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Kate McCabe / Gavel Media

Feel the Bern 2.0

The 2020s are certainly off to a rocky start. Military tensions between the US and Iran spiked not 48 hours into the new year. Today, the American president stands trial for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. With the presidential election in November looming, 2020 starts to look divided on all accounts. These divisions are most clear primarily in American politics where Democrats and Republicans stand staunchly opposed. Yet, cracks within the Democratic party remain from 2016. Front runners attempt to unify the party but to no avail.

While Joe Biden continues to lead in national polls, recent polling suggests that Bernie Sanders has another shot at the Democratic nomination. In a nationwide poll from Emerson College, Sanders ranks second behind Biden, trailing by only three percent. This change differs from the previous national survey that placed Sanders firmly below Biden, polling 25% and 32%, respectively. Due to his surge in popularity, those not in his camp have started to wonder: why Sanders? What about him resurrected his campaign after his heart attack nearly ended it? It seems that political commentators and general supporters agree that Sanders's resurgence comes from his broad appeal.

This appeal stems from Sanders's ability to bring people together, writes social activist Naomi Klien. She says that Sanders cultivates a "culture of quiet listening." His campaign does not come from a place of dissociation and fear tactics; instead, it comes from solidarity. Klien says that people have become interested in Sanders's campaign after hearing that many of their failures are, "the consequence of economic and social systems precisely designed to produce cruel outcomes." This idea essentially says that "the American dream" does not exist for many people and that hard work does not suffice in today's world. This message strongly resonates among workers who struggle to make ends meet and the campaign slogan, "Not me. Us" creates a sense of unity with them. Unity not just against Sanders' political opponents, but against a greater societal evil. "Not me. Us" detaches Sanders' image from the campaign and instead emphasizes the people and ideas behind his platform.

Sanders' campaign policies, separate from his greater message, seek to look after even the most destitute of society. Medicare for All appeals to not only lower-class workers who live on the brink of poverty, but to middle-class workers as well. Sanders argues that the flexibility it gives would allow people not to worry as much, to stay healthy without fear of bankruptcy, and to branch out into new opportunities without the risk of losing employee healthcare. Policies like medicare alongside the Green New Deal and universal free college tuition all have in common one thing: appeal to the masses.

What appears even more surprising about the campaign is that it involves the rejection of individualism. In such a polarizing sphere of politics, where the red scare never seemed to die out fully, Sanders' campaign proves that people are willing to get behind a movement and get the job done, regardless of stigma. Where many people, Republican and Democrat, find Sanders too extreme, his supporters clearly do not. Momentum in the Sanders campaign still grows. There is power in numbers, and those in Sanders' camp know it.

Mainstream media outlets do not buy it. Since Sanders's bump in numbers, CNN, The Hill, The Washington Post, and most every left-leaning publication seems to oppose him. CNN, in particular, published articles with strong anti-Bernie statements. For example, in one of their more recent articles, author Em Steck created the headline, "Bernie Sanders said country needed more jails and 'tougher' penalties in certain cases in 1994 remarks backing crime bill." Just by the title, one assumes the worst. It pictures Sanders as anti-Democratic in his values. However, the article would later go on to say that the bill garnered massive support among Dems early on, and that only in time did everyone write it off as a mistake. The bill, "faced criticism from criminal justice activists for contributing to an era of mass incarceration that disproportionately affected communities of color," as stated by that same article. Steck quotes Sanders as saying that he prefers educational funding to keep criminals out of jail altogether, yet the article title would allude to no such conclusion.

This article highlights a common tactic of the assault on Sanders: it singles him out. No matter the origin of the attack, everyone against him separates him from the Democratic establishment and writes him off as untrustworthy. Hillary Clinton, for example, said in 2016: "Thank you, @BernieSanders, not just for your endorsement, but for a lifetime of fighting injustice." Now, she claims that "Nobody likes him" in an interview for her upcoming documentary. She later added that he consistently puts down females in politics and pressures his supporters to do the same. Other articles, too, made claims of sexism and Sanders' struggles with women. For example, The Hill's article titled, "Sanders faces lingering questions about appeal to women voters," creates an image of Sanders similar to the one made by Clinton.  

In reality, facts disprove the majority of attacks launched on Sanders and his campaign. The Hill's article contradicts itself, saying, "A WBUR poll out this week showed that he has the support of "slightly more women than men." Furthermore, while accused of instigating confrontation, time and again, Sanders strays away from argumentation and tells his supporters to "engage in civil discourse." Regardless of political views, the support behind Sanders continues to grow even amidst opponents' attacks. Especially among youths, Sanders continues to garner support. Is the influence of mainstream media dying out? Those who are feeling the Bern certainly seem to think so.

Questions arise from this situation: why would Hillary Clinton, once an ally of Sanders, come out with a documentary slandering him? And why do news outlets that want to be "impartial" and "truthful" resort to red herrings to deface him? Divisiveness in the Democratic field remains high with everyone calling for unity. Yet, is unity really what everyone wants? Does the Democratic National Committee have a principal bias against outlier candidates, regardless of their electability? Perhaps instead of firing shots at the candidate, news outlets and voters should take a closer look at the institutions which make and break them. At the end of the day, voters have the final say, but it looks like mainstream politicians and the establishment have already placed their bets.