The Punditocracy Pushes Bernie Out

The election prognosticators at the website FiveThirtyEight estimate that Joe Biden is ahead in the Democratic delegate race by about 150 votes – 935 to 785 for Bernie Sanders. Doesn’t that suggest a close race and a long road ahead? They say no.

Bernie is now behind 20 percent in the national polls, and “Sanders tends to lose more ground every time a new set of states votes.” Democrats, who treat the prospect of Donald Trump’s re-election as a “moral 9/11,” much like his first election, want to avoid any long-running Biden-bashing feud. If he’s going to win, they will rally around the Gaffe Machine. All the empty chatter about a contested convention turns out to be ridiculous once again.

On the morning after the latest primaries on CBS This Morning, Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign manager Robby Mook suggested there’s no need to pressure Sanders to get out. “There’s some time.” Terry Sullivan, who ran Marco Rubio’s 2016 campaign, cracked “When Robby says, ‘oh, there’s time, there’s no need to force him out,’ that means he’s a zombie candidate. It’s over for him functionally.”

A big part of all of this pressure to knock candidates out of the race comes from the press. If the pack of pundits guesses you have no chance to get the nomination, they proclaim you a “zombie.” In the current design, the media elites still have more power than the voters to decide who wins. In many states, voters don’t get to cast a ballot for their favorite because the press has already pushed them off the track.

Growing up in Wisconsin, with a traditional primary in April, we cheeseheads of all stripes resented it. Later states were denied the up-close drama of the candidates coming through their towns and asking for their votes. Even if the candidates were from the Other Party, the drama was exciting. 

The presidential race in the last few cycles has seemed a bit absurd. Regardless of party, 12 or 24 “contenders” get in the race for all the press attention and unwieldy debate, and an indecent fraction drop out before the first primary or caucus. Then most of the remainder are gone after the first state or two. It’s easy to suspect that many of these candidates threw their hat in the ring to increase their speaking fees or build their name ID and gravitas with the pundit class.

In this cycle, even here-and-gone Democrats like Eric Swalwell and Seth Moulton were awarded the mandatory CNN Town Hall television time, even if CNN would rather drop dead than give Republican candidates (or Republican voters) that kind of exposure. Then again, CNN Town Halls reliably limped in far behind the other cable-news shows.

Even winning early means can mean nothing within days. In 2012, Republican Rick Santorum won the Iowa caucuses so narrowly that he was a “zombie” before they actually decided he was the winner. A similar thing happened to Pete Buttigieg this time around – a “winner” one day, and pushed off the stage soon after.

There’s no reason to mourn a Bernie Sanders failure. It’s a very encouraging sign for conservatives that enough Americans are still suspicious of utopian socialist power grabs with their dishonest shtick of  flashing the word “free” around.

But for people who claim to defend “democracy” from dying, journalists have no reservations about rushing past the voters to anoint a winner quickly. The game is declared over before halftime. There are no “smoke-filled rooms” now where elites pick a nominee. Today the winnowing of candidates happens live on your TV screen.

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