One of the most common refrains from Trump supporters during the 2016 campaign was the unfairness of the media, and while I understood the argument, my dislike for Trump’s style meant I paid little attention to how he was covered. However, the 2020 Democratic primary has exposed the many major flaws in the media coverage of candidates. A quick glimpse at last week’s debate exposed the absurdity of cable news’ moderated debates.
If you were unable to watch the debate, look up “Bernie Sanders Elizabeth Warren, Can a Woman be President?” for a bit of background. The premise of the video is a CNN debate moderator asking Sanders about an article CNN published saying that “sources” claimed Sanders told Warren in a closed-door meeting that a woman could not be president. Those “sources” as it turns out, were two people Warren spoke with after the meeting, and two people familiar with the meeting. In essence, it’s impossible to know what was actually said, given the two of them were meeting in private. However, if you watch the clip of the exchange on CNN, the moderator phrases the question in such a biased way she draws a laugh from the crowd.
It is obvious that the most popular media sources in the United States have zero interest in a Sanders presidency. After his alleged—and I stress alleged—comments, CNN published a number of terrible hot takes about the horrors of saying a woman cannot be president. The New York Times, thought of by many—not including myself—as an organization with valid political analysis, added their own trash reporting to the fire. An article by Shane Goldmacher and Jonathon Martin claimed “Ms. Warren and Mr. Sanders continued a back-and-forth over the fraught subject of whether a woman could be elected president.” Imagine reading that line without having watched the debate. It may seem like a small detail, but it is a gross mischaracterization of the interaction and shows the clear bias of the Times as well.
Finally, we were treated to a truly awful YouTube clip of “The View” discussing the exchange. Meghan McCain blessed us with the following line: “She can go up strong and tough and hard against a bullying man candidate that’s been bullying her for her gender.” Once again, if you are one of the three million people watching this every day and didn’t see the debate, you would think Sanders must be a massive sexist.
Fortunately, CNN, the Times, and “The View” are not the only sources of liberal news, as the Washington Post pointed out Bernie is doing better amongst women voters than Warren is. Directly after the “bombshell” article broke, Tulsi Gabbard tweeted that Bernie gave her encouragement after informing him she was running for President. In probably the most clear support of his belief that a woman can be president, Bernie campaigned for Hillary despite her dubious tactics and borderline collusion with the DNC. Whether or not you believe that the 2016 primary was rigged in Hillary’s favor, one can at least acknowledge how difficult it must have been for Bernie to compromise some of his progressivism to support an establishment, centrist candidate in Clinton.
This point segues nicely into another criticism of Bernie: that he didn’t do a good enough job convincing his former supporters to vote for Hillary in 2016. First off, to blame Bernie for Hillary’s election loss is absurd, as it shouldn’t be his fault that her uninspiring, moderate brand of progressivism failed to capture the millions of young people that Bernie brought into the voting electorate. Not only did Bernie campaign for her after his questionable defeat, he did so knowing that she stood for everything he rails against, such as entrenched elitism, Wall Street, and foreign policy failures. This sentiment probably wouldn’t exist at all, but Hillary insists on making excuses like the following one a few weeks ago:
“It’s his online Bernie Bros and their relentless attacks on lots of his competitors, particularly the women,” she said to the Hollywood Reporter. “And I really hope people are paying attention to that because it should be worrisome that he has permitted this culture — not only permitted, [he] seems to really be very much supporting it.”
If this really was the narrative of the Bernie campaign then and now, he wouldn’t have won more women under 30 than her in the 2016 primary season. Think about that for a moment. An old white man from Vermont pulled in more votes from young women than potentially the first woman president ever. This fact shows that young Democratic voters are not falling prey to attempts at identity politics. Instead, voters are focused on the candidates that can help them get access to affordable healthcare, or ones that focus on the climate.
This is why Warren’s comments about Bernie are so frustrating. A cynical view of her statement, and one that Bernie would never be allowed to say, is that she realizes her lack of popularity among women and did her best to bring Bernie’s popularity down. A less cynical view is that she genuinely felt he implied a woman could not be president. Even if this was the case, which evidence suggests it is not, Democrats should not be getting into an ugly he said she said fight about sexism on stage when the current President’s past rhetoric on women is the real problem.
Jack Leger is a member of 2021 can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.