Bernie Bash Part 2: Electric Boogaloo

Those of us who turned to the opinion pages of the February 20 edition of the Gazette-Times were treated to a local installment of a nationwide trend in the establishment media, a bit of the ol’ Bernie bashing. This episode materialized as a political cartoon featuring a zombie-esque image of 2020 Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders clawing his way from the earth under a gravestone reading “BERNIE SANDERS BURIED 2016,” drawn by Dave Granlund. 

Now, there’s plenty to unpack here, but rather than burn the suitcase like I’m tempted to do, let’s address a point or two.

Of all the ridiculous notions in this drawing, the most glaring to me is the suggestion that Sanders’ 2016 campaign is dead and rotting. He was defeated in his 2016 primary bid, but the spirit of that campaign continues to shape the face of modern American politics. The stunning 2018 congressional victories of several bonafide progressives were in many cases a direct result of Sanders’ 2016 campaign. Many of the groups that propelled these candidates to victory, like Our Revolution and Justice Democrats, were started by Sanders’ staffers on the heels of the campaign to carry on his  message. The exceedingly popular freshman Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was an organizer for Bernie, herself.

Sanders has managed to pull off a massive Overton shift in American politics. His policy proposals were once laughed out of the room in D.C., but now we have centrist candidates, like undercover cop Kamala Harris, claiming that they’re for Medicare for All. 

So why such contempt and dismissal from the mainstream left and the supposed liberal media? Thomas Frank hypothesizes in his Harpers essay “Swat Team:” “…to the affluent white-collar class, what [Sanders] represented was atavism, a regression to a time when demagogues in rumpled jackets pandered to vulgar public prejudices against banks and capitalists and foreign factory owners. Ugh.” 

Whatever the reason, anyone who dismisses Sanders and his followers as some sort of leftist side show with no chance of taking a foothold in mainstream American politics is already wrong. Watch out: the call is coming from inside the house. The fighting left ain’t done yet, either.

Commentary by Jay Sharpe