Last year, I wrote about the efforts of the liberal class in the U.S. to smear Bernie Sanders and the grassroots movement behind him. Now that Pete, Amy, Mike, and other political cosplayers have exited the presidential elections — and solidified their support behind Joe Biden —it’s worth analyzing the marketing funnels that were deployed to influence the public into voting for “Uncle Joe.”
How do you tell millions of people to support your candidacy and then suddenly drop out to endorse a politician in decline (not to mention a self-described “gaffe machine“), who has antagonized young people, supported wars, and betrayed the working class for most of his career? What kind of trinkets have to be jingled in front of your googly eyes for you to say: “Fuck it, turn this plane around, I am endorsing the dude who confronted Corn Pop“?
While the details will remain a mystery, it was reported that former U.S. president Barack Obama had a “hidden hand” in advising the Democratic dropouts to fall in line. “People close to Obama said the former president has been keeping close tabs on the race. They said the signal has been sent in the past 36 hours that he sees Biden as the candidate to back, and they don’t need Obama to say it publicly or privately,” stated an NBC News article on March 2. “Another Democrat said donors have been waiting on the sidelines for either Biden or Bloomberg to become the clear alternative to Sanders, and the emerging view is that has happened in the past two days.”
Two days earlier, the New York Times disseminated a similar talking point coming from the Obama camp. “As Mr. Sanders’s campaign gained steam a few weeks ago, Mr. Obama said he would enthusiastically support any of the candidates,” Glenn Thrush wrote, “But he added that the task of uniting the party around Mr. Sanders ‘could be difficult,’ according to an associate who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe a private conversation.”
You might recall that after he left office, Obama declared that his main goal was to support the next generation. In 2017, he said that “the single most important thing I can do is to help in any way I can to prepare the next generation of leadership to take up the baton, and to take their own crack at changing the world.” In 2019, he came out against “cancel culture,” but instead of describing its most harmful effects, Barack criticized “young people” who think “making change is to be as judgmental as possible about other people,” which is “accelerated by social media.” “This idea of purity and you’re never compromised, and you’re always politically woke, and all that stuff — you should get over that quickly,” Obama told a crowd in Chicago.
Barack Obama was evoking the well-publicized narrative (often peddled by male commentators in their 50’s) that having integrity and consistency in politics is an unrealistic “purity” test utilized by “woke” people on social media. Given that he likes to opine about the impurity of politics by using the lingo of the Intellectual Dark Web, Obama’s scolding was expected, as was his silence a couple of months later when Bloomberg was hijacking the elections right before our eyes.
“Michael Bloomberg, in particular, has spent $38 million—and counting—on two spots featuring Obama, which are airing again and again, across all channels, at all times of the day,” CNN reported right before Super Tuesday. “We did a lot of things together over eight years. And he’s a friend, and I’ve talked to him a number of times since then, socialized,” Bloomberg said when asked about his relationship with Obama.
Was Barack’s silence regarding Bloomberg’s corrosive influence in the Democratic primaries a lack of purity on his part, or plain old opportunism? Whatever it was, I guess we better “get over it quickly” or we won’t be invited on Richard Branson’s yacht anytime soon.
Fortunately, Bloomberg’s $500 million investment to win the U.S. presidency was a flop and he dropped out after Super Tuesday to—wait for it—endorse Joe Biden. While news pundits laughed at the oligarch’s overall performance, his ability to drop in the U.S. presidential race and use a tiny sliver of his wealth to influence the outcome is as concerning as anything we’ve seen from Trump.
The fact that Bloomberg is supporting Biden means that the social media manipulation techniques he used in his campaign will now be directed against Sanders. By now, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that while billionaires like the former mayor are openly exploiting social media platforms, Bernie’s supporters (many of whom African-American and Hispanic voters) are the ones who usually get criticized for being toxic on social media.
It goes without saying that anyone — Russian, American, Northern Macedonian or Canadian, billionaire or small-time political operative — can create a couple of fake accounts and tweet the most vile insults imaginable. Given that establishment Democrats have been caught using bot farms and shadowy voting apps, it takes some nerve to pretend that Bernie’s online supporters (whose small donations have broken record after record) are a bigger threat than the structural violence inflicted on millions every day.
In the meantime, a similar media-induced spectacle is rolling out for conservative-leaning folks who think that by following the lead of “Never Trumpers” like Karl Rove, Mitt Romney, Max Boot, Steve Schmidt, Jennifer Rubin, and Bill Kristol they are somehow more informed than your average MAGA fan. In reality, however, these pundits’ brand of politics ends up propping up the same corrupt politicians as Obama’s, whether that’s Biden now, or Trump later on.
As we moved closer to the November elections, some media personalities who selfishly utilized anti-Trump sentiments to diversify their audience predictably abandoned the label. According to The Washington Post, “most of the ‘Never Trumpers’ who opposed Donald Trump’s candidacy in 2016, such as pundits Ben Shapiro, Glenn Beck and Erick Erickson, have now come around to support the president.” I guess their feelings changed, or the “radical Left” made them do it.
The remaining Never Trumpers — those who are still coasting on the credibility that comes from claiming to dislike Trump — are now using their diminishing influence to further divide the Democratic Party. Rove, Senior Advisor and Deputy Chief of Staff during the George W. Bush administration, recently wrote an Op-Ed in the Wall Street Journal (titled “Biden May Be Saving the Democrats”) where he stated that “Mr. Sanders’s extreme views and values are not those of ordinary Democrats.” Other Never Trump personalities, who manufacture consent in newspapers and news channels on a weekly basis, follow a similar pattern—criticize Bernie Sanders and defend the status quo.
That Bush administration operatives and “moderate Democrats” use the same attacks against Sanders should tell you all you need to know about this moment in history. The similarities between the two camps shine a different light on the narrative that people in the U.S. are inherently divided. How polarized are we really when a popular political candidate is visibly detested by corporate media pundits? Did our polarization make Obama pick up the phone and tell his minions to drop out and endorse Biden?
These days it’s fashionable for pundits to claim that the public is too divided. Yet, instead of surveying the issues that actually concern voters, those critics analyze polarization as a feedback loop between the U.S. ruling class, social media companies, greedy corporations, and the public. While it’s helpful in understanding the variables that account for polarization, this narrative tends to diffuse accountability when it comes to how economic interests influence politics and media.
When we analyze the source of Joe’s issues, the reason why many of us can’t stand politicians like him becomes fairly obvious — they don’t offer any real solutions. What’s worse is that, in Biden’s case, the lack of solutions is combined with a tenacious determination to appease conservatives. Does pointing that out — in the context of climate breakdown and extreme inequality — make us polarized, or just a bit concerned?
I think the main thing that people need to know about Biden is his approach to politics, which is very much based on his 1978 reelection campaign, which came at the sort of conservative shift in U.S. politics, is based on appeasing the right and sort of taking the platform of his Republican opponent and trying to make it his own and kind of siphon away support like that. And that’s really been the case in every election and really how he’s governed. So that’s why, in the ’80s and the ’90s, you see Biden going actually further on the tough-on-crime and tough-on-drugs messaging than even Reagan and Bush were calling for.
And in the ’90s, you see him, even though he says in 1995 — he claims, “I’m close to retiring. But the thing that has made me stay in the race is I want to defeat these guys. I want to defeat the Gingrich Republicans that came in ’94. These guys are terrible.” And what does he do? In 1996, he passes welfare reform, which was defined by Senate Republican Majority Leader Trent Lott as the, quote, “holy grail” of the GOP’s legislative agenda. Welfare kind of disappears really across the South and the Southwest United States as conservative governors use that welfare reform to basically just use the money to put up their own budgets. He passes NAFTA. He repeals Glass-Steagall. He partners with Clinton to try and cut spending and to cut the federal bureaucracy spending, and federal employment goes down to pre-1960s levels, even before — to levels before Roosevelt took power.
Part of the reason why he ended up being the architect, the Democratic architect, of the Iraq War was he was worried about an election. He was worried about being challenged from the right in 2002 by an opponent who could rival him in fundraising, and his safe bet was to sort of go and support the Iraq War, which a lot of African Americans did not support. And, in fact, Biden, talking to a group of African-American columnists shortly — a month after voting for the war — and this is a classic Biden thing, is he votes for something, and he says to this mostly black audience — he says, you know, “Well, I think actually the war is a terrible idea, and I don’t want it. You know, I don’t think it’s going to happen. You know, Saddam and al-Qaeda are not in cahoots at all. That’s ridiculous….
When, of course, he had been saying the exact opposite before. So, this is — as the Republican Party gets more and more extreme to the right, having Biden as president, and even going up against Trump, is a real worry.
Will the Democratic establishment prop up another center-right candidate? If so, how will they generate excitement for Joe Biden, whose anti-working class record and off-putting behavior are coming soon to the Fox News and YouTube channel near you?
Whatever the answers are, it’s clear establishment Democrats and Republicans aren’t as different as they portray themselves to be. There will never be a Buttigieg Democrat or a Klobuchar Democrat, because there isn’t much difference — besides rhetoric — that separates them from corporate politicians with less TV exposure. Similarly, Never Trumpers never seem to find an alternative to King Trumbo that isn’t his replica, but in blue, while they tear down Sanders’s New Deal proposals that aim to help the working class people they claim to care about (from the comfort of glass-walled buildings in D.C. and New York).
While their perceived separation generates headlines and revenue for media companies, there’s little that actually divides centrists calling Bernie “too radical” from Never Trumpers who call him a “communist.” These are the self-appointed guardians of Democracy and Capitalism who are determined to make life a living hell for their grandchildren and future generations, because the policies we need right now—such as providing universal healthcare and dealing with climate devastation— are too extreme.