America proclaims to be the “land of the free and the home of the brave”. One thing that is surely difficult to question is the bravery of Bernie Sanders. The US is the home of demockracy, big money talks and generally wins elections. It is a land where government policy is designed primarily to benefit corporations. Even healthcare, a basic human right in most other democracies is controlled by private entities.
Meanwhile, climate change is ignored because it clashes with US interests, more specifically corporate interests. Unsurprisingly, the US has the highest levels of economic inequality in the G7 and 5th worst in the OECD, while boasting more billionaires per capita than any other nation on earth. America is very much a plutocracy, while democracy is a mere pipe dream for the majority of its citizens.
The enormity of what Bernie Sanders is fighting against cannot be overestimated. It is a country at the epicentre of Gordon Gekko’s “greed is good” philosophy (See the film Wall Street for details). A nation that has been on the receiving end of decades of McCarthyism. A place that embodies individualism to the detriment of all others and a country that has killed between 20-30 million people since World War 2. Apparently, all in an effort to implement ‘US democracy’ around the globe. This wonderful gift has been delivered via coups, wars, assassinations, election interference and propping up dictators.
To make his task ever more difficult, Sanders is a self proclaimed Democratic Socialist. Merely uttering the word socialist often raises the heckles of many a ‘patriot’ playing a banjo whilst sat in a rocking chair, on the porch of a run down shack. But this societal attitude towards socialism shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone. For decades the people of the US have been indoctrinated with the idea that socialism is bad and capitalism is good (try saying this while doing a Tarzan impersonation).
Throughout the United States this narrative has been blindly regurgitated over the years in the press and of course throughout popular culture. Just think of how many films portrayed the Soviet Union as the bad guys in the 1980’s; Rocky IV, Rambo, Top Gun, Red Dawn, Firefox and of course that unforgettable cinematic classic, No Retreat, No Surrender, complete with Jean Claude Van Damme as the obligatory nasty Russian.
In the 21st century, however, most anti-socialist propaganda is more likely to appear on social media delivered by faux prophets such as Ben Shapiro. The fast talking Shapiro is an expert at knocking down strawman arguments with aplomb, while making false assertions. As an example, one such fallacy he makes is that most wealth in the US is not inherited. However, research on the contrary states that 40% of people on the Forbes 400 list received some inheritance from family members, with 21% inheriting enough to be placed straight on to this list. This particular study also concluded that 60% of individuals who made the list grew up in substantially privileged backgrounds.
Sadly, many like Shapiro have no clue what socialism actually is, let alone what democratic socialism entails. Therefore, the “red scare” persists in many parts of the US, particularly among the ‘baby boomer’ generation. Outlets like Fox News perpetuate this narrative in order to extinguish any ideas that there may just be a better way to run society. In one such egregious attempt to smear socialism, a Fox News anchor compared Denmark to Venezuela. Incidentally, Denmark buries the US on the majority of metrics in relation to wellbeing including; community support, education, environment, civic engagement, life satisfaction and work life balance. To be fair Denmark is considered more as a social democracy.
All that Bernie Sanders is really suggesting is a fairer system, one that looks after and educates all people, not just the ones who can afford it. He rightly disagrees with the premise that the US is currently a meritocracy. The “American Dream” is for many the “American Nightmare”, a fairy tale perpetuated by the ruling elite in order to keep people striving for more and more stuff. The “American Dream” only works for the super rich, who hide behind huge walls, private islands and tax scams . The tail without doubt continues to wag the dog, as the bulk of the money and political grunt lies with a tiny group of oligarchs.
Throughout the early stages of the primaries we have witnessed the corporate machine flex it’s muscles under the guise of the ‘moderate’ wing of the Democratic Party, ably supported by the billionaire led media. Like Corbyn in the UK, Sanders is receiving a huge amount of criticism from within his own party. This is the first line of attack, designed to question Bernie’s credibility and his electability, placing doubt in the minds of the public. This is coupled with the media’s blatant assault, which often consists of black outs or outright criticism. Attacks have also rained down recently from influential ex-politician and the wicked witch of the corporate west Hillary Clinton.
It has been well documented regarding the mainstream media’s overt negative attitude towards Sanders. MSNBC’s Mimi Rocah in 2019 proclaimed that Bernie made her “skin crawl” without giving any reasoning behind this comment, just a juvenile emotionally charged statement. The same organisation have also been guilty of repeated mathematical errors in the form of bogus graphics displayed on screen. These are never amended, apologised for and are always to the detriment of Mr Sanders.
One of MSNBC’s supposedly ‘progressive’ anchor Rachel Maddow suggested Bernie had a “women problem”, claiming that Sanders had less donations from women than all the other candidates. Critically, Maddow only included donations above $200, whilst 99.3% of Bernie’s donations are less than $100. It turns out, that Sanders has raised a greater share of his donations from women than over half the field in the Democratic primary, but this of course has not been mentioned. To further confirm MSNBC’s subservience towards corporate America, host Joe Scarborough boldly claimed that only a capitalist candidate could challenge Donald Trump, despite 63/68 polls stating that Sanders would win in a head to head.
CNN is another influential corporate media outlet that can even outdo MSNBC for anti-Sanders rhetoric. Like most mainstream propaganda outlets CNN is wedded to Wall Street; owned by Turner Broadcast, which is controlled by WarnerMedia, which is a subsidiary of AT&T, the 9th largest corporation in the US. And who owns AT&T? Wall Street investors, the very people who Bernie has consistently waged war against. At this point it’s also worth recognising, that every major media group apart from CBS have board members who are on other boards of either a health insurance or pharmaceutical company. Seeing as Sanders is championing universal healthcare, it’s not entirely surprising why among other reasons the media mafia is decidedly lukewarm towards Bernie.
It wouldn’t be far fetched to suggest that CNN’s sharing of information has been questionable to say the least. This ranges from displaying polls with statically insignificant numbers, to concealing the identities of DNC operatives and lobbyist employees at town hall events. These individuals used fake identities and asked questions with the sole aim to trip Bernie up in public. More recently, prior to the recent Iowa caucus, CNN were back to their usual trick of keeping the debate within acceptable boundaries, for them.
This media behemoth displays their political colours by repeatedly taking sides against Sanders, such as, seizing on an Elizabeth Warren allegation, suggesting Sanders stated “a woman cannot win the presidency”. This is impossible to verify, as only Warren and Sanders were present during this verbal exchange. Furthermore, during the debate right wing talking points were used in place of responsible and pertinent questions, asking Sanders, “how would you keep the plan from bankrupting the country”?
Unfortunately, if Sanders is to succeed, his campaign better get used to this resistance as the propaganda will only intensify. Stage two will consist of an onslaught from the right wing media, GOP fearmongering and frightened billionaires claiming he is evil personified. Plus of course, obligatory name calling from the “child in chief” Donald Trump and his band of MAGA hat wearing merry men.
Already, right-wing billionaires have a launched an ad campaign against Sanders for proposing universal healthcare and a major public works plan to clean up the planet. Suggesting he’s aiming to transform the country by meeting extreme environmental standards. Unsurprisingly, the majority of these backers are allies of the Koch’s.
The general theme from groups like this is that the Sanders camp are an affront to American values and freedoms. In reality, all this cabal are concerned about is how it affects them and the higher taxes they may well have to pay. However, the game of choice from the right and the media in general will likely be ‘red baiting’. In fact this is already underway, prior to the New Hampshire primary Chris Matthews one of MSNBC’s talking heads suggested that if Sanders won the election, he would establish a dictatorship and start having his opponents shot.
Of course in preparation, the Republican’s will be dusting off their ‘red scare’ playbook, as Sanders begins to be seen as a credible threat to the presidency. In 2018 Trump’s Council of Economic Advisers released a report equating the mild Democratic Socialism Sanders is espousing to the murderous acts of Stalin and Mao. This is clearly ridiculous, if we analyse what Bernie is actually suggesting, in the majority of Europe he would be seen as nothing more than a centrist. Another common narrative right wing reactionaries try to establish, is the link between the plight of Venezuela and a Sanders led government. What they fail to mention is much of Venezuela’s woes have been caused by US sanctions and game playing by the Venezuelan elite.
What we have learnt from the 2016 US election and the recent 2019 UK election is, none of this right wing propaganda requires any truth, all that is needed is the initiation of an emotional response. If this is strong enough, it will override any rational thought processes within the pre-frontal cortex. This very approach contributed to many working class people in the UK to vote for a 3 word slogan “get Brexit done” over better health, education and public services, which Labour proposed.
The politics of fear will be used extensively by Trump with the goal of delivering a message that will bypass any prospect of reason among the electorate. Bear in mind, I haven’t even mentioned baseless accusations of anti-Semitism, which have surfaced on both sides of the Atlantic and was a major contributing factor regarding Corbyn’s defeat. AIPAC is infinitely more powerful than anything the UK has to offer. But unlike Corbyn, the Sander’s camp have been quick to fire back at a bogus article in the Washington Examiner stating, “anyone accusing Bernie Sanders of anti-Semitism and anyone publishing this shit, is a total asshole”.
Lets be honest, Bernie Sanders pisses a lot of rich, connected people off. He’s unapologetically going after bankers, billionaires, big pharma, the med insurance industry, the fossil fuel industry among others. The military industrial complex will also feel threatened by his perceived ‘communist’ ideas. So, will the system allow Bernie to be the President of the United States? If he scrapes past the obvious bias of his own party, mass media attacks that will only escalate, the wrath of right wing vitriol and their blatant lies, do we really think the “deep state” will welcome him with open arms? I’m not convinced.
We clearly need to seriously think about this. A Sanders presidency doesn’t seem that outlandish judging by the polls. Joe Biden has tanked and Buttigieg is hugely unpopular with non-white voters. Billionaire Michael Bloomberg looks like he will buy his way into contention and appears to be possibly the establishment’s strongest contender. But currently, Sanders on average has a 4.4 point lead in the Democratic Party national polls. What’s more, Bernie is up by 8 points in the polls against Trump, taken on the 10th February.
I guess what I’m asking is, with so much at stake would Bernie ever be allowed to physically walk into the White House as President of the United States? A Sanders victory would result in a lot of anger for very rich, powerful, connected people, in a country that has a history of assassinations both inside and outside of the US. In the event of a successful election bid, I would be extremely concerned for wellbeing of Mr Sanders and his family, but would relish a change in political direction from one of the worlds most influential nations. The question is, has the US got the stomach for a political revolution?