For several months now, there has been an endless discourse in our political coverage tied around the alleged resilience of Joe Biden’s campaign. However, that same courtesy has curiously not been extended to Bernie Sanders, who throughout the entire campaign, has not only maintained top tier status but has seen his numbers rise in more recent polling. I chuckled at the recent Fox News digital headline “Bernie Sanders snubbed on separate graphics by CNN, CBS News” given the source, nevertheless, it speaks to a concern professed by the Sanders campaign itself as early as November that their campaign is being snubbed.
While the extent of the #BernieBlackout will remain up for debate, I will say when a new California state poll shows Bernie Sanders leading the field, perhaps include him in the headline and not Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden as the Los Angeles Times‘ recently did in their original headline on the survey. Likewise, I’ve seen numerous stories dooming the Sanders campaign in recent months, but not so many about more recent successes. Say what you will about Bernie Sanders (I surely have in years past), but the man has done pretty well thus far – after a heart attack, no less – but the coverage hasn’t consistently reflected that.
Bernie remains a fundraising juggernaut, continues to attract sizable crowds at his events, recently secured the endorsements of three of some of the most visible progressive congresswomen in America, and again, is seeing a rise in several new polls. I don’t write this to sound like some sort of stan, but make no mistake, if Pete Buttigieg enjoyed such huge support from young and Latinx voters the way Sanders does, his media fan club would turn up the volume on their Vanilla Latte Obama projections about him. And if the cash-strapped Biden campaign were pulling in Bernie’s campaign donations, we would never hear the end of it.
By the way, since when do resilient campaigns have problems raising money?
Much of that “resilience” is based on Biden’s ability to maintain a sizable portion of Black support in primary polling. According to the newly released survey for the BlackPAC political action committee, Biden has 44 percent support of Black voters — 29 percent points higher than Bernie Sanders, who comes in second. Adrianne Shropshire, executive director for BlackPAC, explained to Politico that with respect to Biden: “Voters are looking for a few things: someone who understands their issues and will act on them, someone they know and can trust and they’re looking for someone who can beat Donald Trump. Biden for Black voters ticks off those three metrics.”
Black voters are rightly touted as the most pragmatic of voters in the nation given the reality that unlike select others, Black people in America typically cannot live without blinders. It is not Black people responding to Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential election victory with exercises in futility like exploring the purported “economic anxiety” driving Trump’s support despite all veritable signs suggesting that a bigot won an election because his campaign themed on prejudices was a hit with a racist electorate.
That reasonable fear is what fuels Biden’s support, but why is such a flimsy factor being depicted as much stronger than it actually is? That isn’t resilience so much as the consequence of poor messaging and conditioning. I understand the argument from the pedestrian wing of the punditry: no matter how many times Biden huffs, puffs, and blows smoke up the bottom end of a dead segregationist senator, his poll numbers never waver, thus, prove that he is indeed the most “electable” candidate among the crowded Democratic presidential primary field.
Donald Trump is a demagogue with an entertainer’s delivery and a cable channel at his disposable up against entities in media, tech, and politics that are still ill-equipped to tackle him and his tactics. It is my belief that Democrats have to nominate someone who can inspire rather than merely try to placate. Perhaps Joe Biden can become that candidate, but as it stands now, he’s not raising a lot of money, he’s taking shots at younger politicians such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and he continues to occasionally bewilder when engaging in public speaking (that’s actually his most resilient quality, to be fair).
Zoom, look at him go.
Yes, ultimately, the choice is up to the voters but if every candidate isn’t getting fair and equal coverage, we run the risk of yielding results force-fed to us by cable news hosts and newspaper editors who didn’t know anything in 2016 and still don’t know anything now. And that very well could leave us with four more years of Trump. Joe Biden can plausibly defeat Trump because enough white voters would like to just forget the last four years ever happened without any real reflection about the forces behind Trump and their respective roles in his rise, but that should not be sold to the masses as the only plausible outcome.
But for all my worries, the latest South Carolina state poll from the Post and Courier-Change Research shows Biden maintaining only a 7 percentage point lead among likely voters in the South’s first primary. It’s the first time he has not held a double-digit advantage since February. Biden is followed by Sanders at 20 percent, a boost of 7 percentage points. Can you feel the resilience?
If Joe Biden ends up the nominee, he ends up the nominee, but it would be utterly disastrous if the media continues to play into the fairy tale that only a white moderate man can win. It is not just unfair to Bernie Sanders that his campaign and its generally strong performance thus far has been sidelined in the media more often than not. It is a disservice to all voters, and in particular, the ones who stand to gain the most by nominating a progressive candidate (he is not the only one running) who wants to advance the quality of life of working-class people rather than merely serving as some empty symbol that the storm is over now.