As the presidential campaign got underway last year, we watched the media lavish its affections on Beto O’Rourke for a while, and then Kamala Harris briefly, and Elizabeth Warren for perhaps a month.
But, as it will, love waned.
Joe Biden became the new sure thing—experienced, solid and empathetic. Most of all, he possessed that ineffable quality: electability. Then last week, after the Iowa caucuses, the attention shifted squarely to Pete Buttigieg, portrayed as a centrist savior, though it’s still debatable if he actually won.
And Tuesday night, the news media’s roving crush moved to Minnesota senator Amy Klobuchar. Her third-place finish in the New Hampshire Democratic primary became the story of the night.
Never, though, has mainstream media turned its loving eyes to the front-runner, Bernie Sanders. Quite the opposite.
On a sentence-by-sentence basis, straight news coverage may not have reflected an anti-Sanders bias, but the framing of that coverage—choices made on headlines and emphasis—sometimes did. (Sanders, in a home page headline in The New York Times, “tightens grip” on the party’s liberal wing, which sounds more threatening than victorious.)
Meanwhile, Klobuchar was queen for a day, garnering headlines like this one from Yahoo News: “Riding wave of momentum, Klobuchar lands in third place in New Hampshire primary.” You heard words like “Klobucharge” and “Klomentum” bandied about.
The subtext behind much of the disdain is partly a deep-seated sentiment that Sanders, if nominated, has little chance of winning the general election. But it’s also partly—and more insidiously—that many journalists don’t identify easily with Sanders in the same way they do with, say, Warren or O’Rourke or Buttigieg.
While many reporters and pundits have seemed until very recently to casually discount Sanders, a few opinion writers are taking him seriously enough to shoot off flares about what a bad choice they think he would make.
“Running Sanders Against Trump Would Be an Act of Insanity,” thundered the headline on a New York magazine piece by Jonathan Chait in late January.
“Bernie Can’t Win,” opined David Frum in The Atlantic, characterizing Sanders in unflattering terms as “a Marxist of the old school of dialectical materialism, from the land that time forgot.”
In turn, Sanders keeps dissing what he calls the corporate media, as he has for years. And it may well be that he doesn’t need or want the help of cable pundits, columnists and other opinion-makers.
From Beto to Biden, their crushes, so far, have turned into heartbreaks.
Maybe media love—fickle and fleeting—is a valentine that Bernie Sanders would rather do without.
Print Headline: Anybody but Bernie Sanders?