DES MOINES — Bernie Sanders really does not ♥ The Post editorial board.
No surprise, there. In case you missed it, my former colleagues on the editorial board (I used to write editorials in addition to a column but dropped that hat a few years ago) unloaded on Sanders in a editorial published Thursday.
To put it mildly, the editorial board doesn’t ♥ Sanders either. It said the Vermont senator is “selling his own brand of fiction to a slice of the country that eagerly wants to buy it,” and went downhill from there, with phrases like “fantastical claims” and “self-regarding analysis.”
To put it mildly, Sanders was not amused. The editorial was the subject of the third question at a Bloomberg Politics breakfast briefing here, and Sanders erupted at the chance to respond.
“People are telling us, whether it’s The Washington Post editorial board or anybody else, our ideas are too ambitious, can’t happen. Too bold. Really? Well here’s something that is very, very bold. In the last 30 years there has been a massive transfer of wealth from the middle class and working families of this country. The middle class has become poorer and trillions of dollars have been transferred to the top one-tenth of 1 percent . . . Where was The Washington Post to express concern that the middle class was shrinking? . . . Where was the Washington Post talking about this radical transformation of America?”
By my count, Sanders returned to the subject three times during the Bloomberg breakfast. “Where was The Washington Post editorial board when trillions of dollars left the hands of the middle class to go to the top one-tenth of 1 percent?” Then, “And, by the way, getting back to The Washington Post, check out where all the geniuses on the editorial page were with regard to the invasion of Iraq.” And, finally, “I know The Washington Post may think I’m really radical. I’m not.”
At one point, Jane Sanders, sitting next to me, patted me sympathetically on the shoulder, which was awfully nice for a woman who woke up to an editorial excoriating her husband.
Not surprisingly, I found Sanders’s rebuttal less than convincing — not so much on details about how he would pay for his ambitious plan but on the fundamental matter of whether it is achievable.
Sanders’s imagined “political revolution” assumes two things: First, that Americans are backing the kind of far-reaching change he champions; second, that they could be inspired to turn out in numbers sufficient to oust the incumbent politicians blocking its enactment.
Sanders speaks as if the former is a given and the latter a matter of “political consciousness-raising” that would spur the millions of Americans who fail to exercise their right to vote to surge to the polls. “If voting turnout was 70 to 75 percent, this country would be a very, very different place, trust me,” he said.
Both assumptions strike me as, well, to use The Post’s word, fanciful. America — voting and non-voting America — is more politically divided, more skeptical of government programs and intervention, than Sanders’s acknowledges. However pernicious the role of big and secret money in politics, campaign contributions are far from the sole barrier between Sanders’s vision and its enactment.
To cite just one example, a Gallup poll last year found that 38 percent of Americans described themselves as politically conservative, 34 percent as moderate and 24 percent as liberal. Sanders may be poised for a short-term political earthquake if he wins in Iowa and New Hampshire, but that hardly sounds like the makings of the long-range revolution he promises his followers.