Money Trumps Misogyny: Media Coverage of Bernie's Rollout Exposes Privilege and Complicity

When Kamala Harris declared that she would be a candidate for the Democratic nomination for president, the coverage of her rollout was replete with questions challenges she will face as a former prosecutor, whether she is progressive enough, and even about whether she is black enough.

When Cory Booker declared his candidacy for president, the coverage of his rollout included (for some earthly reason I cannot fathom) concern-trolling about his being a vegetarian, and he got ridiculed for peddling “love and unity” in the era of Trump.

When Elizabeth Warren rolled out her campaign for president, the issue of her heritage would never be let go, announced the mainstream media. Her DNA test was covered wall to wall, and questions abounded about how much more damage it will do if it is found later that she’d claimed native American heritage in a variety of places.

When Kirsten Gillibrand announced she would be running for president, the media rushed to talk about whether she’d been a flip-flopper, having become more progressive as a New York senator than she was as an upstate Congresswoman. Then she got panned for the way she eats fried chicken.

When Amy Klobuchar declared her candidacy in the middle of a cold, snowy day, the media proceeded to figure out if Trump’s quip that she looked like “snow-woman” really had merit. The media spent days talking about how she is a mean boss (of course for men, the word ‘tough’ would apply in place of ‘mean’).

Then came the rollout of Bernie Sanders’ second hack at the Democratic nomination as a non-Democrat. The skies opened up, the light shined through, and birds sang. Bernie arrived on a white horse. At least, you could be forgiven for thinking something close to this is what happened from the media’s fawning coverage of Sanders as Savior. It went something like this:

  1. OMG Sanders is running again! Yay!

  2. He’s running second only to Biden! OMG so cool! (Never mind that he’s at 16% - which is a terrible number after you won over 40% of the vote last time around and been talked about ad infinitum ever since.)

  3. Look at how much money he claims he’s raising! Holy shit that’s a lot of money! CASH! OMG!

To be sure, the Sanders campaign claims that they raised $6 million, with an average donation of $27, in 24 hours after announcing his campaign, although given Bernie Sanders’s history of campaign finance irregularities, some trust-but-verify would seem to apply. As some have pointed out on social media, Bernie has been sending emails to his massive email list asking for $27 for two whole years now.

But for the moment, for the sake of argument, let’s say Bernie Sanders did raise all that money. So what? Should that erase the deep-seated history of racism and sexism of the candidate and the campaign, especially given the fact that just last month, Bernie Sanders made a big deal of missing a Senate vote against lifting sanctions against Russia because he had to go attend a meeting with former staffers who accused Sanders’ 2016 campaign of having a culture of toxic masculinity and pervasive “sexual violence”?

It shouldn’t. As Trevor here has pointed out, Bernie Sanders needed a culture of misogyny to compete in 2016.

B-but Bernie apologized! Sure, he had to in order to run in 2020. Hillary Clinton had said that she made a mistake using a private email server (although it had been - and apparently continues to be - pretty much standard practice among administration officials), but it didn’t stop the media from buzzing like a bee about her emails until the end of time. Elizabeth Warren apologized for claims about her heritage she made without knowing better, and that’s not stopping the mainstream press from aiming for her.

So why is Bernie given a pass on his immediate past campaign’s culture of sexual violence? The excuse that it is because Sanders was not accused himself of assaulting women is preposterous. A candidate is responsible for their entire campaign apparatus. Not knowing about serious sexual assault allegations in and of itself makes a candidate at once complicit and incompetent. Not to mention that Sanders’s first reaction to the letter from former staffers, in 2019, was that he was too busy to care about sexual assault culture in his own campaign.

Bernie Sanders has demonstrated, at the very least, callous disregard for safety concerns, sexual harassment and toxic masculinity. At worst, Bernie Sanders has proven he is willing to accept and promote sexual violence if he believes it will help him earn an extra vote.

These are serious issues. Bernie Sanders needs to be asked questions about his disgusting record of misogyny every single day he is on the campaign trail asking people to give him their money, time and vote for president of the United States. Yet, the media acts largely as though it is water under the bridge and shall not be spoken of again, even as it beats up other candidates for things that are sometimes not even actually legitimate issues (note: whether Kamala Harris is “black enough” is not a legitimate issue).

By focusing on how much money Bernie Sanders raises instead of real and raw history of misogyny, sexism and sexual violence surrounding Sanders, the media is confirming a Trumpian worldview that money trumps misogyny. Have or raise enough money, and that money - not your or your campaign’s horrifying history with women, will be the focus. Raise or have enough money, and you can get away with anything.

Of course, this courtesy is rarely extended to candidates who are not white men, so there’s that, too.

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