Nothing sells newspapers like fear. TV news even more so. If it bleeds, it leads, they used to say, but if it scares, it sticks with you, the fear hanging in there while the bloodstains grow generic.
So, it is in today’s political columns.
What’s for sale simultaneously in the political coverage of our two top national newspapers, the New York Times and the Washington Post today is fear: the anxiety among so-called Democratic Party “leaders,” that the campaign so far hasn’t produced a sure-fire Trump-slayer candidate.
“Party leaders and activists are citing weakness in all of the leading contenders, including former vice-president Joe Biden, who has been forced on the defensive about his family’s ethics, performed haltingly in debates and set off alarms with his poor fundraising.” That’s from Annie Linskey and Matt Viser in the Post, who also learned these “leaders” are also fretting “that the two other top-ranking candidates, Senators’ Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), are too liberal to win a general election.”
That’s why these influentials whispering into the journalists’ ears want some new candidates to enter the already overcrowded field. Like who? Hillary Clinton got a lot of mentions. Seriously. And Michele Obama, and Sherrod Brown and Michael Bloomberg and John Kerry … even Eric Holder, the attorney general who ran interference for the opioid cartel against his own DEA. Yeah that guy. He reportedly thinks he’d make a fine president.
This preoccupation with the political dead letter office reflects the big papers’ choice of quotable “leaders.” Leah Daughtry, and Connie Schultz, quoted in the Times, and Elaine Kamarck and John Coale in the Post, are more “followers,” than leaders; political camp-followers, professional staffers and consultants tied to, for the most part, politicians of the past who represent perhaps their last, best hopes for lucrative employment.
The real fear being pushed here is not so much that Warren or Sanders might be too liberal to be elected, but that they might prove to be too liberal after they’re elected, changing the way a Democratic Party in every form of decline over the past 40 years does business.
Which is, I believe, exactly what voters want.
John Nichols, a pioneering political blogger, writes about politics for The Nation as its national-affairs correspondent. His posts have been circulated internationally, quoted in numerous books, and mentioned in debates on the floor of Congress. Nichols also hosts Next Left, The Nation’s podcast featuring interviews with rising progressive politicians who explain how they plan to change our country for the better.
Nichols is a contributing writer for The Progressive and In These Times and the associate editor of the Capital Times, the daily newspaper in Madison, Wisconsin. His articles have appeared in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and dozens of other newspapers.
Nichols is the author of Horsemen of the Trumpocalypse: A Field Guide to the Most Dangerous People in America (Nation Books) as well as The Genius of Impeachment (New Press); a critically acclaimed analysis of the Florida recount fight of 2000, Jews for Buchanan (New Press); and a best-selling biography of former vice president Dick Cheney, Dick: The Man Who is President (New Press), which was also published in French and Arabic.