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Establishment Democrats' Dilemma: How to Do In Bernie Sanders Without Alienating His Young Voters

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana

Bernie Sanders is a survivor, but can he survive the orchestrated media onslaught that seems determined to bring him down?

At 78, Sanders has survived a heart attack, and the loathing of the Democratic Party establishment and its compliant media wing.


He survived that recent vicious and shameful CNN takedown accusing him of sexism for allegedly saying a woman couldn't be elected president. Sanders denied it. CNN didn't much care.

Now his supporters are being shamed as dangerous and angry by other media and also as tools of President Donald Trump.

But guess what?

It's all backfiring. Sanders is surging, poised to take Iowa and New Hampshire, riding a populist wave of the left.

Establishment Democrats are worried, already arguing that Sanders would lose to Trump. But Sanders' base hasn't forgotten how the Democratic National Committee rigged the nomination for Hillary Clinton last time.

In response to Sanders, the Democratic establishment media is selling "Fear Bernie" stories. And this is their dilemma:

How can the Democratic establishment use free and paid media to kill off Sanders' candidacy while not alienating his base of young, committed voters?

Democrats need those young Sanders voters to win in 2020. Not only do they need those votes, they need that youthful passion. Without it, they're left with Joe Biden chewing on his teeth, telling stories like a lonely old man at the bar, casting himself as the hero again and again.

According to the RealClear Politics average of polls and other surveys, Sanders is leading in the Iowa Democratic caucuses and could take New Hampshire. His supporters, many of them young and idealistic, are sticking with him.


I'm certainly no Bernie Bro. As a lonely print-news conservative -- an endangered species stubbornly unwilling to be stuffed and put on display at a museum -- I disagree with Sanders' policies.

But he fascinates me. The growth of populist movements as the corrupt and tired American center collapses, the supporters shamed by unctuous establishment media, the anger simmering as those voters are mocked by the elites, is the political story of our time.

It happened on the Republican side in 2016. I could see then it would happen to the Democrats this cycle. And now it is happening.

I've never doubted Sanders' appeal to his base. His appeal is about consistency and authenticity, something the other Democratic candidates seem to lack.

And squeezing Sanders to protect old Joe Biden -- and then expecting Sanders voters to flock to Biden or Elizabeth Warren (Hillary 2.0) -- seems difficult at best.

As Sanders rises in the early polls, the Democratic media attacks against him increase.

Time is now reporting that Third Way, a left-of-center think tank, is sending memos to hundreds of prominent Iowa Democrats warning them that supporting Sanders in the Democratic primary is just what "Trump wants you to do."

Recently, there was that cynical attempted takedown by CNN in the Iowa debate, accusing him of telling Warren that a woman could not win the presidency, which he vehemently denied.


The denial didn't matter much to CNN, which had its marching orders. The talking heads derided Sanders and declared Warren to be his victim.

Then a hot mic clip was found, as if by coincidence, allowing Warren to complain Sanders had just called her a liar on national television. And they dined out on that for a few news cycles.

But that just made Sanders supporters even more determined.

Then Hillary weighed in, mocking Sanders while starring in a revisionist documentary glorifying (who else?) Hillary.

"Nobody likes him, nobody wants to work with him, he got nothing done. He was a career politician," she said. "It's all just baloney and I feel so bad that people got sucked into it."

Asked by reporters recently if that assessment of Sanders still held, she was quoted as saying: "Yes, it does."

If that wasn't enough, The New York Times is now after Sanders with a vengeance. The house organ of the Democratic establishment oddly endorsed Warren and Amy Klobuchar for the Democratic nomination.

The endorsement was so contrived that conservative pundit Ben Shapiro couldn't resist tweeting that the Times had just picked the Chiefs and the 49ers to win the Super Bowl.

The other day, the Times ominously speculated in a column headline, "Bernie Could Win the Nomination. Should we be afraid?"

I really can't say.


In a page one news story the other day, on "Bernie Sanders and His Internet Army," the Times portrayed Sanders supporters as a pack of haters.

It quoted Bakari Sellers, an African American former South Carolina state legislator and supporter of Sen. Kamala Harris' failed presidential bid.

"Politics is a contact sport," said Sellers. "But you have to be very cognizant when you say anything critical of Bernie online. You might have to put your phone down. There's going to be a blowback, and it could be sexist, racist and vile."

He said one person called him an "Uncle Tom" and wished that he be afflicted with brain cancer.

Jeb Bush and the Republican establishment used many of these same media techniques to try to herd Trump voters. It didn't work.

I don't think it will work with Sanders' supporters either. But we'll see.

The Iowa caucuses are less than a week away.

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