When Bernie Sanders announced his bid to run for President around 10 months ago, most of the mainstream media were quick to denounce him. They called him “unelectable” and scoffed at the mere idea that he would ever beat Hillary Clinton for the nomination. Even as he’s racked up impressive showings in Iowa, New Hampshire, and Michigan, the media has continued to perpetuate the idea that he could never win. Doing so has only made both Sanders and his supporters more adamant, spawning the Bernie or Bust movement and forcing them to double down, and fractured the liberal electorate.
From the very being, the media has refused to see Sanders for what he is – a veteran politician, a Congressman with an admirable record, and a fighter. They have scoffed at his idea of a grassroots campaign and issued a blanket rejection of his platform. Why? No, he has not raised the kind of money that Hillary has (in the past), and, no, he did not have the national or international reputation that she did. His ideas are lofty and, yes, tinged with idealism but hardly impossible. People in Washington know that he is passionate, intelligent, and determined. So why has he been so roundly dismissed?
I do not believe that he’s the victim of some massive media conspiracy organized by Hillary Clinton and the DNC. And, despite what protesters in LA would have you believe, I no longer think he’s being ignored by the mainstream media. His major rallies appear on CNN, NBC, MSNBC, and Fox. He gets invited to interviews on major and local networks. His followers’ hashtags routinely break Twitter. So, yes, he may have started out rocky, but he’s in much better shape now.
Most likely, the media ignored him because he had not yet done anything to warrant attention. How often did the major networks cover Martin O’Malley, Lawrence Lessig, Lincoln Chafee, Jim Webb, or the half a dozen other candidates that threw their hats into the ring? Honestly, until Iowa, I didn’t know Martin O’Malley or Lawrence Lessig, much less all the others, existed. The media made a calculated move, ultimately deciding that they wouldn’t get the same ratings covering these candidates as they would covering Hillary or Donald Trump. Then, when they were proven wrong, they got embarrassed and doubled down. Hardly a conspiracy of competent individuals.
Overall, Sanders’ campaign has thrived on the opposition, employing hundreds of volunteers in dozens of statements (apiece), raising millions overnight, and inspiring greater passion than ever. This passion has kept them going every time the media claims Sanders is over. It pushes them to forego luxuries to make a donation. It drives them to knock on doors and make phone calls. And it will, almost inevitably, drive Sanders to the Democratic National Convention in July.
What it has also done is incense him and his supporters, driving them into a frenzy. It led Sanders to erroneously believe a sensational headline and call Hillary Clinton “unqualified” to be President. It led Sanders to stretch the definition of a “clean” race and pushed him to launch negative attack ads. It spawned the Bernie or Bust movement, which thousands of people are committed to. It led to thousands of paranoid claims of election fraud and chicanery. And it threatens to break liberal voters in half.
Personally, I believe Sanders has a shot, however slim, of making the nomination. If he can keep on racking up small states and win big in New York, Pennsylvania, and California, he can at least create a contested vote at the DNC. But even if he loses these states and maintains his 250 delegate loss, I don’t believe he or his supporters will go quietly. For months, they’ve had to endure smug pundits on CNN, The New York Times, and the Washington Post dismiss Sanders. They’re angry. They’re incensed. And some of them are not willing to listen to reason.
I hope that in November everyone that believes in universal healthcare, immigration reform, better services for women, families, and children, reduced college debt, and increased minimum wage will vote for the Democratic nominee. I hope that Sanders will begin to rein in his more militant followers. But most of all, I hope that the media will stop feeding the frenzy, stop chasing ratings, and continue to acknowledge Sanders as the contender he is. If they do, we have a chance of bringing together a united electorate in November.
And if they don’t? Well, I hope you like living in a country ruled by a madman.