Bernie Sanders has gotten too big for the establishment to simply ignore. Indeed, that had happened by the time the 2016 Democratic Primary was even half over — when the corporate media pivoted from ignoring Bernie entirely to slandering his name with calumnies authored and disseminated by Sec. Clinton’s very own “Karl Rove,” the notorious spreader of lies, Mr. David Brock.
Here is just one example of Brock’s handiwork:
“The dossier, prepared by opponents of Sanders and passed on to The Guardian by a source who would only agree to be identified as ‘a Democrat,’ alleges that Sanders ‘sympathized with the USSR during the Cold War’ because he went on a trip there to visit a twinned city while he was mayor of Burlington. Similar ‘associations with communism’ in Cuba are catalogued alongside a list of quotes about countries ranging from China to Nicaragua in a way that supporters regard as bordering on the McCarthyite rather than fairly reflecting his views.”
(Three years later, in 2019 — despite the formal end of the Cold War and the Soviet Union’s 1991 dissolution, despite Gorbachev and Reagan’s summit, despite Bush-Obama’s frequent cooperation with Vladimir Putin — it seems that the U.S. political-media establishment simply refuses to let McCarthyism die… or the Cold War, for that matter. Similar McCarthyite smears would be launched at Dr. Jill Stein, the Green Party’s candidate for president, and, of course, Donald Trump, helping the neocons launch the New Cold War following Sec. Clinton’s improbable loss to an obvious degenerate, fake-billionaire, and star of reality-TV.)
Returning to the source of such smears, that ratfucker par excellence, David Brock…
A confessed liar and a despicable one, Brock is the rightwing slander-merchant whose “a little bit nutty, a little bit slutty” character assassination of Anita Hill helped confirm serial sexual-harasser Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court — with a considerable assist from then-Senator Joe Biden (aka, Uncle Gropey). From his 1990s work for the rancorous Arkansas Project to his malicious takedown of Prof. Hill to his scruple-free service to the 2016 Clinton campaign, David Brock has demonstrated an unflinching willingness to manufacture grody fabrications on behalf of right-wing conservatives.
And since a media blackout of Bernie Sanders (of the late-2015/early-2016 variety) is simply not an option this time around, the establishment is doing what it can to recycle some of Brock’s 2016 smears: “Bernie is doddering,” “Bernie alienates people of color,” “Bernie only appeals to misogynist young white men,” “Bernie tolerates sexual harassment by his staff,” “Bernie is too extreme to appeal to the mainstream,” “Bernie is a whackadoodle socialist,” “Bernie is the progressive equivalent of Donald Trump, an angry, dangerous demagogue with bullying, lunatic followers…”
Yes, we’ve heard it all before, slime-peddlers. Years later, we’re hearing it all again: aimed at Bernie (more cautiously, this time around) and at Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, the only other progressive in the 2020 race (and the smears against Gabbard have been no-holds-barred, much like the 2016 smears against Sanders).
But what has been most disheartening — and tragic — has been the dogpiling of nominal progressives who have willfully joined in on the fusillade of lies aimed at genuine progressives.
In 2016, Sec. Clinton didn’t have to rely solely on the mainstream media: NBC, CNN, ABC, CBS, the Washington Post, New York Times, Politico, The Guardian, etc. While the corporate behemoths did plenty to spread Brock’s slander, their efforts were greatly magnified and augmented by a slew of once-progressive outlets and individuals: The Nation (especially Joan Walsh), Mother Jones, Slate, DailyKos, Gloria Steinem, Tom Hayden, Dolores Huerta, Rep. John Lewis, and others. Markos Moulitsas went so far as to declare his site a “pro-Clinton only” hub, purging all Hillary critics, no matter how popular their work or how long they’d been contributing.
And here we are again. In the 2020 cycle, we have seen The Nation’s Eric Alterman reviving the old attacks on Bernie Sanders. And we’ve seen The Young Turks, Jacobin Magazine, and The Nation, among others, repeatedly attacking Rep. Tulsi Gabbard with outright slander, including gross distortions of her record. The establishment’s entire 2016 progressive-smearing playbook is being thrown at Gabbard, who the oligarchs seem to fear even more than Sanders. But on the hopeful side, the backlash against these malicious attacks has been every bit as vehement as it was when progressives were forced to defend Sanders in 2016 (check out the comments responding to The Nation’s anti-Gabbard hit-piece — their readers are livid at the writer’s willingness to parrot ratfucking lies against the best anti-war presidential candidate since Rep. Dennis Kucinich).
The latest hit-piece comes from the editor of The Progressive, Ruth Conniff. Yesterday, on CommonDreams.org, a progressive hub for news, I took issue with Ms. Conniff’s latest offering, in which she subtly disparages progressives’ best hope for defeating Donald Trump in 2020 — while promoting, simultaneously, a host of “centrist” Democrats who will clearly not fight for single-payer healthcare or a Green New Deal… and will almost assuredly lose to Donald Trump.
(I single out this piece because it is illustrative of the way the establishment-left is coming at Bernie differently, this time around. In contrast to the vitriol they spewed at Bernie in 2016, they’re tiptoeing in 2019 because they know how popular Bernie has become. But the smears are basically the same, even if their approach is more subtle.)
My response to Conniff’s article is as follows:
You can always count on Ruth Conniff to toe the party line and peddle establishment talking points:
1. She makes sure to hit Bernie with some ageism (echoes of 2016);
2. She follows the establishment playbook precisely, talking up Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren’s “support” for Medicare-for-All (even Klubuchar’s!) when the truth is that both of those frauds have signaled their willingness to simply shore up the ACA and back off of single-payer (signaling surrender before the debate even begins, classic neoliberal “Democrats”);
3. Conniff fails to mention Harris’s “New Jim Crow” policies (including her initiative to incarcerate parents of truant students and her efforts to keep prisoners incarcerated longer than necessary in order to keep disproportionately black and Hispanic Americans slaving for corporate America and fighting fires for pennies an hour);
4. She glosses over the blatantly rigged 2016 primary and neoconservative Sen. Warren’s shameful betrayal of progressives, backing the most corrupt Wall Street toady in the history of Democratic presidential politics (also a member of the neocon vanguard, as extreme as Dick Cheney on foreign policy, and historically a greater enemy of people of color than even Trump, as Michelle Alexander and James Rucker noted in 2016 – one of the first to practice “Birther” politics against Obama in 2008, the welfare-slashing, “super-predator” hunting, prison population-doubling “co-president” who insinuated that Barack Obama might not be a Christian, and said flat-out that she is the candidate of “hardworking, you know, white, people”);
5. Conniff brings up the old “Bernie Bro” smear contrived by the Clinton folks, alleging his supporters were unusually bellicose, misogynistic, and bullying – when it was the Clinton people, a sea of belligerent bots, who constantly resorted to ageism, sexism, insults, and old school ratfucking slander, with David Brock following in Mark Penn’s footsteps (the senior Clinton campaign adviser and longtime confidante who tried to tarnish Obama with ghetto-izing drug references and worse in 2008); suddenly Bernie appealed only to “young, white males” and was never a part of the Civil Rights movement;
6. She regurgitates the vile slander that Sanders’ message of economic justice “helped elect” the vile Donald Trump (BS! Sec. Clinton elected Donald Trump all by herself, after spending 2016 cheating her party’s base, giving them the finger, “I’m winning!”, and running well to Trump’s right, with regard to regime-change wars, “No-Fly zones” risking WWIII, Russiaphobia, slavery normalizing/sovereignty-effacing/regulation-nullifying “trade” pacts, the restoration of Glass-Steagall, and more);
7. Conniff repeats – in her thesis – the establishment trope that Bernie will never be able to appeal to rural America, when the polls consistently show that he is one of only two left-of-center politicians who can draw independent and GOP voters away from Trump’s base (the other being Rep. Tulsi Gabbard); and yet,
8. Even though Conniff says Bernie’s problem is with rural Trump whites, she incoherently repeats the canard that Bernie has his work cut out for him if he’s ever to “shore up his support among black voters” – more repetition of the Clinton campaign’s baseless 2016 smears; Conniff fails to note that Bernie’s strongest demographics, respectively, are black Americans and Hispanic Americans, among which groups he polls far better than white males (white males being one of his worst demographics, despite being the most popular politician in the country; Bernie also is viewed more favorably by women than men, not that Conniff has noticed); and finally,
9. Conniff follows the establishment playbook to a “T,” talking up charlatans like Warren, Booker, Biden, and Klobuchar – who in her eyes have all “moved left” (not just posturing to draw votes from Bernie) – and fails to mention the most progressive, viable, Trump-defeating candidate in the 2020 race: REP. TULSI GABBARD.
Conniff is supporting Sen. Warren, that much is clear. She seems to prefer the longtime Republican who hung with Reagan and Bush Sr. through their entire monstrous 12 years in office. She likes the “progressive” Warren, who remained a Republican throughout most of Newt Gingrich’s career, back when he was partnered with Tom DeLay, dismantling the nation’s media ownership rules, Wall Street regulations, and other democratic institutions with that other “progressive,” Bill Clinton.
Conniff champions the supposed “anti-Wall Street” crusader (grandstanding fraud) who chose to back Wall Street’s favorite minion when the chips were down, a primary was being stolen, and America had the chance to elect the most progressive, FDR-like candidate in generations. That was when Warren exposed herself as an utter charlatan – ignoring the fact that she has long been a supporter of regime-change wars and neoconservative foreign policy, AWOL on NSA spying, GITMO, the persecution of whistleblowers and journalists, and more…
Establishment voices will always regurgitate establishment talking points. Why Ms. Conniff gets to do that here, on a progressive website, is a mystery to me.