a category of voters Clinton won handily.
It’s ridiculous to suggest that Clinton is somehow more electable in a general election than Sanders. If Donald Trump’s supporters have proven anything, it’s that people want outsiders who aren’t part of the political elite.
Clinton is the establishment, try as she might to deny it. She encompasses everything Trump supporters are fighting against. Not to mention she clings with a death grip onto Obama’s “legacy.” Surprisingly enough, Republicans don’t like Obama, and they certainly won’t like what they see as essentially a continuation of his presidency. There are many on the left, as well, who are fed up and may abstain from voting rather than vote for Clinton. People on both sides want change, not a continuation of a corrupt and oppressive status quo.
The important thing to realize is that Bernie’s supposed unelectability doesn’t come from his actual positions; it comes from the media. Bernie was never unelectable, but the media said he was, and they kept saying it, and now, people believe it enough that it is significantly harming his support. Essentially, by constant repetition, the media are making him unelectable and then acting as if it were the case the whole time. They took something that wasn’t true and made it true by acting as if it were a matter of fact.
This is a common technique used by those in power: Proclaiming something has always been the case when in fact they are the ones making it true. The media, of course, have tremendous power. If they focused on actual issues like the reality of poverty and inequality in this country, it would likely help Bernie’s cause. But they don’t closely examine important issues in our society.
As Ben Jealous, head of the NAACP, said in a speech introducing Sanders at a rally in South Carolina, “You look at the politics on CNN and say, ‘How is this going to help any of us?’”
Not only does this type of political coverage fail to help anyone become better equated with serious issues in America, it actively promotes a line of thinking that harms Sanders.
Photo courtesy Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons