Talking Points For News Anchors Against Sanders

Drawing by Nathaniel St. Clair

It appears the news directors of the cable channels have directed their anchors to note the following about Bernie Sanders in their objective, fair and balanced news coverage.

1. Bernie Sanders is a self-described socialist. A socialist cannot win in America. Repeat. A socialist cannot win in America.

2. Black people don’t like him, and you need blacks to win. Black church women are the backbone of the party, and they will not vote for an old socialist atheist Jew. Period.

3. He has “Bernie bros” in his campaign, young white men who hate women. There are emails showing this! And he told Warren (she says) a woman can’t win. Next!

4. He hasn’t explained how he will finance universal health care, and he wants to take your private insurance away. Americans love their insurance companies.

5. He is an unlikable, angry old man. Nobody likes him. Repeat. Nobody likes Bernie.

6. In 1985 on a trip to Nicaragua Sanders praised the achievements of the Cuban revolution and that of the Sandinistas. He’s pro-communist. Full stop.

7. Polls show the voters want a moderate, not a progressive radical. Enough said.

8. Trump would win in a Trump-Sanders match because it would be a choice between capitalism and socialism and the masses—as Americans—prefer capitalism.

Memorize these points and with them in mind report the news. Joy Reid, make sure you furrow your brow in feigned puzzlement. Joe Scarborough, feel free to roll your eyes. Mika, purse your lips. Fareed, frown away as you lament the Sanders surge.


I can imagine the talking points changing as CNN and MSNBC are forced to accept, post-New Hampshire, post-Super Tuesday, a de facto Sanders-Trump contest.

1. Bernie Sanders’ “socialism” is like that of many U.S. European allies. It’s actually not that big of an issue.

2. Young African-Americans are supportive of Bernie, and many African-American celebrities have actually embraced his campaign.

3. He has strong support from women, especially young women.

4. He has a detailed proposal for universal health care, which Congress will have to address. It’s not like a president has unlimited power. The point is, he has a progressive vision of health care reform.

5. He is a cantankerous old guy, but so what? He’s obviously widely loved. Surely more than Hillary.

6. He like many people in this country never bought into the Cold War brainwashing. What he said about Cuba was true.

7. Polls show the voters are actually comfortable with a “democratic socialist” candidate (due to the failure of that brainwashing).

8. It is not a choice between capitalism and socialism and the masses have become less influenced by Cold War fear-mongering.

The ruling class might well be confronted with a Trump-Sanders choice this year. It will remain divided over Trump. The question is how far factions within it will move to embrace the Sanders campaign, if it becomes clear that he can indeed defeat Trump. The strange deference that billionaire Tom Steyer shows Bernie suggests that the senator can become more palatable over time, not because he compromises ideologically but because he continues in fact to pose little threat to the capitalist-imperialist system as a whole. At least not in the short term.

The reason to support Sanders is not to support the immediate establishment of socialism. It’s to topple Trump while opening the door to future discussion of socialism. “Socialism” has been the He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named of U.S. politics, but since Occupy Wall Street (2011) young people have largely embraced the concept, or some version of it. A Sanders victory in New Hampshire followed by one in Nevada could force the bourgeois media to rethink their rejection of Bernie. If Joe Biden could hug him on stage, refuting Hillary’s charge about his unlikeability, MSNBC can back off from its Berniephobia if only to defeat Trump.

Then we can start reforming capitalism, seriously, discovering inevitably that much more than reform is in order and Sanders, bless his soul, was just a useful transitional figure on the road to real revolution.

Gary Leupp is Emeritus Professor of History at Tufts University, and is the author of Servants, Shophands and Laborers in in the Cities of Tokugawa JapanMale Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan; and Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900 and coeditor of The Tokugawa World (Routledge, 2021). He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, (AK Press). He can be reached at: