Bernie Don't Get No Respect From Media

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speaks at the University of Chicago on Monday, Sept. 28, 2015. (Phil Velasqu
Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speaks at the University of Chicago on Monday, Sept. 28, 2015. (Phil Velasquez/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)

Bernie Sanders, as far as the media is concerned, is the Rodney Dangerfield of presidential candidates -- "he don't get no respect." Of the 23 candidates running for president in the two major parties, precisely four of them have ever shown even 20 percent support (in their polling averages from their base voters). Actually, to be completely accurate, five people have hit the 20 percent support level since the race began this year, but Joe Biden is not actually a candidate yet. The other four are Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Hillary Clinton, and Bernie Sanders.

Andrew Tyndall, who monitors broadcast news from ABC, NBC, and CBS, has some numbers which starkly show Bernie's Rodney Dangerfield problem. Tyndall tracked the total time the three networks have devoted to the presidential race this year: 504 minutes. This is more than their coverage (to this point on the calendar) in 2011 (277 minutes) and 2007 (462 minutes), so it's not like they're shying away from covering the race or anything. Out of that total, 338 minutes this year has been aired about the Republican race, while only 128 minutes was centered on the Democratic race. Granted, the Republicans have more candidates, which might explain some of the lopsided nature of those numbers.

Even so, the numbers get even more jaw-droppingly uneven when you look at individual candidates. Donald Trump (of course) leads the pack in coverage of his campaign, clocking in at an impressive 145 minutes. Hillary Clinton has gotten 82 minutes of campaign coverage, and an additional 83 minutes devoted to the email scandal. Jeb Bush, who is currently polling in fifth place in the Republican race with less than 10 percent in the polls, has received 43 minutes of coverage. The Bernie Sanders campaign has received a grand total of eight minutes of coverage -- one-fifth of Bush's time, or one-tenth of Clinton's time (one-twentieth, if you count the scandal coverage). Bernie got roughly the same amount of time as Chris Christie (polling below four percent, far back in the Republican pack). Bernie got the same amount of time that Mitt Romney got, when he was teasing a bid earlier this year.

That is pathetic. Bernie Sanders is one of the four frontrunners for the entire presidential race, and has been closing the polling gap with Hillary Clinton on the Democratic side. One recent poll put Bernie only seven points behind Clinton nationally among Democrats, but you probably didn't hear that on the evening news. Bernie now leads Hillary in the polling in both of the first states to vote, Iowa and New Hampshire. But of the total time the networks have devoted to the race, they've only used a little over 1.5 percent of it to cover Bernie's campaign. Rodney Dangerfield would have had a few choice things to say about this lack of respect, one imagines.

Bernie Sanders routinely draws crowds that dwarf other candidates' rallies. He just made some news today because his campaign has now received one million individual donations -- a number far superior to anything any other candidate can claim. In fact, it is even superior to the champion online fundraiser of all time, Barack Obama. Obama didn't hit 1,000,000 online donations until February of 2008, or October of 2011 during his re-election campaign. No other candidate in the 2016 race -- Democratic or Republican -- is even close to this number. And yet the near-blackout on the evening news continues.

I don't know what Bernie Sanders's chance of success in the nomination race will be. But I do know it'd be a lot better if the news actually informed the American public about how successful his campaign is doing. This whole disgraceful lack of respect really puts the lie to those on the right who complain about "the liberal media," in fact. The most liberal candidate in the race is being covered at the same rate as Chris Christie, after all. Doesn't sound like any sort of liberal cabal to me. It sounds instead like proof of what some on the left insist, that the media does indeed have a bias -- but a corporate bias.

Because of this obvious anti-Bernie bias, I'll go so far as to make a bold prediction. The first Democratic debate is going to happen in a few weeks. This will be the first time many Democratic voters will be exposed to Bernie's unfiltered message. My prediction is that the post-debate polling will show a big bump for Bernie's support, after weighing Bernie's solutions to the nation's problems next to Hillary's.

I still don't know what Bernie's chances for success truly are. Joe Biden's announcement (either way) will shake up the Democratic race, and this announcement is probably going to happen before the debates do. If Bernie does well in the first debate, though, and if his numbers do get a healthy bump, then the broadcast news is going to have to start talking about Sanders. At that point, the lack of coverage will become painfully obvious to all if it continues. At first (no doubt) this coverage will likely be mocking and dismissive, with plenty of jokes thrown in. But sooner or later the media is going to have to cope with the fact that Bernie Sanders's campaign is no laughing matter to those who have gotten on board the "Feel The Bern" train. Sooner or later they're going to have to address the real reason he's seen such a monstrous outpouring of support so far -- his issues and his agenda. Sooner or later, they're going to have to show Bernie a little more respect. With over a quarter of Democratic voters already supporting him and with over a million donations, Bernie Sanders has already earned this respect. A lot more respect than eight minutes out of 504, that's for sure.


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