Editorial: The establishment’s refusal to evaluate Sanders fairly

This year’s Democratic primary will be one of the most consequential in years — perhaps decades — and will likely decide the future of the Democratic Party. The chief schism within the party is between the moderates (represented by Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), former Vice President Joe Biden and South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg) and the progressives (namely, Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)); thus far, the contested Iowa convention and more decisive New Hampshire victory have proved favorable for Senator Bernie Sanders, who seems well-poised to lead the party at the July convention.

So why has the so-called “liberal” establishment been so hesitant to accept the Vermont socialist as the apparent nominee? “Hardball” personality Chris Matthews, for instance, described his concerns of a Sanders presidency by referencing “Castro and the Reds” and expressing fear that “executions in Central Park” may result. 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton insisted in a January interview that “nobody likes [Sanders]; nobody wants to work with him; he got nothing done.” Even NBC commentator Chuck Todd went so far as to quote the conservative news website, “The Bulwark’s,” referring to Sanders supporters on social media websites as “digital brown shirts” in an oblique reference to Nazi paramilitary forces. In short, the combined powers of the liberal punditry and political aristocracy seem to have marshaled their influence to oppose Sanders.

There are a number of reasons they provide for this unrepentant critique – some legitimate, and many more spurious. Chief among them is their belief that Sanders’ “democratic socialist” identity will dissuade crucial swing-voters from turning out in November; in support of this position, they reference the catastrophic defeat of Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn in the 2019 UK general election. But public opinion polls display Sanders as having a net favorability of +15 – Jeremy Corbyn, at the time of the election, had a net favorability of -40. Additionally, all of Sanders’s major policy planks (including Medicare for All and tuition-free public college) have support from a majority of Americans. In fact, a recent poll conducted by the progressive Data for Progress showed that in head to head match-ups against incumbent Donald Trump, Senator Sanders wins by five percent, even when he is described as a socialist. It is worth noting that this margin drops to two percent when he is described as a Democrat.

Still others contend that America should move past the “old, white guy” presidential archetype and allow for a more diverse field of candidates to compete for the office. Critics reference Sanders’s purported lack of support from minorities, such as African-Americans and Hispanics, as a reason to dismiss his candidacy. This criticism is, curiously, outright false. According to a poll conducted by Monmouth University, Sanders leads all Democrats in non-white support, topping the field by eight points among non-white Hispanic, Asian and black voters. Sanders’ donor pool is also substantially more diverse than any of the other candidates, suggesting that he can not only command votes but also actively mobilize the diverse coalition that is so vital to our political process. There is no reason to suggest that minority support is a substantial weak spot for Sanders in the first place. Furthermore, to reduce Senator Sanders into a tired “old, white guy” stereotype erases not only the substantive appeal of his policies to minorities but also his personal heritage – no major party has ever nominated a Jewish person for President.

Perhaps the most significant leitmotif of media criticism, through both Sanders’ 2016 and 2020 runs for president, has been the popular refrain of, “How will he pay for it?” The question is, no doubt, worth addressing, and there have been substantial efforts by the Sanders campaign to do so. His Medicare for All plan, for instance, describes three chief revenue sources requisite for the plan to be implemented: higher taxes on Wall Street speculation, reduction of administrative staff and paperwork within the insurance sector, and reduction of drug prices. All of these streams, along with their contributions to the overall total, are accounted for in the bill. Such is the case with most policies advocated by most candidates in the field. Interestingly, precious little attention is paid to the price-tags of the Biden or Buttigieg plans, despite the latter’s actually costing more than Medicare for All. One could certainly disagree with the sources of revenue, as well as their potential rippling effect on the rest of the economy, but to argue that they have not been delineated is to deal in complete falsehoods.

This piece should not be interpreted as an endorsement of the Sanders campaign. The senator, like any other candidate, deserves a full interrogation of the negative consequences of their policy prescriptions, as well as their chances against the opposing party’s nomination. It is also not an endorsement of general media paranoia; a vast majority of the time, the media effectively presents content that is truthful to the best of its knowledge, and should not be automatically and categorically dismissed as irreparably biased. In the interest of fairness, however, it is necessary for The Bucknellian to point out that criticism should come from a place of good faith, well-researched and structured arguments and an understanding of the opposing side. It appears that the liberal establishment has simply not provided Sanders with that treatment.

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