With Joe Biden struggling as frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination, a surging Elizabeth Warren has begun to emerge as the party establishment’s new bogeyman—and corporate media are ready and willing to transmit insiders’ panicked calls for new “moderate” entrants to the race.
On the same day earlier this week, the Washington Post and the New York Times ran twin articles: the Post’s “Anxiety Rises Among Democrats Worried About Party’s Prospects in 2020” (10/22/19) and the Times’ “Anxious Democratic Establishment Asks, ‘Is There Anybody Else?’” (10/22/19).
The pieces interviewed a number of big donors and centrist party leaders, who fretted about their preferred candidate’s struggles and expressed hope for someone more corporate-friendly than Warren to enter the race and challenge her rise.
The Post laid out the dilemma for the party:
More seasoned leaders who have seen Democrats lose big have tended to prefer a safer, middle-road candidate more palatable to a wide range of voters. Those newer to the process are attracted to the vibrant and passionate candidates who can entice the base.
Of course, the paper didn’t interview those in the latter category, so the idea that a “middle-road candidate” is “safer” and “more palatable to a wide range of voters” goes unchallenged, despite the fact that the centrist strategy is often a failing one for Democrats (FAIR.org, 7/6/17).
But both papers uncritically repeated the establishment line that Warren is unelectable (a favorite accusation against Sanders in 2016—Extra!, 7–8/15). The Times wrote of “persistent questions about Senator Elizabeth Warren’s viability in the general election,” while the Post wrote that “party leaders and activists” worry that Warren and Sanders “are too liberal to win a general election.”
The Times quoted former Obama adviser David Axelrod:
With Trump looming, there is genuine concern that the horse many have bet on may be pulling up lame and the horse who has sprinted out front may not be able to win.
The thinking of powerful people in the Democratic Party is worth writing about. But it’s crucial not to just take their claims at face value. What articles reporting on Warren’s or Sanders’ “electability” need is some grounding in facts: Polls show both leftist candidates polling ahead of Trump nationally, as well as in key swing states like Florida, Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. As the last election proved, it’s dangerous to rely solely on polls, but combined with Sanders’ and Warren’s fundraising (which are handily beating Biden’s) there’s simply no evidence to substantiate claims of their unelectability—which ought to be decided by voters, not party leaders or corporate journalists.
What establishment Democrats are really worried about, of course, is their own power in the party, which is threatened by a surging left wing. Don’t look to their establishment media counterparts to report on that transparently.