Did someone give Bernie Sanders a hit of speed or was he just especially animated? Last night’s debate performance was among the most adept he’s ever delivered.
CNN, in its infinite objective wisdom, chose to structure the debate such that he was ‘pitted’ against the ‘moderates’, and Bernie parried off the ensuing ‘moderate’ attacks with unusual gusto. Large segments of the population are by now safely accustomed to Bernie’s stump speech, but they’re perhaps less accustomed to him vigorously defending his positions amid a wave of naysayers. He demonstrated that he has the mental and logical acuity to do this more than capably. You would almost forget that he was by far the oldest person on the stage, at nearly 78, but there were times when he seemed the spryest and most impassioned. Bernie’s support does not generally hinge on things as fleeting as a debate performance, but it’s nonetheless reassuring to Sandersistas to see that their man has all his marbles, and then some.
Bernie is perhaps in his most natural state when he’s laying into the corrupt corporate media, a subject near and dear to his heart since his days on grainy public access television in Vermont. He pointed out, accurately, that CNN takes in massive sums of cash from rapacious corporations, including the pharmaceutical companies which have a direct financial stake in the healthcare portion of the debate. This may, Bernie humbly suggested, have an impact (whether conscious or unconscious) on the way in which these issues are framed by moderators.
Bernie and Bernie alone could be capable of rescuing media criticism from the grip of Trump, who has dominated that area of inquiry for the past few years while corporate-funded journalists herald themselves as the last defenders of American democracy. In one cantankerous quip, Bernie highlighted the absurdity of that posturing. He might not have shouted ‘fake news’, but he might as well have done so.
After the debate, Marianne Williamson – fresh from her denunciation of the ‘dark psychic force’ bedeviling America – told me of Bernie’s attack: ‘He’s absolutely right. You know, until the 1980s, pharmaceutical companies could not advertise. You’re not going to get an honest conversation. You know how many millions of dollars they spend on things like CNN?’
Earlier in the evening, CNN president Jeff Zucker sauntered out on the stage and proclaimed the ‘stakes have never been higher.’ This may be true in some remote sense but also has the added benefit of being commercially advantageous for CNN. If you constantly tell viewers that the fate of the Republic is riding on the next presidential debate and only Don Lemon can guide the country forward, presumably some profitable segment of the population is going to be beguiled into tuning in.
Oddly though, the principal focus of CNN’s daily programming received no attention at all. There was not a single question about Russia, or Robert Mueller, or impeachment (despite the fact that nearly a majority of House Democrats have now called for impeachment proceedings to begin). Why then does CNN devote such frenetic attention to those subjects in the first place, if they don’t consider it of sufficient import to warrant a question at a presidential debate?
CNN handlers warned people in the theater not to boo out of ‘respect’ for the candidates, and but for that injunction John Delaney might well have been booed off the stage. There was palpable annoyance with his constant niggling and henpecking, and clearly the Detroit crowd was exponentially more sympathetic to the Sanders/Warren side of the argument. The people who attend these debates are generally party-aligned professionals, operatives, and consultants, which suggests that there is a diminishing constituency for dreary Delaneyism in the Democratic power base. Either that or Delaney was an especially poor messenger, though that didn’t stop CNN from elevating him as the chosen foil for their ‘moderate versus progressive’ conceit – a dynamic which they sought to engineer in a consummately ‘objective’ manner, whatever that means.