Media's Coronation of Clinton Belies Sanders' Path Toward Victory

'The pundits might not like it,' Sanders said on Sunday night, 'but the people are making history.'
By Deirdre Fulton / commondreams.org
Mar 8, 2016
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Media's Coronation of Clinton Belies Sanders' Path Toward Victory

Despite winning three out of four primary contests over the weekend, despite polling better against Donald Trump than Hillary Clinton in nearly all blue, purple, and light-red states, and despite his continued fundraising prowess, Bernie Sanders keeps getting written off by the corporate media.

"Last night, Secretary Clinton said she was ready for this primary to be over, and if you listen to some of our friends in the political establishment and corporate media, it sounds like they're ready for the same," Sanders declared in a letter to supporters on Tuesday. 

"The pundits might not like it," he said on Sunday night, "but the people are making history."

"I don't want to disturb the media narrative too much—don’t get people too upset, but don’t write us off," the U.S. senator from Vermont told the New York Times. "I think we have a path toward victory."

Indeed, Sanders has vowed to take his campaign for the presidency all the way to the Democratic National Convention in June.

What's more, looking at an accurate tally of "pledged" delegates—as opposed to super delegates—paints a electoral picture that is "dramatically different" than the narrative "being pushed by establishment media outlets," journalist Kevin Gosztola wrote on Monday. 

"True and accurate numbers are the following," Gosztola explained. "[A]fter 'Super Saturday,' Clinton has 663 pledged delegates. Sanders has 459 pledged delegates. Clinton needs 1,720 delegates to win. Sanders needs 1,924 delegates to win."

Those numbers are "accurate," he said, "because 'super delegates,' or party leaders, can shift their support at any time. If Sanders wins more primaries than Clinton, there is no reason to think the vast majority of 'super delegates' would defy voters and go with Clinton over Sanders. Doing so would be devastating for the party, especially going into an election against a populist Republican candidate like Donald Trump."

But whether by ignoring his successes or actively undermining them, "political and media elites keep angling for an opening to declare that the race for the Democratic presidential nomination is finished," national affairs correspondent John Nichols wrote at The Nation on Monday.

The problem is, Nichols pointed out, Sanders "keeps complicating things"—by winning.

Yet it is Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)—winner of just two primaries—whose path forward is still being charted by news outlets, as International Business Times editor David Sirota pointed out on Twitter. This dynamic has been in place since the Iowa caucus, when Rubio's third place finish garnered more attention than Sanders' near-tie with Clinton.

For Bill Curry, former White House counselor to President Bill Clinton and a two-time Democratic nominee for governor of Connecticut, the media's anti-Sanders bias is linked to "every network's obsession with tactics."

He writes Tuesday at Slate:

We once left tactical thinking to politicians. Then issue advocates began hiring pollsters. Now voters are getting into the act. The effect is to turn the marketplace of ideas into a casino. It’s hard enough figuring out if a candidate represents your values without having to speculate about his appeal to others. You don’t go to a store to buy what you think someone else wants, yet primary voters do. One reason for all the tactical thinking is the paralysis of government; if you think nothing will get done, you focus less on policy. Polarization’s another; if you hate their party more than you love yours, what matters is picking a winner. The biggest culprit is the media.

[...] Clinton’s whole case is tactical. Sanders volunteers say every swing voter asks now about electability or if Congress would pass Bernie’s program. In the last CNN poll his favorability rating is higher than hers among Democrats. (She’s at 78% favorable to 19% unfavorable; he’s at 85% to 10%)  Democrats prefer his policies to hers by wide margins, forcing her to pretend to adopt his. She benefits from kindly MSNBC anchors and apparatchiks posing as analysts on CNN — but what helps her most is every network’s obsession with tactics. The moment the race turns into a referendum on policy choices, she’s finished.

As Sanders supporter Heidi Detty wrote in a letter to the editor published Tuesday in the Columbus Dispatch, "look at the popular support for Sanders’ proposals. Almost 73 percent of Americans want the wealthy to pay their fair share of taxes, 66 percent want higher taxes on large corporations, 59 percent support tuition-free public college, and 55 percent support universal health care. Sanders should be taken more seriously by the media and pundits. He certainly is by the people."

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