The Bern Insurgency


Following Hillary’s narrow win in the Nevada caucuses last Saturday, the mainstream media couldn’t wait to return to their preferred “inevitability” narrative in the 2016 Democratic presidential contest.

Since their early predictions in the Republican race have thus far proven so comically wrong, perhaps they see a Hillary candidacy as the only way to rescue their dignity. And despite the ridiculous protestations of her supporters that her female gender automatically makes her “anti-establishment”—an over-simplistic reading of the nature of patriarchy—there’s no doubt that Hillary, especially if Trump ends up as the GOP nominee, is the establishment—and thus media—favorite. The financial elites who funded her and Bill’s rapid rise from “poverty” after they left the White House are looking for a return on their investment.

Once the chair of the Democratic National Committee essentially admitted that the party’s system is rigged to stamp down “grassroots” insurgencies like the Bernie phenomenon, it dispelled any remaining doubts that the national Democratic establishment would not be a neutral arbiter. The DNC is all in, as lock-step endorsements and numerous irregularities in the first two caucus states seem to indicate.

And it’s important to remember what today’s Democratic establishment represents: the political/corporate partnership brought into being by “New Democrats” and the former Democratic Leadership Council, to remove traces of “left populism” in the party and find “market-based solutions” to replace traditional Democratic worker-based policies. It’s noteworthy, symbolically at least, that when the DLC closed shop in 2011, the Clinton Foundation purchased its historical records.

For a quick confirmation of Hillary’s status as the establishment candidate, all you have to do is take a look at their lists of lifetime top ten funders, with Hillary’s dominated by banks and Bernie’s by labor (some may argue, with a certain legitimacy, that unions are also establishment, but that’s a pretty archaic view). A wider perspective comes in a recent Salon article by former Alaska senator Mike Gravel, who knows something about tilting against windmills, as well as how the system works:

“Having tied with Hillary Clinton in the Iowa caucuses, and winning overwhelmingly in New Hampshire, Bernie is now going to face an incredible assault by the Wall Street clique, which controls the American and global economies; by the Democratic Party establishment, beholden to Wall Street money; by mainstream media, largely owned by six Wall Street corporations and defenders of the status quo; and by Hillary and Bill Clinton, who cater to Wall Street’s interests.”

That assault began immediately following the New Hampshire primary, in the form of subdued media coverage of the historic nature of the result—Bernie got the most votes ever in a New Hampshire primary, and was the first Jew to ever win a US presidential primary—and an immediate pivot to making projections about the more favorable Clinton terrain in Nevada and South Carolina.

After ramping up the “expectations game” in Nevada (a trap Bernie seemed to fall into, in a rare slip into overconfidence on the eve of the caucus), the media smugly turned Bernie’s narrow loss there into a national rout (despite the fact that he was the underdog in Nevada, and recent polls that show Bernie closing the gap, tied or leading Hillary nationally) and dismissed the rest of the primary season as a Clinton mop-up operation. After Super Tuesday, it’s over. Of course, this is just magical thinking, conjured out of their own fanciful illusions and the “Washington consensus.”

Among the many ugly revelations about our corrupt political and economic system that Bernie’s candidacy has exposed, the true nature of American mainstream media as the psychological operations arm of the “power elite” who govern both major political parties, is one of the most valuable. The biggest cheer from the crowd that Bernie got the night of his New Hampshire primary victory was when he pointed at the bank of cameras at the back of the auditorium and said that, in addition to “establishment politics” and “establishment economics,” his campaign was also going after “establishment media.” That must have scared somebody.

What makes the Bernie Sanders campaign a real insurgency is that he is doing something unprecedented in modern American politics. He is an unabashed and independent progressive populist who is entirely funded by average voters, and who can therefore tell the truth about the rot and decay at the heart of our national politics. And although the establishment has done everything in its power to diminish his candidacy, the truth of his message has struck such a chord in people’s hearts that the subterranean growth of his support continues, and scales of illusion fall from the public’s eyes despite every effort to contain the phenomenon.

This is what makes Bernie’s campaign for president, in the largest sense, a genuine political revolution. And in the eyes of the establishment, it also makes Bernie a very dangerous man.

Michael Hasty blogs at Free Radical Maine.