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OpEdNews Op Eds    H1'ed 1/4/19

NY Times Hit Piece on Bernie Sanders in Keeping With the Establishment's Leading News Organ

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Message Chuck Pennacchio

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First, while not dismissing or diminishing the significance of any voice of any aggrieved or harassed Bernie Sanders campaign worker especially the women highlighted in the Times article, "Sexism Claims From Sanders's 2016 Run: Paid Less, Treated Worse" I can tell you from forty-plus years of campaign experience (local, county, congressional, senatorial, presidential) that these incidents presented as a scandalized indictment of Senator Sanders by the NY Times are commonplace... completely unacceptable, but commonplace.

This pervasive culture is in desperate need of remedy, but actually mild when compared to what I've seen, received, and addressed in forty-five years of political work. Frankly, this sexism-charge article is a warmed-over rehash of stories known and alleged two years ago a front-page, tabloid-style attack that nowhere approaches the New York Times boastful standard of "All the News That's Fit to Print." Rather, the piece is best understood as an attack piece by the establishment's "paper of record." I could tell tales that would gross out, offend, and shock anyone who has not worked on multiple, high-level campaigns, far in excess of what's told in the Times article. Again, that's not to excuse or downplay any of these women's stories rather, it's to raise the questions of newsworthiness, timing, and purpose. Because Bernie is Bernie, an authentic, tried and true, social democrat, he's going to be held to a higher standard than anyone else running for president. As such, a salacious headline above an unflattering picture, followed by decontextualized charges of sexism, drives home the appropriateness of my questions.

Second, campaigns by the very nature of their transience, chaos, and internal power-play politics, are a breeding ground for abuse, corruption and bigotry. Add to the mix Bernie's unexpected rise in the polls, infusion of tens-of-millions, and mass hiring of new staff without an appropriate infrastructure to handle such growth. You are going to experience the aforementioned problems on a monumental scale, right? Well, as disturbing as these stories are to the seasoned campaign staffer, such as myself, but more deeply upsetting to the less experienced reader, I actually don't see anything unusual or over-the-top being reported in this article. Wrong, yes, but not unusual. In need of correction, mea culpas, and transparency going forward? Yes, absolutely.

Third, again, for argument sake, I will assume everything in this article is true and verified. Here's my next question: why print a #MeToo scandal story on January 2, 2019? a story the Times has most assuredly been sitting on for months, at least. After all, many of the events were known, if not widely reported on, two or more years ago. Yet the story goes on the front page the same day Elizabeth Warren announces her candidacy? And probably days from Bernie's own announcement? As a professor and student of history, politics, and the media, I can easily answer those questions; but as an engaged observer of our corporate politics and corporate media, I could just as easily respond. Follow the money; follow the self-interest; follow the 'if it bleeds, it leads' dictum of the mainstream media; follow the 'gotcha' cynical calculation of tearing down the popular 'good guy' who has Wall Street in his political crosshairs.

Fourth, not being an insider on Bernie's campaign, but an "outsider" delegate witnessing the hijacking of the Pennsylvania operation by a Democratic Party provocateur, a scandal in its own right (but less attractive to an editor), I and other Berniecrats were marginalized, repeatedly lied to, and physically prevented from taking our assigned seats at the Philadelphia Democratic convention on nights 3 and 4. Could these problems be scandalized as well? Of course, but the mainstream media chose to ignore these events, let alone the under treatment of DNC corruption in the 2016 cycle (despite Donna Brazile's gutsy expose), the Clinton Foundation's cozying with dictators, President Obama's seven-nation drone wars campaign, and, until recently, U.S. complicity in the years-long, Saudi-led war and humanitarian crisis in Yemen.

Fifth, as to the charge that Bernie Sanders should have known about these sexual abuse and pay disparity problems on his campaign, I can share my own experience running for Pennsylvania's Senate seat back in 2004-2006, when my staff, almost all volunteers, deliberately kept me in a bubble with regard to internal and external campaign difficulties, rumor-mongering, character attacks, and financial challenges. Why? So I could focus laser-like on the Senate race while keeping my family life insulated and, mostly, in balance. For Bernie, too, he was kept as far away from day-to-day campaign issues as possible. Should he or could he have hired better managers and staff? No doubt, but at a certain point a candidate must trust his or her people to run the behind-the-scenes campaign, to allow them to be the face of the campaign, an all-consuming process in itself.

Sixth, paid campaign staffers are a kind of mercenary sub-culture, running the entire spectrum of personality types, but who are also drawn to the visceral excitement of high-flying, frenetic campaigns with known endpoints. So, here I offer reasons but not excuses for the all-too-common abuses on big campaigns. Moving forward, while there should be no reasons or excuses for permitted abuses or gross salary discrepancies, knowing what Bernie's team should have learned, there will be a persistence of problems when working within an industry based on uncertainty, dramatic change, and a full array of personality types, with greater reward to the aggressors, the self-starters, and the crisis managers. It's a kind of toxic soup that brings out both the best and worst in people. Fail safes need to be put in place to minimize the opportunities for exploitation and harassment, and not just against women; structures and procedures need to be designed to protect all vulnerable persons.

Seventh, having shared the above as background and context for understanding the chaotic nature of large-scale campaigns, I can say with certainty that the "Sexism Claims" NY Times article is a flat-out, preemptive, hit-piece on the most popular politician in the country a politician who represents a perceived existential threat to the political establishment, of which the NY Times is its leading news organ.

 

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Chuck Pennacchio, PhD, 2016 elected Bernie Sanders Delegate; Senior Advisor, Healthcare for All Pennsylvania; Associate Professor of History and Politics, The University of the Arts in Philadelphia.  BA in history and political science from (more...)
 

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