The latest polls show Bernie Sanders doing extraordinarily well in the first two Democratic primary states, New Hampshire and Iowa. In New Hampshire, he’s first with 27% (Biden second with 25%) and in Iowa, he’s in a three-way tie for first-place with Biden and Buttigieg (23% each). UPDATE: the latest poll just came out and Sanders now leads with 20%, with Warren at 17% and Biden at 16%. This can mean only one thing: the Party corporate machine will be dusting off the same tired tropes it used in 2016 to dismiss Sanders. It’s already started. AP published a hit-piece with the “scary” title: Fears of Sanders win growing among Democratic establishment. Among the oddities in it is portraying Sanders as a “quirky 78-year-old.” Not a word about the 77 year-old Biden, which seems odd if you want to be fair (which clearly this piece does not).
Of course, when writing such a hit piece the go-to figure appears to be Rahm Emanuel. If he’s not available, then Neera Tanden will do. I’m not sure why any journalist cares what Emanuel has to say. He failed miserably as mayor of Chicago and stepped down in disgrace. The last time he was a serious figure on the national political stage was when he was Obama’s chief of staff in his first term. He left in 2010. He’s been irrelevant for an entire decade. Why trot him out now as someone having anything useful to say? Unless you want to trot out the machine Party hacks from its not-so-glorious past.
Here’s one of the standard slams of Sanders:
LaBolt seized on what he called Sanders’ short list of accomplishments over three decades in Congress. Over that time, the senator wrote just a handful of bills that ultimately became law.
“He’s more concerned about shouting in the wilderness to make an ideological point than getting things done,” said LaBolt, whose communications firm has done work for the health insurance industry…
Why would a reporter quote a source who had a vested financial interest in demeaning the subject of his story?
Passing legislation is only one of the things senators do. And senators like Sanders, who reject the suffocating consensus-driven nature of politics in the Democratic Senate caucus, are naturally not going to gain support for their legislative initiatives. Besides passing legislation, senators hold hearings and use their bully pulpit to highlight major issues that are not being addressed sufficiently (even by their own Party!). That’s Sanders to a T.
I wouldn’t say that’s ‘shouting in the wilderness,’ unless the wilderness is at the heart of the national political debate. And believe me, if his supporters agreed with this negative portrait of Sanders he would have no support. Just the opposite is the case: Sanders speaks for a wide swath of the Party and the country on the issues at the top of his agenda: education reform, immigration reform, climate change, opposing war.
Not to mention the AP using a source who was last involved in presidential politics fifty-years ago, warning that Sanders would lose as badly as his own candidate did in 1972:
Marshall Matz, who was a policy adviser for Sen. George McGovern’s failed 1972 bid for president, was more direct in his warning for Democrats. If they nominate Sanders, he said, the party should expect the same landslide loss that McGovern suffered decades ago to President Richard Nixon.
“I think he would not just lose but would lose badly — and I don’t think the country can afford that,” Matz said, noting that McGovern generated large crowds and enthusiasm just as Sanders has.
Claiming that McGovern enjoyed the same popularity as Sanders is nonsense. Sanders draws crowds far larger than McGovern ever did. His campaign is far better organized and funded than anything McGovern mustered. And I say this as someone who supported McGovern then. Not to mention that McGovern was running against a very strong candidate (at least during the election), Richard Nixon, and the Democratic candidate had made some major missteps during the campaign. Trump, on the other hand, though he is a dangerous candidate in the sense that you aren’t sure what he will do and what impact it will have on the campaign: nevertheless is an exceedingly weak candidate.
Then, of course, there are the billionaire oligarchs like Jeff Gundlach, who warn that Bernie will take away their mansions, yachts and Rolexes. Here’s his [mis]characterization of Sanders and his chances to become president:
According to Gundlach, the outcome of the 2020 election would depend “very largely on the economy. He would really need, to push him into a majority position, you would people to be soured even further on capitalism and more fond of socialism as a broad concept,” he said.
That’s nonsense of course. Sanders does not present his platform as a “socialist” agenda. He presents it as broad reform of the prevailing capitalist system. Describing Sanders as Lenin, rather than FDR is a nice trick. But it won’t work.
Further, while Americans generally endorse capitalism, that doesn’t mean they’re happy with its impact on everyone. Americans understand that there is plenty of room for improvement and reform of our system to make it fairer, more just, and more equitable. If that wasn’t the case, then the Green New Deal and Medicare for All wouldn’t have the massive levels of support they do.
Beating Sanders with the Anti-Semitism Stick
There’s another especially pernicious attack headed Bernie’s way. The Israel Lobby and Jewish oligarchs like Adelson, Milstein, Singer, et al have been watching (and likely funding) like hawks the success of the campaign to smear Jeremy Corbyn in the last UK election. They see the success of the massive operation in which the media, UK Israel Lobby, Tories and Israeli government collaborated to attack Corbyn and his Party as anti-Semitic. The resounding Tory victory showed them the way to transfer the same campaign to the U.S.
Though Sanders and Corbyn are both different candidates and work within very different political contexts, the pro-Israel machine is hopeful that what worked in Britain will work on these shores as well. The campaign will be waged within the mainstream media, social media, and in local synagogues and Jewish organizations.
The key issue is anti-Semitism. Just as the Labour Party was deemed soft on Jew-hatred, the Democrats will be facing a massive onslaught of similar charges. And just as the charges were entirely bogus in the UK, they will be here as well. But it hardly matters whether they are bogus or not. By repeating them often enough and prevailing upon mainstream media like the BBC and the Guardian to amplify the smear, they became believable.
Here is a sampling of what’s in store. In the past few months, two astroturf groups have begun circulating such false charges on Twitter and throughout the media. One is Democrats Against Anti-Semitism (DAAS), a Twitter account claiming to be based in Brooklyn, NY. It’s profile claims it is “grassroots:” it’s not. It further claims it is a non-profit: it is not. And finally, it claims it consists of ‘Democrats and former Democrats:’ it doesn’t.
If you review the list of those the account follows, they are largely UK, Israeli, (and a few Americans) most of whom are veterans of the smear campaign against Corbyn: Mark Lewis, Sussex Friends of Israel, Im Tirzu, Hen Mazzig, Adam Milstein, Legal Insurrection, Petra Marquardt-Bigman and many others. There is one name not on that list: David Collier. He’s one of the leading UK social media smear artists working either in the pay of, or on behalf of (or both), a Likudist agenda. He is also reputed to be a key figure in what’s known as the Gnasher Jew collective, a coordinated Twitter network of accounts which swarm pro-Palestinian and Israel-critical accounts (full disclosure: these trolls succeeded once in getting my own account suspended briefly) to get them suspended or deleted.
Another British group specializing in exploiting anti-Semitism to destroy political careers is the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, one of whose senior staff, recently released a video boasting that his “spies” and a broader campaign of vilification contributed to the defeat of Corbyn and Labour in the last election.
DAAS was notorious for was a tweet which called Bernie Sanders “ethnically Jewish,” but not really Jewish. In other words, these far-right ghouls have established some sort of kashrut standard of Jewishness: if you support settlerism, Likudism, and war on Palestinians and holy war against Muslims, then you’re kosher. Otherwise, you’re treif. The problem with this standard, of course, is that it’s utter nonsense. A Jew is a Jew is a Jew. If you are born of a Jewish parent, then you are a Jew. Though there are different standards for Orthodox Jews, Sanders is a Jew even by these more demanding standards. You simply cannot throw a Jew out of Judaism. In fact, attempting to do so is itself anti-Semitic. It is not only anti-Semitic to attack a Jew for being a Jew, it is anti-Semitic to declare a Jew not a Jew when he is. Such an attack, whether by a Jew or non-Jew, is anti-Semitic.
The other problem with this group deciding to be a mashgiach for Jewishness is that all of its criteria have nothing to do with Judaism itself, and everything to do with Israel and Zionism. They presume that the two are one and the same, when they are not. But it’s important for them to use terms like ‘bad Jew’ or ‘anti-Semite’ because these are the terms that activate fear and loathing among American Jews. If they called Bernie anti-Israel or anti-Zionist (he is neither, by the way), it wouldn’t resonate nearly as much because American Jews don’t rate Israel highly on their list of voting priorities (ninth in a recent poll).
A similar group is Stopantisemitism.org. This is another mysterious group which lists no board of directors or staff on its website. But a close examination of bread crumbs regarding its identity reveals it as a creature of Adam Milstein’s Judeo-fascist network. I profiled his new funding initiative, the Merona Institute for Leadership, here recently. Milstein’s wife is the board chair of the foundation. Stopantisemitism is one of the grantees of the group. When you’ve followed these far-right Judeo-supremacist initiatives as long as I have you develop a sixth sense of who’s involved. This one smells strongly of Milstein.
You’ll recall that an Israel Lobby staff member covertly featured in the Al Jazeera documentary named Milstein as the funder of Canary Mission. It too was mysterious and refused to name staff or a board of directors. It too engaged in smear campaigns designed to harass and intimidate pro-Palestinian activists across the country.
Stopantisemitism’s latest buffoonish attempt at notoriety involves a fake “poll” it took of the country’s major anti-Semites. Rep. Ilan Omar “won” the voting hands-down as “Anti-Semite of the Year.” A press release was dutifully snapped up by all the major pro-Israel media outlets.
If Sanders were to win the Democratic primary, these efforts would go into overdrive. There will be massive spending on social media platforms to spread the most outrageous lies about Sanders. I worry that, as with Corbyn, the corporate wing of the Party will either sit out, or deliberately sabotage Sanders’ candidacy. This disunity, fed by massive amounts of disinformation and ads filled with lies, could have a decisive impact. Be ready or risk being left in the dust by such chicanery.