From the opening curtain of the Democratic presidential primaries for 2020, the drama is already focused on whom the party establishment will manage to exclude.
“A house divided against itself cannot stand.” In 1858, Republican senatorial candidate Abraham Lincoln appropriately borrowed the quote from the Gospel of Matthew to describe a nation on the brink of civil war. A century and a half later, the Democrats might want to mull those same thoughts.
Following US President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address last week, Democrats put on display the fundamental division that has been a constant since the election of 2016. We might call it the “war against independence” or even the “uncivil war” of the party against Bernie Sanders, the man who has been saying: I thought Democrats were supposed to be defending the average citizen against dominant moneyed interests.
The controversy turned around the fact that the Democrats had appointed Stacey Abrams, a black woman, to rebut President Trump’s State of the Union speech. Sanders, a white man, announced that he would also offer a commentary via Facebook Live.
Vox highlighted the issue, describing it as “a powder keg” as strident Democratic voices from Joan Walsh and former CNN commentator Marc Lamon Hill to MSNBC’s Chris Hayes reproached Sanders with stealing a black female’s thunder. Hayes tweeted: “The Sanders response is *after* the official Democratic response delivered by @staceyabrams, but still a lot of reasons this will grate/alienate.”
Here is today’s 3D definition:
Upset people who matter in the world of party politics, a crime punishable by moral obloquy, if not potentially exclusion
For establishment Democrats, Bernie Sanders committed the crime of challenging Hillary Clinton in the 2016 primaries and thereby contributing to her loss against Donald Trump. The Democrats have become hypersensitive about the party brand. Inspired by demographic trends, they had built their entire strategy around the theme of appealing to the abused rights of oppressed minorities, rather than a critique of an oligarchic system controlled by moneyed interests. The white male Sanders had no business opposing Clinton, an oppressed woman. Sanders therefore had even less business complementing — and complimenting — a black woman.
Stacey Abrams has become a positive symbol. She fought a valiant losing battle in the shameful, highly-manipulated gubernatorial race in Georgia in 2018 and earned her place in the headlines. The Democrats artfully chose Abrams to do the official rebuttal of President Trump’s State of the Union. Her response to Trump was a Barack Obama-style oration in the great American tradition of celebrating courageous individuals who beat the odds and overcame adversity. Sanders, on the other hand, highlighted specific claims Trump had made in his speech and offered some economic analysis, giving an indication of what kinds of changes would be required to move forward.
But Sanders, the proclaimed socialist, isn’t the only target to provoke establishment Democrats’ indignation. NBC recently opened a frontal attack on Representative Tulsi Gabbard, who supported Sanders in 2016 and, as a military veteran having served two tours in Iraq, has taken a strong stance against the disastrous Bush-Obama-Trump wars focused on regime change, as well as opposing the new one brewing in Venezuela that establishment Democrats enthusiastically support.
In January, Gabbard joined the presidential race as a progressive anti-war candidate. This immediately made her the target of odious smears linking her to the Democrats’ source of all evil: Vladimir Putin’s Russia. On February 3, two days before the State of the Union, Glenn Greenwald exposed the McCarthyist campaign against Gabbard in all its sordid details as the epitome of fake news. Near the end of his exposé, he wrote:
“That’s because the playbook used by the axis of the Democratic Party, NBC, MSNBC, neocons, and the intelligence community has been, is, and will continue to be a very simple one: to smear any adversary of the establishment wing of the Democratic Party — whether on the left or the right — as a stooge or asset of the Kremlin (a key target will undoubtedly be, and indeed already is, Bernie Sanders).”
Personalities who call into question the prevailing economic system or the imperialistic military policy of every administration — Republican and Democrat — are clearly not welcome in the Democratic Party and will not be treated kindly by its media.
Ever since the traumatic presidential campaign of 2016, when Sanders challenged what everyone expected to be Clinton’s unimpeded march to the nomination by the Democratic convention and victory in November, the Democratic Party has hesitated about whom to blame for Clinton’s defeat by Trump.
Sanders immediately rallied to support Clinton at the convention. That should have removed suspicion about his role in her eventual defeat. But refusing to following the Democratic script for the 2016 primaries branded Bernie with a scarlet letter: an “A” for anti-establishment. However, Sanders proved to be a popular figure with a broad segment of the population.
Accordingly, the Democrats directed their accusation toward a different culprit: Russian hacking of social media, not of the election itself, despite persistent claims. “Russia didn’t hack the election, it hacked the voters,” and there’s no way of telling whether Russian fake news had a direct effect on the votes.
As Greenwald notes, Russian stooges can be found everywhere, even when nothing happens. MSNBC’s popular host Rachel Maddow has built her reputation around raising fears that Russia is taking over control of the US, as illustrated in one of her most recent outings, where you can watch her incite the citizens of Fargo, North Dakota, to imagine that Russia is about to turn off their electricity at the very moment when the polar vortex has dropped temperatures to Antarctic levels. What better proof of Russian malevolence — even though the scenario is totally imaginary.
That’s something even the Coen brothers hadn’t thought of when they shot their iconic movie, Fargo.
*[In the age of Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain, another American wit, the journalist Ambrose Bierce, produced a series of satirical definitions of commonly used terms, throwing light on their hidden meanings in real discourse. Bierce eventually collected and published them as a book, The Devil’s Dictionary, in 1911. We have shamelessly appropriated his title in the interest of continuing his wholesome pedagogical effort to enlighten generations of readers of the news.]
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.