In recent weeks, corporate media and corporate Democrats attacked Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, fearing that these leading progressive candidates in the Democratic field were too radical to win the general election against Donald Trump. One news story highlighted the anxiety of a large donor, who offered $1 million to a major Democratic campaign group with one condition: the money would be refunded if Warren won the party’s nomination.
The concerns expressed by Democratic insiders about the danger of the party moving in a radical direction was likely a large part of the motivation for two moderate candidates, former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and former New York City mayor and billionaire Michael Bloomberg’s late decision to enter the primary race. While former President Barack Obama has said little publicly about his party’s 2020 primary campaign, in mid-November he addressed a gathering of the Democrat’s largest donors and warned party primary candidates to avoid moving too far left in their policy proposals.
Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Norman Solomon, co-founder and national coordinator of RootsAction.org, as well as a Bernie Sanders delegate from California to the 2016 Democratic National Convention. Here he talks about the recent corporate Democratic and media attacks on Warren and Sanders for their progressive policy positions advocating a wealth tax, Medicare For All and free college education.
NORMAN SOLOMON: There are so many programs as you alluded to that have much public support, not from the mass media, not from most of the sources that we get news and information from – broadcast, cable, print and even online. But really from the grassroots. If you have polling data, for instance, about a wealth tax — overwhelming support from the U.S. public for wealth tax along the lines of what Elizabeth Warren has proposed. Not only the Warren campaign but Bernie Sanders calling for drastic progressive taxation, which makes complete sense in terms of going where the money is rather than going into the pockets of middle income, lower income people who are already – to put it mildly – very stretched. Another example is a tuition-free public college when you think about it, K through 12 is free and people had to fight for that. Now we take it for granted.
Why are colleges so expensive compared to a generation or two ago when people didn’t have to pay hardly anything in many cases for a public college tuition. Now even state universities are sometimes prohibitively expensive. So the call for tuition-free public college is again, another example – it has tremendous public support except on Wall Street, except in the upper reaches of corporate media. And I think as we are here now in December of 2019, we’re seeing that played out across the board in media coverage and in the political crossfire for the presidential race.
BETWEEN THE LINES: So in your article, “Corporate Media Wants Anybody but Warren or Sanders,” you talk about the bias that is really present in a lot of the analysis we get in our media system where these progressive policy proposals are discussed in a way that, first of all, “They’re not popular.” Second of all, a candidate who proposes such “radical, too far left proposals,” doesn’t have a chance of being elected. Norman, tell us a bit about your assessment of the tone of the media coverage of both Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders and where you think they get it wrong.
NORMAN SOLOMON: I think in terms of context, it’s helpful to remember that the New Deal was pushed through and made law in the 1930s against the tremendous opposition of the press lords of the day. The corporate media of the time despised FDR — very opposed to the New Deal, but pressure from the bottom got it done. And so here, as presidential candidates are running for the 2020 Democratic nomination, we also have this sort of dualism. We have this disconnect between what has tremendous support at the grassroots and what we hear from the mass media. And certainly Bernie Sanders has taken the brunt of the flack all this year from a lot of corporate sources. And as Elizabeth Warren has risen in the polls, she too, has gotten a more fierce attack from a lot of corporate media sources as well as some of her so-called center lane opponents for the nomination.
You know, Klobuchar, Biden, Buttigieg, Booker, Harris — these are folks who are basically corporate-oriented politicians. They flirt with progressive populism. They don’t want to consummate it. They’ve got their fingers to the wind. And so in a real sense, I believe this is at this point, a campaign between the progressive forces represented by Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and basically everybody else who’s running for the Democratic nomination. And of course the most obscene, not only ally of the oligarchy, but an oligarch himself is Michael Bloomberg. So you have like the mask taken off. I think it was John Jay, the first chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court who said that those who own the country should run it. And in a sense, that’s what Michael Bloomberg is saying. He’s already taken out a tremendous amount of paid advertising. He thinks he can buy the election and we’ll see if that’s the case.