Sanders & Trump: Gatekeepers slam door on outsiders

Finian Cunningham
Finian Cunningham (born 1963) has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages. Originally from Belfast, Ireland, he is a Master’s graduate in Agricultural Chemistry and worked as a scientific editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, England, before pursuing a career in newspaper journalism. For over 20 years he worked as an editor and writer in major news media organizations, including The Mirror, Irish Times and Independent. Now a freelance journalist based in East Africa, his columns appear on RT, Sputnik, Strategic Culture Foundation and Press TV.
© Reuters
In the 'Land of the Free’, the Washington political establishment and its mainstream media echo chamber are moving by sleight of hand to select the Democrat and Republican presidential nominees. Emphasis here on selection, not election.

The Socialist firebrand Bernie Sanders and billionaire magnate Donald Trump have both got momentum among ordinary voters. But as the electoral dynamic gathers pace, the political and media establishment are becoming increasingly desperate to throw spanners in the wheels.

Sanders and Trump may be at different ends of the political spectrum, but they have one big thing in common. They are outside the Washington establishment and both have articulated radical policies that appeal to ordinary voters in ways that confound vested Washington interests.

On the Republican side, Trump is the clear winner so far with the popular vote, riding well ahead of his nearest rival Ted Cruz and leaving John Kasich trailing in third place in the race to become presidential nominee in the general election due in November.

Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders may have a lot of catching up do on his rival Hillary Clinton’s popular vote count in the Democrat contest. However, Sanders has what the pundits call “momentum” having won seven of the last eight primary and caucus outings.

Upcoming primaries in New York next week are being billed as “pivotal”. If Trump should win that would surely give him an assailable lead, whereas if Sanders pulls off another shock victory, the momentum in his campaign might become unstoppable, sweeping him to eventual presidential nomination.

Alarmed by the rise of the two outsiders, the establishment both within the respective political parties and in the mainstream media appear to be closing the gates on Trump and Sanders.

Trump this week hit out at what he called “the rigged system” of Republican party delegates and Super PACs who together could overturn his popularity among ordinary voters. In a so-called “contested convention” due in July, the Republican party grandees and their corporate money machine could sideline Trump for another candidate, even though the latter does not carry the popular vote within the party.

The New York Times reported this week a “Barrage of Attack Ads Threaten to Undermine Trump”. The paper discloses that Republican rivals and political action committees are planning to spend millions of dollars on new attack ads to discredit the business tycoon. Already a whopping $70 million has been spent by Republican opponents on negative campaigning against Trump.

For Sanders, the establishment gatekeepers appear to be only recently moving to action stations against his possible nomination. Up to now, the Vermont Senator has been largely ignored by the mainstream media in the US. He has been given a fraction of media coverage compared with other presidential hopefuls. But as Sanders picks up momentum among ordinary voters, “far beyond what anyone anticipated,” as the Washington Post noted, it is revealing that the media attacks are now starting to come thick and fast.

In recent days, the New York Times and the Washington Post have run a slew of vituperative articles aimed at discrediting Sanders as a hopeless revolutionary. Nobel-winning economist Paul Krugman and doyen columnist at the Times lambasted Sanders for “easy slogans over hard thinking” and being “utterly unrealistic”.

The Washington Post was even more caustic, running no less than two commentaries by its editorial board where in one particularly snide editorial Sanders was written off for his alleged “shocking ignorance” on financial matters. The avowedly socialist candidate has won much popular support for his plans to break up big banks, as well as advocating universal healthcare and free college education. But the Post editors, as with Krugman at the Times, performed a vicious hatchet job on his policy ideas and credentials.

Both newspapers – the two leading US print outlets – were explicit in their endorsement of Hillary Clinton.

The Washington Post editorial board wrote: “Many voters share Mr. Sanders’s disdain for high finance and his nostalgia for an economy based more on manufacturing. But such prejudices, whether sound or not, provide an insufficient basis for remaking the world’s largest economy. Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton has a banking-sector reform proposal designed to address the highest risks to the financial system that remain after the first round of reform.”

If Bernie Sanders wins the New York primary next week not only will he have significantly reinforced his campaign momentum, the big state will give him a major boost to his tally of party delegates.

As the Washington Times noted“the pressure is on” Clinton to win New York. While she served as a senator there for eight years before joining the Obama administration in 2009 as Secretary of State, nevertheless Sanders has the home advantage having been born in Brooklyn and with a characteristic broad New York accent to prove it.

It is no coincidence that as Clinton ramps up personal attacks on Sanders (he has also given back some), the media establishment is beginning to crank up negative coverage on her rival. Clinton with her Wall Street connections and Washington insider affiliations is evidently the US establishment’s preferred candidate on the Democrat side.

The salvos fired at Sanders over the past week from the big media are a foretaste of the concerted pummeling that await him should a New York victory occur. Up to now, he has been spared because Sanders wasn’t taken seriously as a candidate. But if he transforms into serious presidential candidate espousing a socialist ticket that is enthusing masses of voters, we can be sure that the establishment will close ranks to shut out his chances. A relentlessly negative media campaign will be at the forefront.

On the Republican side, Trump is not the candidate that the gatekeepers want to see go through to a nationwide presidential contest. For various reasons, Trump is too much of a maverick and potentially divisive politician. What the Washington and media establishments fear is that his run for the presidency could be destabilizing for the country, both at home and internationally. Moreover, Trump is scathing of the establishment politics in Washington, as his latest comments about the “system being rigged” indicate.

Whatever one may think of Trump or Sanders, their persona and politics, there is one common denominator on which both should be defended as a matter of democratic principle. It should be up to the voters to decide who becomes presidential nominees for their respective parties, and who eventually will become the next president of the US. Is that not supposed to be the bedrock principle of US democracy, or any democracy for that matter?

Clearly, however, the shenanigans by the two party establishments and the mainstream media demonstrate – if ever it needed to be demonstrated – that “democracy” in the US is something that is decided for the masses by their social superiors.

Trump and Sanders, for different reasons, do not fit into the mold determined by the “gatekeepers”. As the end of the respective presidential races draws closer, we will see the gates being pushed ever harder to keep out the undesirables – and that includes the democratic choice of the masses.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.