Newsflash: Sanders’s Strength of Character Hurt His Campaign

Bernie Sanders

On Sunday, The New York Times published an extremely important, insightful and well-reported piece explaining in detail why Bernie Sanders’s campaign has had such problems winning delegates, in spite of the clear public enthusiasm for his core message, and basic doubts about the frontrunner, Hillary Clinton.

Despite the merits of that article, what really struck me were two profound deficiencies:

– How very late the paper was in putting this information together — instead of earlier, when it could have had more of an impact, and

– That the key revelations are needlessly buried in that long article, diluting their impact .

So here’s the news:

Bernie Sanders’s potential victory in the Democratic presidential nominee race was seriously handicapped by… Sanders’s moral strengths:

– He felt a serious obligation to serve as an active senator, and was reluctant to be AWOL from Washington too often.

– He was opposed to personal attacks in politics, and therefore, for a long while, rejected opportunities to criticize Hillary Clinton where she was highly vulnerable.

But don’t take my word for it. Hillary Clinton’s own supporters essentially make that point. And they make it in such a blunt way that one comes away realizing how very soft her own support is, even within the Democratic establishment.

Why did The New York Times, with all its resources and connections, wait until it was almost too late to have any impact before revealing how, in the cynical election sweepstakes, Sanders’s basic strengths became weaknesses?

Had The New York Times and other big media stressed how well Sanders’s essential nature resonates with the American public — instead of constantly suggesting he could not win — the electoral math already would be different.

In addition, had the Times and other media not failed to communicate news of Sanders’s track record on issues of interest to the public — like his early involvement with civil rights — then Sanders would potentially be in far better shape already, perhaps even ahead.

Even worse, when Sanders did well, these establishment news entities consistently underplayed that.

To be sure, it is not the job of journalists to aid one candidate over another. But it is our job to level with our audience, and let them know what the heck is actually going on — and why.

In other words, the real story of Bernie Sanders’s difficulties is not something the media can report at arm’s length. Because the media itself is the story.


Related front page panorama photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from Bernie Sanders in viewfinder (Phil Roeder / Flickr – CC BY 2.0)

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