The Media's Big Fat Bernie Blind Spot

Politics Features Bernie Sanders
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The Media's Big Fat Bernie Blind Spot

The press has ignored an enormous factor in Hillary Clinton’s loss.

Emails. James Comey. Clinton Foundation. Deplorables. Pneumonia-gate. Wall Street speeches. More emails.

It took a perfect storm, fueled by false equivalence reporting, for Hillary Clinton to lose the 2016 election. Donald Trump didn’t just need an inside straight, per Karl Rove’s analogy; he needed a straight flush.

But in the mouth-agape post mortems since November 8, analysis of one factor has been nearly absent: Clinton’s failure to select Bernie Sanders as her running mate. It is mind-boggling that, amid unlimited cyber-space and content-starved 24/7 news channels, the passing over of Sanders received so little attention.

Need proof? Google “Hillary Clinton should have picked Bernie Sanders as vice president.”

Two top results are from a nearly invisible site called Quora.com. Other first-page items include a pre-selection CNN opinion piece espousing why Sanders shouldn’t be chosen; a post-pick piece on conservative gasbag Glenn Beck’s website, The Blaze, mocking Clinton for not selecting Sanders; and, forebodingly, Huffington Post coverage of a June 2016 Monmouth University poll revealing that 39% of respondents would be more likely to support the Democratic ticket if Sanders were on it—a figure whose +19% net effect annihilated five other possible VP picks, including the in-the-red -4% garnered by eventual nominee and human Ambien, Tim Kaine.

Fact: Bernie Sanders won 23 primary contests, a runner-up win total matched only by Hillary herself, in 2008. Granted, Obama didn’t select Clinton that year, but circumstances were much different. Given George W. Bush’s historic unpopularity, Obama was on the right side of a change election, and had won the nomination by galvanizing an under-30 base that Democrats depend upon. In 2016, Hillary represented a tenuous status quo, and became the party’s nominee despite the youth vote.

Obama, then, didn’t need a VP pick that (1) convinced voters of the ticket’s attractiveness as a change agent, and (2) energized the party base. By contrast, during the 2016 primaries Clinton received nearly 300% less votes from the under-30 set. That’s not a typo: Sanders claimed over two million millennial votes to Clinton’s 766,000.

This didn’t go unnoticed at Camp Clinton: the eventual 2016 Democratic Platform reflected Sanders’ indelible influence on issues like the minimum wage, college costs and trade deals.

Selecting Sanders as VP would have provided much-needed sincerity insurance, cementing Clinton’s intentions to deliver on ambitiously progressive promises made only after feeling the Bern on her heels. But Sanders didn’t even get seriously considered. Why? And where was the media coverage of this tone-deaf shunning?

A Vast Centrist Conspiracy?

It’s understandable for media to leave primary runners-up in the rearview during a general election, especially one as train-wreckingly compelling as last year’s contest. Nobody was talking about Ted Cruz in October. But when the dust started to settle after November 8, the dearth of depth in examining Clinton’s loss is at best blind, at worst conspiratorial.

Metrics were certainly there for the parsing. On November 10, the Washington Post declared that Bernie Sanders could have beaten Trump. That claim is subjective; what aren’t are the New York Times exit poll numbers the piece cited:

In 2012 and 2016, respectively, Romney and Trump each received 37% of Millennial votes. In those same elections, Obama outperformed Clinton 60% to 55%; that 5% didn’t go to Republicans, but rather to independent candidates. The same polls reveal that Trump beat Clinton by 6% among independents, with whom Sanders was undeniably more popular.

This was entirely avoidable. Jill Stein did not, as Salon claimed, spoil the election for Hillary. Clinton did so herself, by failing to select Sanders as her running mate.

Would every anti-Clinton millennial have been swayed by adding Sanders to the ticket? Of course not. But Clinton lost by a football stadium’s worth of votes across three states. To argue that Sanders wouldn’t have been a difference maker isn’t just incorrect, it’s ridiculous.

It’s also obvious. So obvious that even fact magician and prominent Oval Office couch-sitter Kellyanne Conway plainly saw it.

Why does the media continue to miss this?

Let’s start with the reason that ends all reasoning: Donald Trump. We have a sitting president whose incompetence, ignorance and outrageous lies are drowning out substantive issues galore. Get in line, Democratic Socialism.

Another reason is the botched yet widely accepted electoral autopsy citing Hillary’s inability to connect with Rust Belt whites as the dominant factor in her defeat. But it wasn’t; it was simply another card in the straight flush Trump needed to eke out an Electoral College victory.

Would Clinton have won had she attracted more working class whites? Yes. But she would have won without any of the snowballing scandals and surprises in the weeks preceding the election—every single one of which has been explored ad nauseam… except Sanders.

Perhaps he’s too old, too rumpled, too curmudgeonly. Perhaps his ideas were politically improbable. Perhaps some Head & Shoulders would have helped.

But perhaps it’s just a mainstream media environment that has become even more establishment than centrist poster girl Hillary Clinton.

The Democratic Party’s future is left of Clinton, not right. If party leaders take the flawed media post mortems to heart, the result will be failed pleas to misinformed clusters of uneducated rural whites, while campus-loads of swayable Millennials—Bernie’s crowd—continue taking their votes elsewhere. Democrats must not make the media’s blindness their own.

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