The establishment attack on Sanders intensifies

Just as the Republican party establishment tries to bring down both Donald Trump and Ted Cruz from their perches at the top of polls, so has Bernie Sanders’s rise led to similar attacks on the Democratic side, with the media leading the way. With the Iowa caucus imminent, the beltway insider mouthpiece that is the Washington Post editorial department launched an attack on him by accusing him of “peddling fiction” to the voters. Sanders responded by asking them to “check out where all the geniuses on the editorial page were with regard to the invasion of Iraq”, a deft counter-attack since that newspaper was one of the leaders in peddling all the fiction that was used to sell that illegal and immoral war to the American public. Lee Fang discusses how the New York Times misleads in its claims that Sanders is the main beneficiary of outside funds.

One of the distinguishing features of the propaganda model that exists in the US is the way that dissenting voices are shut out of the debate on serious issues. This is done by separating people into two classes: Very Serious and Not Serious.

This distinction has nothing to do with the quality of one’s arguments or whether one is liberal or conservative, Republican or Democratic or even whether one is correct or not, but rather with whether one works within the narrow window of the establishment consensus or whether one dissents from that consensus. So people who confidently predicted that the war in Iraq would be a glorious victory are still well-entrenched in the media and taken as Very Serious and still haunt the pages of the New York Times and the Washington Post while those who warned from the beginning that it would be a disaster are rarely if ever found. This is because the dissenters also argued that the war was both illegal and immoral and such fundamental criticisms are not allowed, only superficial tactical dissent (such as “Should we use just air power or also send in ground troops?”). To be considered a Very Serious Person, one must work within the framework that the US always has Noble and Good motives for its actions and that any mess it creates is due to errors or unforeseen factors.

The same people who were dead wrong on Iraq (and remember that they span both liberal and conservative, Republican and Democratic) were back urging the assault on Libya for Good and Noble reasons and they were given plenty of space to advocate their views. They were wrong again but are still around polluting the airwaves.

This does not apply only to foreign policy. Glenn Greenwald points out that that Paul Krugman, a liberal icon, has now decided that he is an arbiter of who is a Very Serious Person and who is not and has anointed himself as part of the group because he supports Hillary Clinton’s stances on financial and health care reform. He dismisses all those think that Bernie Sanders has a better plan as not being Serious People.

Greenwald links to 170 people who have signed a memorandum praising Sanders’s plans. Too bad these people are No Longer Serious.

To any of you Sanders supporters who previously believed that you possessed serious policy expertise, such as Dean Baker; or former Clinton Labor Secretary and Professor of Economic Policy Robert Reich (who yesterday wrote that “Bernie Sanders is the most qualified candidate to create the political system we should have”); or the 170 policy experts who signed a letter endorsing Sanders’ financial reform plan over Clinton’s: sorry, but you must now know that you are not Serious at all. The Very Serious Columnist has spoken. He has a Seriousness Club, and you’re not in it. If you want to be eligible, you need to support the presidential candidate of the Serious establishment, led by Paul Krugman.

Veteran media watcher Norman Solomon documents the recent escalating media assault on Sanders by the establishment press, trying to make out that he is the mirror image of Trump despite the fact that Sanders offers serious solutions to major problems while Trump has simplistic solutions to manufactured crises. Sure Sander is aiming high when it comes to proposing solutions. But as Robert Reich says, this is necessary if one is to achieve anything meaningful

An excellent rejoinder has come from former Labor Secretary Robert Reich. “Krugman doesn’t get it,” Reich wrote. “I’ve been in and around Washington for almost fifty years, including a stint in the cabinet, and I’ve learned that real change happens only when a substantial share of the American public is mobilized, organized, energized, and determined to make it happen.”

And Reich added: “Political ‘pragmatism’ may require accepting ‘half loaves’ — but the full loaf has to be large and bold enough in the first place to make the half loaf meaningful. That’s why the movement must aim high — toward a single-payer universal health, free public higher education, and busting up the biggest banks, for example.”

Those who say that Sanders has no chance of implementing his ambitious proposals need to appreciate what Reich is saying about the realities of politics.


  1. hyphenman says


    I’m highly biased on this subject, but I think you’re absolutely correct and the way the knives are coming out is a strong indicator that Beyond The Fringe was right: we have two parties in this country, the first is like the English Conservative Party and the other is like the English Conservative Party.

    I don’t think Bernie is either, and Ralph Nader agrees.


  2. says

    the first is like the English Conservative Party and the other is like the English Conservative Party

    Old soviet joke:
    Under capitalism, man exploits man.
    In USSR, exactly the opposite.

  3. hyphenman says


    I remember that joke. I first heard it as an undergraduate studying the, then, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics under Dr. David Williams. Among many other courses on the USSR, Dr. Williams taught a course on Soviet Humor.

    Another of my favorites was that there is no Izvestia in Pravda and no Pravda in Izvestia.


  4. doublereed says

    It’s important to note that Paul Krugman was one of the biggest propagators of this theory of the whole Very Serious People thing, an ironic phrase he uses against detractors. Being a “Very Serious Person” essentially means believing the establishment consensus while deriding anyone outside as extreme, even if they have data and facts on their side. Remember, Krugman is very much outside the establishment consensus on a lot of fiscal issues like saying that Social Security is fine or should even be strengthened.

    What is so amazing is that suddenly Krugman became one of the “Very Serious People” he mocks so frequently.

  5. lorn says

    At the core of my view that Hillary is the better candidate for this place and time is an interesting dynamic in both the Republican and Democratic parties.

    Listen to the Right and it is an endless cry of impending disaster. The national ship is on fire and sinking, all has been lost and the only hope is to make a last stand with God, and the invisible hand of the market, on their side they will return the US to greatness, even if they have to betray all previous standards of civility and human rights to do it.

    Listening to the Left and it is all about victory and how we will prevail and bring about a brighter day with fairness and justice for all.

    The problem I see is that neither side is even slightly correct.

    The GOP has systematically run the board for elected office, from local mosquito boards on up to the highest offices, save the presidency. THE Democrats, and working people, have been losing the class and political war for forty years. The Right owns the vast majority of state and local legislators. They have the vast majority of governors. Of US congressman and senators. The Right has a vast majority in the state and federal judiciary, right up to the commanding majority in the Supreme Court. The Democratic party has been defeated.

    The few rays of hope come down to the limits of right wing economics, the unbridling of the far right monster by Trump, and a demographic surge which seems to be a sure thing for the liberals. Sounds good until you understand the time scale: economics will not effect inside a few years those who presently count in the present electoral system, the monster may scare off some people who might be inclined to not vote for the GOP candidates but on two and four year cycles, assuming every Democrat wins big and every Republican candidate loses badly, and the Democrats win the presidency, Bernie of Hillary will still be shackled by a GOP rump that can easily block everything they try to do.

    See also:

    The Left needs to accept that it has been defeated. Denial is not helpful. We, at best, will be looking at four years of rear-guard action by a beleaguered president unable to push through legislation or get anything funded.

    The Right has been triumphant in electing its people to office. It had failed if anyone expected them to run the ship of state. They are constitutionally disinclined, if not actually incapable, of making government work. Reagan said government is the problem so they are bound and determined to prove him right, even if it wrecks the nation.

    The end result is that the average individual American is worse off now that they were in 1980 even as the nation as an entity is doing much better than it was in 2008. The military is more capable and ready than it was twenty years ago, the deficit in terms of GDP is smaller than it has been in a very long time, and the economy is slowly improving. But if you listen to talk radio, or any GOP stump speech, they tell you exactly the opposite. That the military has been hollowed out, that the deficit has ballooned, and the economy is tanking. Why?

    The reason is simple. Fear unites people. Fear motivates people. Fear leads people to accept easy answers. Fear is a grand political tactic. It even covers up its own mistakes. If a GOP candidate gets into office it will be motivated by an irrational and unrealistic fear of what might happen. FEMA camps for Christians, chemtrails, gun grabbing, mind control vaccines, and Islam being imposed as the national religion. When that doesn’t happen the GOP candidates will all take a victory lap. The worse case didn’t happen so … success. The GOP will always be able to claim it has serves its constituency when Armageddon fails to arrive.

    The Democrats will be facing four years of being stymied, delivering nothing to our constituencies. We will be lucky to simply restrain the death-rattle actions of the dying GOP. It is going to be a long slow crawl over broken glass while people scream about how more should get done. It will be a thankless job. Hillary knows about thankless jobs.

    In four years the GOP will have had its high point. The organization is coming apart but not fast enough for this election cycle. In four years the Democrats should have a strong majority in the Senate and a simple majority in the House. In four years it will be time for the Democrats to come out of the wilderness.

    Hillary is the candidate for holding the line in defeat. Bernie is the candidate for a well time wave.

    The line I get against this is always the same ‘Bernie is a moment and moments can overwhelm normal politics’. Granted that moments change things, but they don’t change the constitution. It is hard to see how more Republicans can lose office, and Progressives gain office, than the number that come up for election. Assuming you aren’t referencing that perennial right-wing threat of ‘second amendment solutions’ the math just doesn’t work.

    I guess, technically, Republicans might resign and leave office ahead of schedule. It isn’t impossible. But it seems highly unlikely.

    Add to this the media framing that the nation is

  6. doublereed says

    For someone who’s admitted defeat, lorn, you sure go on and on with your bizarre rationalizations…

  7. StevoR says

    @5. lorn : “Add to this the media framing that the nation is ..”

    Is what? Would like to see that sentence finished please.

    (I think your analysis is pessimistic & I’m not really sure but I do think you make some good points here.)


    So people who confidently predicted that the war in Iraq would be a glorious victory are still well-entrenched in the media and taken as Very Serious and still haunt the pages of the New York Times and ..

    ..was I dreaming or did Donald Rumsfeld get a relatively softball interview on Colbert a night or three ago?

    .. while those who warned from the beginning that it would be a disaster are rarely if ever found.

    Er, really?

    Certainly not on this blog and there’s also a lot who seem to say in hindsight now they knew all along when, well, not so sure that’s always strictly true.

  8. says

    Jill Sobule appeared at a Sanders rally, singing a song about the extreme right wing and their racism and xenophobia. And as often happens, those bereft of intelligence and education wrongly assume and/or dishonestly claim the song represents Sanders’s point of view and what he would do as president. The video recording from this weekend has been removed, but a recording from an earlier event can still be seen on youtube.

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