Surging at the Right Time
The last month or so has been good for Sanders and his polling numbers. He’s been building momentum with increased support and some key endorsements as of late- including the Sunrise Movement (with notably 75% voting in favor of Sanders and other key labor organizations. It’s been enough to vault Sanders into the second place slot of the primary race behind Biden.
The storm of grassroots fundraising and activism Sanders has relied on has intensified. A record-setting $34.5 million has been raised by the Senator in the third quarter of 2019 alone, with $1 million being raised on the day of the 7th debate alone. His average donation size has kept low, as well, making up a reported $18.53 per donation from the Q3 haul. All this among a strong ground game (consisting of volunteers and staff making phone calls, knocking on doors, etc) compared to the other candidates.
The challenge will be for Sanders to grab enough delegates through the primary elections to secure a majority. As the current rules stand for the Democratic National Committee, “To win the Democratic nomination, a presidential candidate must receive support from a majority of the pledged delegates on the first ballot: 1,990 pledged delegates.” It looks like at this point based off current support polls that no candidate is set to win a majority of delegates, although this could change once candidates start dropping out of the race after some of the early states cast their votes. If no candidate receives a majority of the 1,990 delegates, what is called a brokered convention will occur. We’ll cover brokered convention rules more as we get closer to the nomination date, which begins on July 13th.
Long story short: at this point, it looks like someone will have to drop out of the race to ensure any candidate can grab a majority of delegates. But with Sanders rising in the polls at the right time, especially in crucial early states such as New Hampshire and Iowa, he can potentially grab a commanding lead early. If this happens, other candidates could drop out and shake up the support figures.
Media Beginning to Take Sanders Seriously
It seems Sanders and his movement are becoming too big for the media to ignore any longer.
But why, you may ask, is Sanders ignored? The answer is that these news corporations are in turn funded from other large corporations. So, of course, their narrative is going to be pro-corporate interest, which is exactly what we’d expect when you look at where the bread is buttered, so to speak.
So instead, these media conglomerates talk about culture war issues or other issues that don’t threaten the interests of their advertisers.
Sanders offered his thoughts on this during an interview with The Young Turks (transcript courtesy of the LA Progressive):
“We need to break through the fog of the corporate media, which does everything that they can to keep us entertained without addressing the real issues. I’m on the corporate media every single day, and you don’t know how hard it is just to try to demand that we begin to talk about the real issues. They really do not want them. They’re talking about everything under the sun but not the real issues.
I think what you have is a corporate media, which by definition, has conflicts of interests. Comcast which owns NBC. It’s probably one of the most detested companies in the country. Disney is a co-owner. They’re paying their workers at Disneyworld eight or nine bucks an hour; uh, bringing in people from around the world to replace American workers. These are issues, important issues that they don’t want to discuss.”
“Second of all, the model for media coverage right now is six second sound bites and an unwillingness to talk about real issues in a serious way. For example, climate change. I have to write a letter to the presidents of all of the networks to tell them that on their Sunday shows they never talk about climate change; almost never talk about it. Why? Well, does it have to do with the fact that there are energy, coal company and oil company, advertising? I think it does. They don’t talk about it.”
News outlets like CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, and the like are only the messengers, here. To stop at criticizing corporate media is to miss the picture. Instead, look to where the checks are coming from.
Neoliberal Order Horrified and Desperate to Prevent a Sanders Presidency
Rest assured, a surging Sanders is scaring the pants off of the oligarchs and political elites. Long dismissed as a candidate who can’t win- partly in hopes that their rhetoric would actually cause this to happen- Sanders is now being discussed as a candidate who can actually win the election. Even Bret Stephens of the New York Times, an establishment bellwether of elite opinion, wrote an article recently titled “Of Course Bernie Can Win”. It seems the secret is finally out.
The strategy Sanders has been employing all along has been the mobilization of working class sectors previously disgusted with the political system or disenfranchised altogether. The Sanders campaign is not just vying for votes, as has been the norm for decades, but is actually building a movement of workers and for workers. It’s a statement of our times that this idea is seen as so radical.
Let’s not forget that achieving gains for the workers of this country will absolutely require such a movement in order to get any meaningful legislation passed. It’s one of the hallmarks of the Sanders campaign- Sanders himself aware that he alone will not get much done by himself in the White House by having the right policy. Or playing nice with the Republicans. Look at how that worked for Barack Obama, who famously threw away the political gift of a lifetime: a majority in the House and a Filibuster-proof Senate. The result? A Mitt Romney-inspired Obamacare bill.
Speaking of the former Commander-in-Chief, there have been rumors that Obama would personally intervene in the race, should Sanders gain a decisive upper hand. Politico reports:
“Publicly, he has been clear that he won’t intervene in the primary for or against a candidate, unless he believed there was some egregious attack. “I can’t even imagine with this field how bad it would have to be for him to say something,” said a close adviser. Instead, he sees his role as providing guardrails to keep the process from getting too ugly and to unite the party when the nominee is clear. There is one potential exception: Back when Sanders seemed like more of a threat than he does now, Obama said privately that if Bernie were running away with the nomination, Obama would speak up to stop him. (Asked about that, a spokesperson for Obama pointed out that Obama recently said he would support and campaign for whoever the Democratic nominee is.)”
Notice: Obama would support whoever the nominee is but made no mention of what he would be willing to do before the Democratic nominee is chosen. It remains to be seen if Obama will overtly make is presence felt during the Democratic primary, but it should be clear where his interests lie.
Biden Still the Frontrunner
It’s easy to forget Joe Biden is even running, what with his campaign of “limited exposure” which makes me wonder what he plans to do once President, if he can’t even run a full campaign for it. But regardless, Biden still remains the front runner of this race as of now, despite his awful political history of pandering to elites.
Ryan Grim recently wrote a piece for The Intercept shedding light on Biden’s legislative history and willingness to compromise with Republicans on slashing key worker programs:
“That political approach — that by ceding to Republicans, they will respond by compromising in return — has been thoroughly discredited by the last 40 years of events, though it remains the animating argument of Biden’s campaign.”
Biden would go on to fight for cutting Social Security and Medicare repeatedly during his legislative career. After reading this article, I got the feeling that another of the reasons centrist and corporate Democrats may oppose Sanders and his movement could stem from their personal resentment of the Sanders strategy advocating for policies that these types of Democrats were too weak to stand up for- fearing backlash from Republicans, of course.
These same Democrats are increasingly building their brands on constantly arguing about the lack of funding to pay for these programs. The fact that there is not a single western or European country without a universal and public healthcare system except for the United States does not compute with that line of reasoning.
It is simply easier for these Democrats to believe there’s nothing we can do but keep propping up our absolutely broken healthcare system. Easier to sleep at night with that belief, it seems. The alternative would be to leave the D.C. beltway and represent regular people- a literally radical concept in our modern age.
Meanwhile, spending on the War on Terror alone is estimated to total $6.4 trillion by 2020. Trump’s Tax Cut bill has already cost an estimated $1.8 trillion through 2019. That the money is there is not a question. The question is: are we going to spend it on elites, oligarchs, and a war machine, or on the poor and working class? This is the question we arrive to when considering the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates. For once, we finally have a major candidate who has the backbone to demand benefits for workers.