Let me know how this sounds. pic.twitter.com/xf35KktXDH
— Colin W (@CWiebrecht) February 10, 2020
Thanks to Alexandra Halaby, who alerted me via Twitter to this clip from a Chuck Todd panel on MSNBC earlier today. In it, Todd rails against the so-called intemperate supporters of Bernie Sanders. He quotes Jonathan Last calling Sanders’ followers the “digital Brownshirt brigade.” Some have engaged in a bit of sophistry saying that Todd didn’t actually say the words (he did) or that he didn’t actually endorse the words (well, he did that too, but less explicitly). In fact, he raised the quote during the panel because he wanted to make the point that Bernie bros were a digital lynch mob. Last gave him a convenient hook using dramatic language to make the point.
There are a few repeated memes trotted out by the Never Bernie crowd: he’s gonna die of a heart attack; he’s a “Socialist!” And his disciples are really not-nice-people.
Todd’s comment covered the last base. But what the moderator didn’t note was that Jonathan Last is the managing editor of something called The Bulwark, whose website calls it a home for “rational conservatives.” I think they are second cousins to George Bush’s ‘compassionate conservatives.’ And you know what happened to them. If the accompanying image from the article doesn’t scream “red-baiting” to you, then nothing ever will.
USA Today published another column today by one Gabriel Schonfeld, who warns Bernie will be toast when Republicans dig up the candidate’s radical past. Among other things: Bernie supported the overthrow of the Shah and believed Iran would be better off with anything other than him, including Khomeini. Imagine that! The columnist even digs up the dregs of Ron Radosh, King of the Red-Baiters, to smear Bernie’s past. Schonfeld once worked as an advisor to Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign and was at the Hudson Institute. But his bio notes that he’s now become a Democrat. While I’m happy for him that he’s seen the light and abandoned the folly of Repugnicanism, he doesn’t seem to be in the right Party. Red-baiting went out of style among Dems some times ago.
The entire premise of Last’s piece was that American politics has come to the point where the only way a presidential candidate can win is by having thugs like Bernie bros and MAGA Trumpers enforcing political discourse. And yes, he makes only a minor distinction between the two poles, which is characteristic of those who seek to debase Sanders as a thug socialist.
The problem with this critique is that it ignores the legitimate bitterness provoked by pundits like Todd and Chris Matthews (the guy who said that after Sanders became president people like him would face “public executions”). When you hear enough wild-eyed bulls*t like this you’d get pretty pissed off too. The MSM has an instinctual hatred of Sanders. They are afraid of him. So they either ignore him to cover centrist candidates they “understand;” or they hate on him with idiocy like the Todd-Last-MItchell comments.
But the most disturbing aspect of the phrase Last wrote which Todd quoted on air, was the reference to Sanders supporters as “digital Brownshirts.” Yes, I understand that this is political punditry, in which you need to have cute sound-byte phrases to reduce your opponent to a one-note villain. But this went too far.
Bernie Sanders’ family lost members to the Holocaust. My family did as well. They died at the hands of real Brownshirts and Hitler’s SS. Using phrases like “digital Brownshirts” may be catchy as punditry, but it sucks in every other way that’s important. I support Bernie and I am not a Brownshirt and I deeply resent anyone using such terms.
Bernie Sanders may have supporters you don’t like. They may be mean or intemperate or intolerant. But they are not Brownshirts. And calling them that takes us one small step closer to when there really could be Brownshirts walking the halls of Congress (and even the White House).
If MSNBC and Todd were decent they would apologize for this stupidity. I doubt they will. But I say, surprise me!