The opinion section of the Washington Post has been working full-time to attack Bernie Sanders’ nascent 2020 presidential campaign.
Journalist Michael Sainato, who covered Sanders’ 2016 campaign, noticed the trend of anti-Sanders op-eds that the Post published just a day after Sanders’ campaign announcement.
“Washington Post is just republishing the same anti Bernie op-ed over and over today,” Sainato tweeted on Tuesday.
Washington Post is just republishing the same anti Bernie op-ed over and over today pic.twitter.com/TSQn7L5Jyg
— Michael Sainato (@msainat1) February 20, 2019
The op-eds aren’t identical, and come from three different columnists — Henry Olsen, David Von Drehle, and Jennifer Rubin — but the tropes repeated in them are the same.
Olsen’s op-ed declared Sanders’ campaign as doomed, suggesting he still had yet to acknowledge his failure to court African American voters to his side. This is despite a December 2018 poll that showed Sanders was the favorite Democratic candidate among nonwhite voters. Sanders’ favorable rating among nonwhites was 64 percent in an October 2018 Gallup poll.
Von Drehle’s op-ed dismissed Sanders’ cadre of volunteers as “Bernie Bros,” even though as early as January of 2016, Sanders was the favorite candidate among millennial-aged women, maintaining a 19-point lead among that demographic over Hillary Clinton.
“It’s a very important thing to be part of a movement that could pass that on to younger generations,” 17-year-old Sanders volunteer Lillian Moravek told USA Today ahead of the 2016 Iowa caucuses. “The second most important thing is, he’s a feminist, and so am I.”
Full-time Washington Post opinion writer Jennifer Rubin wrote off Sanders in two separate op-eds. The first one, which ran Tuesday afternoon, was entitled “Bernie Sanders is no big deal the second time around.” Rubin argued that Sanders would have a hard time standing out in a crowded 2020 primary full of Democratic challengers, and that “his vision lacks widespread appeal.” This is despite Sanders attracting large crowds in a month-long barnstorming tour campaigning for various Democratic gubernatorial and Congressional candidates — even in states that Donald Trump won in 2016.
Rubin even managed to find a way to downplay Sen. Sanders’ record-breaking $6 million fundraising haul from more than 220,000 contributors (averaging $27 per donation) in the first 24 hours of his campaign, writing “money’s not everything — and certainly not as important as the media often suggest it is.” The Vermont senator’s massive haul was four times larger than the $1.5 million raised by Senator Kamala Harris (D-California) in the first day of her campaign, and six times larger than the $1 million Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) raised on her first day.
The irony of this argument was not lost on The Young Turks’ Cenk Uygur, who accused Rubin of only disregarding the influence of money in politics when the money came from small-dollar donations.
Hilarious! All of these years the media uses money as the only metric by which to judge whether a candidate is "legitimate" and now that @SenSanders is leading in that category because of real Americans giving him small donations, all of a sudden, it's not important! https://t.co/Vu12UPiAJo
— Cenk Uygur (@cenkuygur) February 21, 2019
However, the one common denominator in all of these anti-Sanders op-eds is that the man who owns the paper that published them is Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos — whose personal net worth is greater than the combined GDP of 49 countries. Sanders likely irked Bezos in highlighting how poorly paid Amazon’s warehouse employees were before Bezos ultimately decided to raise their wages to a minimum of $15/hour. Last September, Sanders even introduced a bill called the “Stop BEZOS Act,” which is an acronym for “Stop Bad Employers By Zeroing Out Subsidies.”
It could be argued that Bezos — who bought the Post for $250 million in 2013 — has had it out for the Vermont senator for years. Bernie Sanders has undoubtedly been a leader in the growing movement to raise taxes on corporations and the super-rich. Bezos is a billionaire whose company not only legally paid zero dollars in federal taxes last year on more than $11 billion in profit, but actually got nearly $130 million in tax refunds.
The Washington Post commentariat’s constant attacks on Sanders in 2016 caught the eye of author Thomas Frank, who wrote a lengthy essay in Harper’s detailing how The Washington Post embarked on a relentless assault on Sanders’ 2016 campaign until he lost the primary.
“After reading through some two hundred Post editorials and op-eds about Sanders, I found a very basic disparity. Of the Post stories that could be said to take an obvious stand, the negative outnumbered the positive roughly five to one,” Frank wrote. “Opinion pieces about Hillary Clinton, by comparison, came much closer to a fifty-fifty split.”
Frank surmised that columnists for The Washington Post — who largely come from upper-crust socioeconomic backgrounds and have degrees from elite universities — disliked Sanders because he refused to adhere to the standard beltway orthodoxy favoring global capitalism and free trade over gritty, bread-and-butter issues important to the working class:
A January 20 editorial headlined LEVEL WITH US, MR. SANDERS decried his “lack of political realism” and noted with a certain amount of fury that Sanders had no plans for “deficit reduction” or for dealing with Social Security spending—standard Post signifiers for seriousness. That same day, Catherine Rampell insisted that the repeal of Glass–Steagall “had nothing to do with the 2008 financial crisis,” and that those populists who pined for the old system of bank regulation were just revealing “the depths of their ignorance.”
If the first 48 hours of Sanders’ campaign is any indicator, the Post‘s opinion section has only just begun its anti-Sanders offensive.
Carl Gibson is a politics contributor for Grit Post. His work has previously been published in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Houston Chronicle, Al-Jazeera America, and NPR, among others. Follow him on Twitter @crgibs or send him an email at carl at gritpost dot com.