Someone in the infamous Watergate Complex of 600 New Hampshire Avenue is NOT feeling The Bern. Or are they? Given their typically unprolific publishing pace, The Atlantic and its subsidiary, Quartz, snuck in what amounted to a relative barrage of jabs at Bernie Sanders around midday on Monday.
It began with a Quartz piece by Olivia Goldhill with the depressingly click-bait title "Why do Americans think that Bernie Sanders is more progressive than Hillary Clinton?" Ms. Goldhill didn't take long to cut to the chase, delivering this opener to set the stage: "Democrats would be loathe to admit it, but progressive mania for Bernie Sanders suggests sexism in their midst." If you made the mistake of reading beyond that first line, you'd find a meandering and unconvincing argument on the part of the author that I'll do my best to summarize using its own words. A couple paragraphs in, for example, Goldhill drops these doozies, which appear to serve as a sort of stunt-double for an actual point: "While Sanders does have a more left-leaning economic record than Clinton, she has a record he can't match on gender equality" and "Sanders can only unequivocally claim the role as progressive choice in the Democratic primary if voters prioritize a left-wing economic agenda over gender equality."
Hmm. If you're still as confused as I was, hang on, there's more. Like this softball of porous journalism, lobbed to you, dear reader: "While Sanders shares her views on gender equality, Clinton has been a leader on the issue. Plus, there is obvious symbolic power in choosing a female candidate. In 2008, casting a vote for Barack Obama was seen as a symbolic chance to oppose racism. Clinton's candidacy marks a similar opportunity to address sexism."
If you're keeping score at home, what you probably have so far goes like this: Sanders is more left-leaning from an economic perspective and shares Clinton's views on gender equality, but Sanders is not actually more progressive because he is a man, thereby voting for Hillary is better because her sex alone makes her the progressive choice and a vote for her, while a (fairly drastic) compromise economically, would be meaningful and symbolic because she is a woman and thereby would help to end sexism in the United States the same way that Obama's election helped to end racism, The End. Or something like that.
Don't get me wrong, I agree wholeheartedly with Ms. Goldhill that sexism is an important issue that needs to be addressed if we are to make real strides as a nation. I also believe it's embarrassing that we've been a republic for this long without a female as head of state, and I'd gladly vote one in...if her name was Elizabeth Warren. The really important point that Goldhill seems to be missing, or willfully ignoring, is that the people supporting Bernie Sanders in his surge up the polls do not care at all whether he is a man or a woman. What we care about (if I can speak for us all here...clearing throat) is the ever-pressing concern that our democracy is in really dire straits.
To be more specific, we're concerned that a corporate oligarchy has slowly but surely so entrenched itself in our politics that we've forgotten what it was like to see the concerns of the people valued over those of the billionaire class. THIS is the issue at hand. I hate to be hyperbolic, but it comes down to the future of our grand, democratic experiment. Unfortunately, we also believe that former Secretary Clinton represents the needs and interests of the highest-earning 1% far more than she does the working people of this country.
The gender wage gap is a very valid issue, but if the middle class continues to suffer the way it has in the last 30 years it will cease to matter much at all whether a woman or man is paid equally for comparable employment because there will be so little opportunity in the first place. In the same way, underrepresentation of women, domestic violence, and rape are all of great validity and gravity as problems, but it's a false dilemma to conclude that real progress in these areas could not be under Bernie Sanders just because he is not a woman. The author could have saved us all a lot of time by just answering her title with simply, "Because he is."
Believe it or not, that was only the beginning. Just a matter of minutes later the Atlantic Media Company struck out with a few hundred words from the mothership. David A. Graham's article "Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump Lash Out" went live at 12:46 ET to a smattering of boos (or was that just me?). First of all, putting Sanders and Trump in the same line essentially amounts to an act of aggression at this point. Mr. Graham starts us off with "Can there be many things more fun than being an ascendant candidate?" Sigh. Some more text about Jeb Bush, juggernauts, etc. And then this to start the next paragraph: "But what happens when the magic appears to wear off?"
If lumping him in with hatemonger The Donald, belittling the senator's adequacy as a legitimate candidate, and alluding to a loss in momentum that is unproven were not gracious enough, Graham then does us the favor of disclosing the Sanders remarks he's helpfully categorized as lashing out: "'That agreement is not now, nor has it ever been, 'the gold standard' of trade agreements,' he said of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, using her own language." Ooh, I guess that was pretty nasty. "'Today, some are trying to rewrite history by saying they voted for one anti-gay law to stop something worse. That's not the case,' he said." Ouch. Well, the man obviously has a point. That's some searing rhetoric if I've ever heard it. Wait, you mean that's it? Those are the "swipes"? Graham then closes his exhaustive record of aggressive Sanders slams with "And so on."
Never mind that Sanders did not mention Clinton by name and was addressing issues of immediate national importance, he's still equated with our spray-tanned friend from the GOP who makes comments about his opponents as though he were Jerry Seinfeld starting a stand-up monologue if Jerry Seinfeld were much less intelligent and wildly prejudiced: "I mean, Seventh-Day Adventist, I don't know about, I just don't know about."
If anything, these weak and thinly veiled attempts to cast a shadow over the Sanders campaign should be viewed as evidence that his grassroots popularity is starting to get to some important people. They can't find anything to criticize him about so they've employed a couple desperate journalists to throw together some non sequiturs and empty phrases in the hope that they'll be swallowed whole by the readers of an historic and historically center-left media outlet. As for The Atlantic, it's a publication that I generally respect and admire, but the junk they put to press today represents to me more than anything the move they made from Boston to The Beltway back in 2005. Hillary's part of their circle, part of their establishment, and their higher-ups know even better than we do that a vote cast for Clinton is a vote cast for more of the same. Keep on Bernin', Senator Sanders. We like your "magic".