It’s hard not to notice: Saturday night’s Jefferson-Jackson Dinner, an annual Democratic fundraiser often touted as a turning point for presidential campaigns, sure looked different from the ground and bleachers than the picture I’m getting perusing through the mainstream coverage this morning. Just as with the first Democratic debate, mainstream media has been busy twisting the event into a bizarre, Clinton-centric distortion of reality. Are we really surprised?
CNN published a particularly egregious crock Sunday morning, which made several outright false claims about the day’s events. The write-up claimed that the Bernie Sanders rally was not open to the public (which it certainly was), and called the efforts of volunteers “less of a rally for Sanders and more of a training session for supporters who were attending the Jefferson-Jackson dinner.” Sorry, but isn’t the purpose of a rally to, y’know, get people who support a candidate to come together to pump each other up? How else does one suppose this all works? I was a little perplexed at CNN’s giving Sanders’ populist support base’ characteristic enthusiasm such a sinister spin, but that didn’t last long. All I had to do was follow the money (always follow the money!) to find out that CNN is the major news subsidiary of Time Warner, one of Clinton’s top donors. As you’ll remember, CNN also hosted the first Democratic debate, which also got the Clinton treatment. It was interesting to see almost every media outlet declare Clinton the winner while online polls were telling a much different story: Bernie on top almost without exception. It seems no matter what happens in reality; as long as it’s broadcast on CNN the game is in Clinton’s court.
CNN also claims that folks at the Sanders rally “were treated to a bit of the concert: Perry’s music was, at times, audible to the Iowans backing Sanders.” I was in the crowd during Perry’s entire performance, and not once was any music audible from Clinton’s rally across the river – the Sanders rally was, frankly, much too loud for any noise to permeate it. CNN is not the only party guilty of exalting Hillary while subtly undermining Sanders, however. Many Sanders supporters are convinced that the Democratic Party has already selected its nominee using a rather undemocratic method; and that Sanders is the outsider in the party, regardless of popular support or qualification. This didn’t seem too far outside the realm of possibility given the handling of the event later in the evening at the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner. As local figures were being introduced during the event, not one but two Iowa candidates came forward in support of Sanders on stage – Senate candidate Tom Fiegen boldly displayed a Bernie rally sign sporting the outline of Iowa, with the words “The Revolution Starts Here” visible on the big screens above the stage. Camera angles flipped around, but Fiegen shifted and angled about, holding the sign up to his jacket to keep it visible. House of Representatives candidate Gary Kroeger, who had confirmed his support for Sanders earlier at the rally, opened up his blazer to reveal a Bernie Button for the cameras, which again quickly cut elsewhere.
And though the media has reported that Sanders’ rally numbers for Saturday, which were in the couple thousands, were unimpressive compared to previous gatherings; let’s not forget that he has been drawing record crowds in numbers approaching 30,000 since his campaign announced in May, setting the bar himself for rally attendance this election season. Whatever numbers the Clinton rally may have drawn (estimates are at about 4,000), once Katy Perry left the stage a portion of followers must have disbanded; inside the event itself Hillary and Bernie camps took up approximately equal space, though Bernie supporters had additional seating in front of the bleachers making it hard to tell whether one side had more attendees. Those in the Hillary bleachers were provided with large, bright LED wands –rather expensive looking, compared to the ordinary glow-sticks swung by Bernie supporters. It was clear that Clinton wasn’t afraid to show that her campaign has that sweet super-PAC dough (especially when rally signs in the $10,000 table section, where Katy Perry was also seated, shot up in droves as Clinton took the stage; neither Sanders or O’Malley had any similar support from the money zone).
Bernie Sanders was the first of the three presidential candidates to speak, and he unleashed an unapologetic account of the grievous issues facing America and his positions: Climate change (real), TPP (always voted no), Citizens United (overturn), Keystone pipeline (always opposed), Iraq War (always opposed), each declaration garnering a round of cheers. Sanders spoke for almost 25 minutes exclusively on his stump issues, and wasted no time getting to them; beginning his speech by railing on income inequality. The pointed and passionate way in which he spoke has led some to call this address his best yet for this campaign.
Meanwhile, Hillary’s address was shockingly inane; less a pointed attempt to offer solutions but more like a 15-minute filibuster of rhetoric. She opened by thanking “her friends” in Iowa congress and senate, moving on to acknowledging Katy Perry and her upcoming birthday; Next, criticizing the Republican debate and (ironically) their inability to focus on issues of importance.
She asked plenty of questions, like: “How will we make college affordable and get parents the paid leave they need?” “How are we going to reign in wall street and lift up main street?”
I don’t know Hillary; care to fucking tell us?
She never did. Instead, we got several minutes of praise for Joe Biden and President Obama, respectively met with enthusiastic wand-waving from the crowd. Finally, Clinton proposed “tough actions” to “stop Wall Street hurting Main Street.” Bernie had just mentioned his idea of “tough action” minutes before – and it had a name: bring back the Glass-Steagall act.
By the way, O’Malley followed Sanders’ lead to some extent in his speech, with the exception of being far more vague and positive in general. His strongest point, which won him some claps all around, was his focus on the NRA’s influence on legislation. It was the single issue to which he devoted the most attention. O’Malley was his usual bland, handsome (Blandsome? let’s make it a thing) clean electric energy lovin’ self, and if you ask me was the second strongest and most issues-focused candidate at the event; Though far fewer O’Malley supporters were present in the bleachers compared to either Sanders or Clinton. Clinton may have money, influence and pop-star power on her side, but given the weak, vague, and self-congratulatory speech she delivered, I was (naively) surprised to see the Iowa Democrats treat her as the main event.
The impression from mainstream media versus the experience of the day’s events was pretty damn inconsistent. And yes, I realize the inherent bias of seeing the events from the Sanders side of things; however, I can now truly say from experience that the “Bernie Blackout” phenomenon is real, and that mainstream media and the Democratic Party certainly do seem to have decided who the Democratic nominee is. Which is exactly why we need a grassroots candidate who is not mired in industry interests. I’m glad to be on the side that is more worried about the crises of wealth inequality, the environment, institutional racism, and bank regulation than buying loyalty with Katy Perry performances and fancy blue wands.
Give me the 20-cent glow sticks and Glass-Steagall. That’s a deal I’ll take any day.