The problem with Bernie?

Bernie’s supporters.  Not all of them, mind you, but too many of them are basically a Tea Party of the left.  One thing I like to emphasize is that American political parties are currently asymmetric.  But human psychology is symmetrical.  And when you get to ideological extremes– either right or left– you almost assuredly going to get some problematic psychology going along with it.  The reality seems to be that too many Bernie supporters believe in using unfair and unfounded attacks on political opponents.  The problem with Bernie is that he does not seem to be willing to sufficiently tamp down this problem.  Krugman:

While the news media has been focused on the “spat” between Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, something much more serious has been taking place between the Sanders campaign and Joe Biden. Not to sugarcoat it: The Sanders campaign has flat-out lied about things Biden said in 2018 about Social Security, and it has refused to admit the falsehood.

This is bad; it is, indeed, almost Trumpian. The last thing we need is another president who demonizes and lies about anyone who disagrees with him, and can’t admit ever being wrong. Biden deserves an apology, now, and Sanders probably needs to find better aides…

However, a Sanders adviser recently circulated a snippet from the video of the event that made it appear that Biden was actually supporting Ryan’s position and calling for Social Security cuts. A few days later a newsletter from the Sanders campaign quoted Biden out of context and made the same claim.

If you want a parallel, it’s as if I were to say, “Some white nationalists claim that Jews are responsible for all our problems,” and a political campaign put out a release saying, “Krugman says ‘Jews are responsible for all our problems.’” …

None of this, however, justifies the Sanders campaign’s lying about recent statements by a man who, after all, may well be the Democratic presidential nominee — and who would, whatever his centrist history, be infinitely more progressive than the current occupant of the White House. And the smearing of Biden reinforces the concerns some of us have about Sanders.

There has always been an ugly edge to some of Sanders’s support, a faction of followers who denounce anyone raising questions about his positions — even Warren! — as a corrupt capitalist shill. Until now, however, you could argue that Sanders himself wasn’t responsible for the bad behavior of some of his supporters.

You can’t make that argument now. The dishonest smears and the doubling down on those smears are coming from the top of the Sanders campaign; even if they aren’t coming directly out of Sanders’s mouth, he could and should have stopped them. The fact that Sanders isn’t apologizing to Biden and replacing the people responsible says uncomfortable things about his character. [emphasis mine]

I don’t want to go overboard here. While there is a Trumpian feel to some of what we’re seeing from the Sanders campaign, Bernie Sanders is no Donald Trump…

But right now, Sanders and his campaign are behaving badly, and they need to be called on it.

I know plenty of really good people who support Sanders who would never engage in any of this type of behavior.  And, obviously, Sanders would be a huge improvement over Donald Trump.  But, to my mind the problem with Sanders is that his position on the far left of American politics seems to disproportionately draw out some of the worst of the left and that he has been unwilling to the right thing and risk alienating these supporters.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

2 Responses to The problem with Bernie?

  1. samuel h brewer says:

    oh no you didnt! and booooooooo krugman! a rare hard miss for you and paul. this is sloppy evaluation of bernie and bidens positions. bernie said biden advocated cuts in his 2018 brookings speech. krugman (and greene) falling in with what i expected was probably another media journalistic flub got me to finally watch the clip tonight (which i had to surf around for since krugman didnt bother to link to it; here is where i first managed to find it in case you havent watched it, because dont take my word for it: so that I could justify my own evaluation. my own evaluation is that krugmans contextual analysis is selective and selects against that part where biden intimates that he still wants to cut these programs, totally consistent with the position he has had for the past 4 decades. to quote biden, from the presumably un-doctored brookings speech, he says about the adjustments to the tax codes he is describing , “it raises enough revenue to make sure that social security and medicare can stay, still needs adjustments [ADJUSTMENTS IS THE PART THAT MEANS CUTS] but can stay.” so we are supposed to be disgusted because bernie is flat out lying about biden proposing cuts in that speech. Then later bidens campaign says he was only being sarcastic about proposing cuts. ok, so now he did propose them (even though bernie definitely lied about that) but it was just sarcasm? oh well who needs to be consistent. That actually sounds a bit trumpian to me. I think this will backfire to bernies advantage like other recent media/campaign whiffs.

    If you would like a very complete analysis of biden supporting cutting social security programs throughout his career right through the obama administration and multiple on-the-record occasions in 2018, not just the “more distant past” as krugman wants to call it, you can and should read it here

    you can also hear a good interview covering this topic with the articles author Ryan Grim on the Zero Hour with RJ Eskow podcast here

    the part about the biden/bernie social security back and forth starts about the 20:45 mark.

    it is crazy to me that we might give trump his easiest target for a second election in a row. biden, like clinton before, is the most vulnerable on the most salient issues health care, trade, social security. we have the choice to nominate the person who has talked the talk and walked the walk for the popular position on all of these issues or the one with the long and consistent record of taking the unpopular position on each one. why cant we please pick the candidate that is popular this time

    and media, please stop trying to decide for us. dont you ever get tired of being wrong?!

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