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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 6/21/16

Yet Another Failed Attempt to Discredit Bernie Sanders, Courtesy of the New York Times

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By Jake Johnson

Democratic Party liberals have made quite a show of their desire for Bernie Sanders to leave the presidential race so that, the story goes, Hillary Clinton can focus her energy solely on the looming threat of Donald Trump.

But, judging by their behavior, and by the writings of pundits and analysts, it is these very same liberals who cannot resist a daily whack at the Sanders campaign -- and at Bernie Sanders, himself. Liberals who frequently articulate both their horror at the prospect of a Trump presidency and the role we all share in preventing him from reaching the White House still, somehow, muster the energy to take pot-shots at the democratic socialist they so breezily dismissed as a non-entity just a few months ago.

Needless to say, legitimate criticism of the Sanders campaign -- of its ideas and of how the campaign was run -- is both fair and necessary. But the sneering that can be witnessed in some of the nation's most lauded journalistic outfits is a far-cry from legitimate.

Take, for instance, the examples compiled by Adam Johnson: Back in March, in a span of 16 hours, the Washington Post ran 16 stories lambasting the Sanders campaign from a variety of angles, none of which were charitable. The Post's editorial board has gone further, denouncing Sanders for running a "fiction-filled campaign," one that is merely telling progressives "everything they want to hear."

In a short period, major outlets underwent a sharp tactical turnaround -- from granting Sanders little attention at all, having dismissed his candidacy as symbolic and thus unworthy of mention, to launching baseless tirades at a furious pace.

And tirades, I think, is an accurate portrayal, as many of the critiques put forward by the anti-Sanders crowd are not critiques at all. Rather, they are polemics filled with musings on the motives of Sanders and his supporters -- musings that are rarely grounded in data.

Sanders backers have been classified on the basis of this flimsy framework in a variety of ways: Racist, sexist, conservative, Trump sympathizers.

Then, of course, there is the famous "Bernie bro" narrative, a tall tale that purports to demonstrate that Sanders supporters are motivated not by left politics or by a desire to improve the material conditions of Americans, but by their incessant drive, as young, white males, to regain their status in a rapidly diversifying society.

When one takes little more than a cursory glance at these claims, however, they fall apart.

Sadly, otherwise insightful commentators have latched onto these lines of attack: Paul Krugman, for instance, gleefully seized upon a faulty interpretation of survey data, exclaiming on one occasion that he had found "the truth about the Sanders movement," and on another that Sanders, himself, is becoming a "Bernie bro."

In terms of their factual weight, these smears are easily brushed aside; but, because they have been pushed by influential voices, these narratives, fraudulent as they are, have shown tremendous staying power.

But perhaps more pernicious than the strange, speculative musings and left-right combos coming from the anti-Sanders crowd are the flippant dismissals of Sanders's platform, one that contains elements that liberals are usually happy to embrace: Like, say, single-payer healthcare, (much) higher taxes on the wealthy, and an overhaul of the nation's disastrous campaign finance system.

Some commentators, in the face of a politician who seems genuinely determined to move forward with the agenda he has articulated throughout his campaign, have twisted themselves into knots to justify their emphatic rejection of the most progressive candidacy in recent history.

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