When I first heard that Bernie Sanders would be entering the 2020 race, I rolled my eyes. His time had passed, and whatever untapped (or shall we say thwarted) potential he may have shown in the lead-up to November of 2016 was no reason for a re-match.
Among my reasons for resisting his renewed candidacy: the bad taste left in my mouth from the Bernie Bros phenomenon, his age, and honestly? His gender. As the 2020 democratic field came into focus, my choice to support Elizabeth Warren felt easy.
Warren boasted an impressive record, but one that wouldn’t allow others to drag her through the mud, excavating decades of skeletons from Washington. I agreed with almost all of Warren’s policy proposals, only wishing she would come out more strongly on the climate crisis. Though I chafed at the concept of “electability,” I did feel that Warren’s story boded well for a successful candidacy, with her particular mixture of folksy Oklahoma teacher-mom and intelligent, forward-thinking lawyer for the common woman.
Through many months of electioneering, I’ve been diligently reading the New York Times. One of my mistakes in 2016 was not staying adequately informed. I’ve gone in the other direction, subscribing to the print edition of the newspaper and reading it assiduously every morning before work. For a while I didn’t think too much about the coverage, mostly reflecting on the content, especially its coverage of Warren and Sanders.
Meanwhile, as popular support for both candidates has waxed and waned, I’ve been throwing my hat into both rings, donating equally to both campaigns, signing up to make calls for both candidates. As support for Warren faded in the lead-up to Iowa, and support for Bernie increased, it became clear to me — and I think it became clear to many — that the progressive candidate with the most energetic and diverse base is, in fact, Bernie. Seeing few differences between Warren’s and Bernie’s policy priorities, I wanted to keep an open mind in the lead-up to the primaries.
I was shocked, then, by the endorsements of the New York Times. Yes, endorsements, plural.
The Times editors made it clear in their editorial that they consider Bernie to be a dangerous presidential candidate, with his purportedly unchecked socialism and disdain for the wealthy. In a breathtakingly sexist turn of events, the Times then split its endorsement between Klobuchar and Warren. Apparently, in their eyes, two women candidates are equal to one man.
This would have been offensive enough, if it weren’t for the seething elitism of the editors’ explanation for making this choice. They made no secret of their disdain for progressive voters:
The lack of single, powerful moderate voice in this Democratic race is the strongest evidence of a divided party. Never mind the talented, honorable politicians who chose to sit this fight out; just stop and consider the talents who did throw their hat into the ring and never got more than a passing glance from voters — Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Steve Bullock, Michael Bennet, Deval Patrick, Jay Inslee, among others.
If these candidates received little more than a “passing glance” from voters, perhaps — and maybe I’m going out on a limb here — it’s because voters… aren’t all that interested in a moderate candidate?
In the wake of the Times endorsement, the paper’s coverage of Sanders has only become more concerning. Editorials are one thing, but the Times’ daily coverage of Sanders has consistently attempted to undermine his campaign and sow distrust for his candidacy. The day before the Iowa caucuses, the Times ran a piece called “Fact-Checking Bernie Sanders Before the Iowa Caucuses,” blatantly singling out Sanders as the only candidate who required fact-checking, undermining support for his policies and suggesting that he is prone to exaggerating his record. This, only days after the Times had published an article singling out Bernie for the aggressiveness of his supporters online, a piece that pointedly ignores the fact that internet bullying is par-for-the-course for political campaigning.
By consistently referring to Bernie’s supporters as a “fan-club” and his naysayers merely as “Democrats,” the Times portrays Sanders partisans as outliers who are not to be taken seriously. They amplify the pigheadedness of the Democratic establishment and further marginalize progressive Democrats as political aliens who, at best, don’t really know what they’re doing — and at worst, threaten American democracy as we know it.
Yet the numbers speak for themselves. Sanders’ outsized grassroots support and his impressive polling, both amongst fellow democrats and in mash-ups against Trump, should inspire excitement, not dread, among Democrats looking to win the 2020 election. It seems that we have a candidate people want to vote for — so why is so much of liberal media making it seem as though his campaign is out of touch?
I support Bernie Sanders because I feel he has built an authentic, diverse, and highly energized base of voters who will show up on election day. I support Bernie Sanders because, against all odds, in the midst of dismissive media coverage and continued rejection from the Democratic establishment, he has mobilized a vast number of potential voters to his cause.
To the Times, I say, get over yourselves. The more you resist Bernie, the more people like me are going to believe he has the power to win.
Hannah Leffingwell is a Ph.D Candidate in the History Department and at the Institute of French Studies at New York University.