The Angry White Left: Bernie Sanders and Maureen Dowd Continue to Center White Grievance, Smear Hillary Clinton, and Peddle Election Conspiracy Theories

Bernie Sanders

The New York Times's Maureen Dowd went up to Vermont for one of her favorite pastimes: to interview Bernie Sanders for her most recent fluff piece.

Because what are the chances you can ever catch a United States Senator in Washington, am I right? But I digress.

Dowd published her opinion column based on the interview on Saturday, and it revolves around four core themes that are popular in the drama-obsessed media and are entirely engulfed in right-wing framing: upholding the centrality of whiteness in America, casting Sanders as behind-the-scenes puppetmaster for President Joe Biden, ritually smearing Hillary Clinton, and peddling election conspiracy theories.

All of these are popular themes that have been created and harnessed carefully over time despite bearing no resemblance to reality. Let's take them one at a time.

Upholding the Centrality of Whiteness in America

Bernie Sanders and Maureen Dowd reminisce about Donald Trump's appeal among the "white working class", as Sanders laments the Democratic party's supposed inability to speak to them. 

Democrats need to speak to the struggles of the white working class, [Sanders] says, something that “sometimes part of the Democratic elite does not fully appreciate.”

I used to find the singling out of the white part of "white working class" perplexing, especially coming from self-identified socialists who ostensibly believe that class, not race, is the defining culprit in egregious socioeconomic inequities.

It's not confusing anymore. The centering of class over race necessitates the centering of the economic grievances of a particular race: generally the dominant, privileged race in a given society. It is why the ideologies of socialism and communism were the brainchildren of mainly white Europeans and Russians, and perpetrated by the likes of the present-day dominant powers in China, which is actively engaged in homogenizing Chinese society and ethnocide against a Muslim minority. In each and every case, the focus is on the economic and social grievances of social groups already in systemic control of the respective society.

In that light, Sanders does get one thing right, though I believe inadvertently, about what defines white grievance, an issue that has been near and dear to his heart since the days a young Bernie fled Brooklyn and decided to settle in one of the whitest states in the country.

You got all these folks out there who are saying, ‘Does anybody pay attention to me?’”

And that's what white grievance all about: the idea that not enough attention is being devoted to white issues. And what are those issues, especially if one is required to separate them from issues faced by working people who are Native American, Black, Hispanic, or Asian?

The answer is simple: there are no issues exclusively faced by the white working class that isn't also faced by non-whites, except for one: their fear of losing white privilege, the thing that not only gave them a systemic advantage to prosper economically but also made them feel good about their imaginary superiority over others. One can only preserve that systemic advantage through paying more attention to them than to others, such as the attention that is afforded them by the discussion of the plights of the white working class in the media as if different from - and more special than - the concerns of other white people.

It also helps white-centered media figures like Dowd and alt-left stars like Sanders, on their way to ritually cast Democratic candidates as elites, simply ignore the fact that the working class voted for both Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden. Hillary Clinton won voters making under $50,000 over Donald Trump by more than 10 points, and Biden also won them by a similar margin. Neither, however, won any white sub demo. The data tells an inconvenient truth that Dowd and Sanders will likely never admit: It's not the "working class" part of the venerated white working class that Democrats fail to appeal to.

Casting Bernie Sanders as Joe Biden's Puppetmaster

Maureen Dowd, like much of her colleagues in the mainstream press and the alt-left podcasters (and, well, Donald Trump), is exceedingly interested in pretending that Bernie Sanders - whom Black voters rejected twice - is the real president, while Joe Biden, who cleaned Bernie's clock with the help of Black voters - is merely his vessel.

He has changed the whole debate in the nation’s capital. He is the guy trying to yank his party back to its working-class roots and steer President Biden in a bolder, more progressive direction.

Mirabile dictu: A president and senator who are both pushing 80, men who were underestimated and dismissed for years in Democratic circles, are now teaming up to transform the country. It’s the Bernie and Joe show.

The pretense that Bernie Sanders is somehow "pushing" Joe Biden "in a more progressive direction" is poppycock, conventional media fodder as it may seem. The idea that Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden are political equals is ahistoric mumbo jumbo.

The only thing the two men have in common, in terms of their political careers, is that they are both pushing 80. Other than that, they are in many ways polar opposites.

Biden is accomplished; Bernie is not. Biden rode the Amtrak to see his sons every night when he was a Senator and his sons were young; Bernie was a deadbeat dad. Joe Biden was elected to the Senate when he was 29; Bernie Sanders never held a stable, full-time job before being elected mayor of Burlington at 40. Biden took on the gun lobby all his life; Bernie owes his seat in Congress to the NRA. Biden's career in the Senate was illustrious and commanded attention; Bernie largely toiled in obscurity most of his Congressional career. Biden wrote the Assault Weapons Ban, the Violence Against Women Act, one of the first climate change bills long before it was popular. Biden played pivotal roles in ending Apartheid in South Africa, keeping people like Robert Bork off the federal judiciary, and shepherding historic health care reform on behalf of President Obama. Bernie named a bunch of post offices.

So while Bernie Sanders and his allies have given this president some begrudging credit or his laser focus on generational investments in working people, let us not pretend that this is Bernie's wheelhouse that Biden walked into as a Johnny-come-late. The truth is precisely the reverse.

But no Maureen Dowd whitewashing of Bernie Sanders would be complete without casual, cavalier, and ritual smearing of Hillary Clinton.

Ritual Smearing of Hillary Clinton and Peddling Election Conspiracies

Maureen Dowd has long been part of the media establishment that has demonized Hillary Clinton for more than a quarter-century, and she couldn't help reviving her Hillary-hate in this piece. Noting the cordial relationship between Biden and Bernie (without breathing a whiff about how much more hateful Bernie was towards Hillary than he ever was toward Biden), Dowd contrasts it with the acrimony that existed between Sanders and Hillary Clinton. But it does not appear that she asked Sanders about it in the interview for this piece. It was just a spontaneous word-vomit she felt she had to do.

Dowd calls Clinton 'nasty' in uncanny imitation of Donald Trump, and she reanimates the Russia-Wikileaks perpetrated DNC email saga to accuse Hillary of rigging the 2016 primary. I will address this ongoing smear in full in an upcoming piece, because I firmly believe it deserves its own, complete, response, but suffice it to say that Hillary Clinton not only won the 2016 primary by millions of votes but she is the unsung hero for getting the DNC out of deep debt, something that Bernie Sanders, despite being given the opportunity to, flat out refused to do. Even Donna Brazile, the interim DNC Chair who slammed Hillary Clinton for his good deed, had to admit that Bernie simply wouldn't do it.

Once again, I will address this in detail in a future piece, but let's be clear about one thing: the persistent, insidious, pervasive proliferation of the conspiracy theory that the Democratic nomination - either time - was somehow stolen from Sanders is no less damaging (and has no more evidence to back it up) to democracy than Donald Trump's big lie that led to the insurrection of January 6.

In fact, Dowd's piece is infused with core themes of Trumpism: starting from the crass centering of whiteness and white grievance, flowing through the pretense that President Biden doesn't make his own decisions and is in need of a puppeteer, and culminating in counterfactual, baseless election conspiracy theories.

And you wonder why I believe in the horseshoe theory of politics.

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