By now Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign is a desperate cry for help. Losing by a logistically insurmountable margin even before the final six states—California and its 475 pledged delegates amount them—vote on June 7, Sanders has gone so far as to challenge Donald Trump to a debate. (Trump, after pledging to do the debate, backed out when a Silicon Valley company offered to raise $10 million for the debate.)
Left with the growing knowledge that they won’t—and can’t—win the nomination, Sanders fans are lashing out in anger against the process, the Democratic Party, and the voters.
The Daily Beast’s columnist Keli Goff, who supports Clinton, wrote on May 26 about the vicious attacks she and other blacks backing Clinton have endured for backing Clinton. As she wrote in February, “[N]ot caring about which candidate is actually electable might be one of the greatest forms of privilege there is.”
For Sanders supporters, Sanders isn’t losing because voters like Goff rationally chose the more qualified, more electable candidate who could actually have a chance to get her agenda implemented as president. No, those who admit Sanders is losing the votes say, Clinton voters are stupid and need to get “educated,” but another vast coalition of Sanders voters don’t even accept the reality that Sanders is losing.
You might call them postmodern or “metamodern.” Those are the words “experimental journalist” Seth Abramson of the Huffington Post used two dozen times justifying his inaccurate reporting on the Sanders campaign. It’s the kind of commentary that writes, “Make No Mistake, Sandersism Has Defeated Clintonism” when Clinton is leading by 3 million votes.
Now he has summed up his style in a post charmingly titled “On Bernie Sanders and Experimental Journalism.” His style can best be summarized as making shit up. After you get through five turgid paragraphs about “experimental journalism,” “postermodernism,” and “metamodernism,” you get to where Abramson tries to connect it to the 2016 election.
Journalism is based on “master narratives,” he asserts, and master narratives necessarily influence the outcomes of what journalists report on. Two narratives emerged for the two primaries: 1.) that Jeb Bush would win the GOP nomination, and 2.) that Hillary would win the Democratic nod. Well, we all know how those narratives turned out.
Of course the fact that “narratives” existed is, to a Sandersnista, clearly an example of media bias. It couldn’t be because of the objective facts that Bush had $100 million behind him, a powerful family, and was, in the spring, leading in the polls. No, because there is no place for objective reality in this new postmodern world of Trump and Sanders. As Abramson wrote, “[T]his is the first metamodern political campaign, and not only have all the old rules of politics gone out the window, so too have all the old modes of thinking about the Real.”
Clearly if one looks at Sanders’ agenda, that would appear to be the case, and not in a good way…
Abramson admitted in his own words he covered the election with an intentional bias to skew the results:
When I began blogging about Bernie Sanders, my goal was to imagine what an equally accurate and reasonable and just master narrative sitting alongside the one promoted by the corporate media would look like. I wanted to write editorials that came from that master narrative, not the corporate one, because I believed then and believe still that the experimental journalism of the future will embrace the multi-dimensionality of metanarrative. Write that Sanders is in the midst of a competitive primary race enough times — and support those claims with unimpeachable elements of the totalized “Real” — and in time we collectively can see that that seemingly impossible metanarrative is every bit as powerful and present and perceivable as any other.
Or, as The Washington Post’s Roberto Ferdman said, “This is the longest euphemism for lying I have ever seen.”
— Roberto Ferdman (@robferdman) May 24, 2016
And yet, as if he was aware of what the words mean, Abramson began the next paragraph asserting, “My articles have been entirely factual and entirely accurate.”
As Ted Cruz could tell you, any good lawyer can mislead someone without technically lying (and Abramson is a lawyer—unless he was being “experimental” with his bio, too). To make an opinion statement or a statement that is couched in such qualifications as to be technically true but inaccurate in spirit may not technically be lying. But to say something that you know to be inaccurate and wrong is misleading, inaccurate, and wrong.
In the relevant paragraph, Abramson asserted that he wrote that Sanders was in a competitive race many times in order to try to persuade people based (if I may be charitable and allow Abramson’s article a logical coherence) on the bandwagon effect (or based on magic and “metamodernism,” to use his word, if he doesn’t allow for logic).
Abramson asserted he was successful:
Over the last 90 days, my articles on the 2016 Democratic primary have been shared more than 200,000 times on Facebook, and with each share there were people who read the article and called it a fantasy and others who saw in it a master narrative equally plausible to the one they’ve been sold daily since that moment in the 1990s when Hillary Clinton decided she would become President.
(200,000 shares seems impressive, but that’s just one Sanders voter sharing.)
…After I wrote my article, Sanders began winning the overwhelming majority of states. Clinton’s unfavorables rose. Sanders continued getting massive crowds even though it’d become obvious that at least the pledged delegate math was absolutely dire.
But the numbers prove otherwise: Clinton has won 27 contests to Sanders’ 21, 1,770 pledged delegates to 1,500, 519 super delegates to 43, and over 13,220,200 votes to 10,196,828. And it’s not as if Sanders even has momentum; Clinton has won the popular vote in 9 of the last 13 contests.
Here’s how Abramson covered Clinton winning 8 of the contests between March 22 and May 18:
In 2016, she may well — despite being treated as the likely winner of this year’s Democratic primary by the mainstream media — win only seven or eight of the final 25 state primaries and caucuses.
His credulously posited the idea—in the first paragraph, no less—that Clinton might win zero of the remaining seven state primaries or caucuses (and D.C., Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands). Clinton has already won the next one, and if you are a political journalist—and not a fantasy writer—then you would reference the polls that show Clinton leading California by an average of 8 and New Jersey by 17.
Of course someone who doesn’t recognize the reality of mathematics also wouldn’t recognize that the House of Representatives is not going to fall easily to the Democrats or recognize what that entails. They would write a postmodern conclusion that doesn’t have to deal with that reality. ”My present metanarrative for the 2016 presidential election is no more true or false, in the long-term, than the other ones now available…”
All of this will be settled soon enough, but the Sanders camp has been successful in one thing: Getting the public and the drama-hungry media to believe that the process of voting democratically and having your side lose is “rigged” if the choice of entitled white Tumblrs and bloggers and people who don’t live in the real world doesn’t win the day.