Washington Post and Journalist Jennifer Rubin Publish Over 20 Attacks Against Bernie Sanders

by Letitia Page, TYT Army

A disturbing trend has saturated the mainstream media’s coverage of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, one that is awfully similar to what we witnessed in 2016. While we continue to debate the reasons for the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, one thing is certain: the mainstream media played a significant role in elevating then-candidate Donald Trump through their coverage with billions of dollars of free publicity. Similarly, their coverage of the Democratic primary gave Hillary Clinton a significant advantage over Senator Bernie Sanders: first, by allocating Sanders’ campaign little to no coverage—even ignoring his announcement to run for president1—then, by oscillating between a near media blackout of Sanders’ platform and a constant bombardment of unwarranted attacks in the press.2,3,4,5

The disparaging mantra of the mainstream media throughout the primary was abundantly clear: Sanders can’t win.6 His policies are far too radical for the center majority of voters.

Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin appears intent on following the media playbook from 2016. She has published more than 20 anti-Sanders, anti-progressive hit-pieces in The Washington Post since March.7 While Rubin is not the only journalist to continually harp on Sanders, she is certainly one of the most prolific. Her bias towards establishment Democrats is well-known, but she presents her articles as though she is offering objective reporting. As a writer for a widely read media platform, Rubin has a particular responsibility to shape her opinions based on fact, not simply conjecture, whether it be in an opinion piece or an investigative report. Yet, her articles often lack substance, facts, or even credible arguments. This allows her to use her influence to alter voter opinion with little to no accountability. 

Rubin Misconstrues Voter Enthusiasm as Moderate Candidate Appeal

In her rush to downplay the popularity of Sanders’ progressive platform, Jennifer Rubin misconstrues the enormous enthusiasm from millenials in 2018 by conflating higher voter turnout rates with support for centrist candidates.8 Rubin quotes census data stating that, “[a]mong 18- to 29-year-olds, voter turnout went from 20 percent in 2014 to 36 percent in 2018, the largest percentage point increase for any age group—a 79 percent jump…” Her conclusion is that “while moderate candidates showed the ability to energize a diverse electorate, the same cannot be said for the far left.”

Assertions like this are an attempt to drive home Rubin’s counterfactual argument that the majority of voters—including millennials—are more willing to vote for moderate, centrist candidates than for progressives. Rubin echoes the mainstream media’s narrative that the safer bet in 2020 would be to pick a centrist like Biden, whom people ages 18-29 will be “more than happy to vote for.” 9,10,11,12,13

The 79 percent jump in millennial voter turnout that Rubin cites is more likely due to the progressive policies put forth by the majority of Democratic candidates. According to an analysis by the Progressive Change Institute, 65 percent of freshman House Democrats support some version of Medicare for All, while several red states have passed progressive legislation as a result of the 2018 elections. In an article for The Atlantic, Elaine Godfrey highlights some of these progressive wins: “Missouri and Arkansas passed a bill to raise the minimum wage; Louisiana passed criminal-justice reform; and Medicaid expansion was approved in Utah, Idaho, and Nebraska.” Such victories are hardly a sign that most of the country is center-right.

Rubin frequently pushes the idea that Biden’s moderate incrementalism is the best bet for defeating Trump, but she often overlooks the key takeaways from 2016.14,15,16,17 One of the chief reasons self-proclaimed moderate Democrat Hillary Clinton lost was her status-quo, “incremental change” approach to the issues.18,19,20 This was predominantly true in the key swing states she needed to win, where former Obama voters, still seeking change, opted for the empty promises of Trump rather than promises of little or no change made by Clinton.21 Backing Biden, arguably more centrist and right-leaning than Clinton, would be implementing the same losing strategy Democrats tried in 2016, all but guaranteeing another Trump victory.  This risk seems lost on Rubin as she makes her case against Sanders and progressives, whom she has deemed too far left to win.22,23,24

Although defeating Trump is a high priority for Democrats in 2020, the kind of candidate voters believe can win is not as cut and dried as Rubin might have us believe. In one-on-one match-ups with Trump that poll heavily from moderate Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents over 50 (who typically favor Biden) Bernie Sanders beats Trump by five points or more in nearly every poll. So, picking a centrist Democrat is not only unnecessary in 2020, but ill-advised, haphazard, and far from the best bet for a Democratic nominee.

To win key voters in the swing states that Clinton lost to Trump, the better bet would be to pick a populist candidate who appeals to the working-classes and Democratic-leaning base, as Sanders did in 2016. Sanders’ working-class, millennial base of support has not waned and has quite possibly increased. In swing districts where Sanders won the 2016 primary but Trump won the general election, Sanders runs second to Biden among the moderate, white, over-50 voters comprising most polls, and leads the millennial vote in those states, usually by a big margin.25 It is reasonable to assume that Sanders’ base will turn out in greater numbers for him than for Biden in 2020, and by a larger majority than over-50 voters, since Boomers and the Silent Generation are projected to decline from their 2016 eligible voter totals by 44 to 36 percent in 2020. Gen-Zs, millennials, and Gen-Xers aged 18-52 are poised to make up about 62 percent of eligible voters in 2020. That leaves room for an even bigger margin than the 2.1 million votes millennials and Gen-Xers cast over Boomers and older voters in 2018.

Rubin Downplays Progressive Wins, Misleads Readers

In a May 10, 2019 op-ed for The Washington Post, Rubin downplays progressive wins in 2018 by pushing a quote from Third Way, a self-described “center-left” think tank. Third Way compares the 32 out of 37 primary swing-seats that moderate New Democrats won in the House to Our Revolution’s “under 40 percent” primary win rate.26 The quote states that “23 New Democrat-backed candidates flipped House seats to help gain the majority, while not a single Our Revolution-endorsed candidate captured a red seat. Zero.”27 While these two statements are independently factual, her analysis is an apples-to-oranges comparison that a journalist should call out, not propagate.

Rubin is quick to point out that Our Revolution did not endorse the 23 Democrats who flipped House seats. She is also quick to forget that 10 Our Revolution-backed candidates won House seats in 2018: five incumbents and five freshmen, who have been influential in pushing the progressive agenda in Congress. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, Ro Khanna, and Pramila Jayapal are some of the well-known progressives Our Revolution endorsed—an impressive success which Rubin minimizes.

Instead, Rubin sides with Third Way’s assessment that “despite some electric wins by ultra-progressives in cobalt-blue House districts, the real story is how well mainstream and pragmatic progressive Democrats fared” (emphasis added). From this, Rubin concludes that “the lesson from 2018 was that moderate Democrats could flip seats from red to blue. While they won over college-educated suburban voters, they also ginned up turnout among young and non-white voters.” 

Rubin’s analysis of what appealed to midterm voters concentrates on House red-to-blue races and ignores the many significant wins by Our Revolution candidates and the platforms they successfully campaigned on. Rubin fails to mention that Our Revolution, a two-year-old organization in 2018, did not target red-to-blue House races: they ran candidates across the board, and their “under 40 percent” primary win rate is actually phenomenal for such a new organization. 

Rubin also fails to acknowledge that in addition to winning “cobalt-blue House districts” at the federal level, Our Revolution-backed progressives won 35 state House and Senate seats, predominantly in swing and red-states. Their victories include progressive wins in Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming, illustrating just how far the progressive message carried in 2018. 

In fact, the overall victories for Our Revolution amounted to 118 candidates in the primaries, 82 candidates in the midterm elections, and 26 ballot measures in 2018. Failing to mention any of these wins and only emphasizing New Democrat victories in the House paints a starkly different picture of what appealed to voters across the country—even in those pesky, hard-to-win swing states where Rubin claims moderates did so well.

Americans Favor the Policies Rubin Calls “Too Radical”

Despite support for progressive policies from a wide cross-section of voters as noted above, Rubin insists that presidential campaigns have been “bamboozled by ultra-progressives goading them to take more radical positions.” 28

Rubin uses mischaracterizations like these to bring home her oft-repeated point that  moderates like Biden are the most electable, while Bernie Sanders and progressive policies like his are “too radical” for the majority of voters.29,30,31 Rubin’s sweeping generalities about Medicare For All and other proposals from Sanders often land without facts or evidence to back them up.32,33 When repeated often enough, her statements serve to solidify in the minds of her readers the idea that Sanders is a liability.34

In an article published in July 2019, Rubin claims that Biden is electable because 

…he is accessible to the broadest array of voters. Quite simply, he hasn’t followed Sanders and others over the cliff on Medicare For All, free college for everyone and the other positions that prove popular with a narrow stratum of voters but are irrelevant to or actually turn off others.35

Rubin uses declarative statements to present her opinions as if they are accepted truths, often playing fast and loose with the facts. Recent polls challenge Rubin’s assertion that only a “narrow stratum” of irrelevant voters support Medicare For All. In a Morning Consult poll from July 2019, not only did Medicare For All poll at 53 percent among all voters, it went up to 55 percent when voters were told they could keep their providers. Among Democrats, Medicare For All polled even higher at 77 and 78 percent in those two categories, respectively. Other polls in recent months consistently demonstrate support for Medicare For All from an overwhelming majority of Democrats.

In another article from March 2019, Rubin warns Democrats they might need Biden to save them from Sanders’ socialism: 

[Biden] has the stature, the money, the name ID and the popularity to seize the party by the scruff of the neck and pull it back from the brink…he must play the role of the wise patriarch, there to remind Democrats… if they pick scary socialists or rank novices incapable of governing (such as Trump!), they will never achieve aims such as checking climate change, expanding health-care coverage, reducing income inequality and keeping the United States safe and respected. 36

These sentiments may appeal to moderates who desire a return to normalcy and the stature of the Obama era. However, one is left wondering how “pragmatic” moderate Democrats—whose policies have contributed to the climate crisis, the lack of healthcare coverage, rising income inequality, and continual wars—will somehow lead the way to fixing the very problems they helped to create.

Despite Rubin’s dire warnings, when it comes to fixing systemic problems in America, voters may prefer progressive policies to centrist incrementalism. In fact, recent polls indicate that progressive policies are incredibly popular among voters—not just among Democrats, Democratic-leaning independents, and millennials, but with moderates and Republicans as well:

  • 65 percent of voters support Medicare-for-All, Real Clear Politics. May 15, 2019.
  • 80 percent support the Green New Deal, 92 percent of Democrats and 64 percent of GOP voters. Yale Survey, Dec. 12, 2018.
  • 84 percent of republicans and 92 percent of Democrats support ending corruption, University of Maryland Study, May 2018.
  • 57 percent of voters are for tuition free public colleges while 60 percent are for a higher minimum wage. CNBC Survey, Mar. 27, 2019.

The incremental change offered by centrist Democrats may not be ginning up as much support as Rubin thinks. According to Third Way, 60 of the New Democrats who won House races in 2018 were incumbents defending their seats, not swing-district challengers, while centrist Blue Dog Democrats shrunk to a mere 24 members following the midterms—nearly half their previous size.37,38 In a year of unprecedented wins for Democratic women across the board, two of the few incumbents to lose their reelection bids were Blue Dog Senators Claire McCaskill and Heidi Heitkamp, both of whom ran center-right campaigns.

In contrast, the legislative priorities of strong progressives like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other freshman members of Congress not only align with Sanders’ views, but with his progressive policy agenda. Medicare for All, a $15 minimum wage, the Green New Deal, College for All, eliminating student debt, ending corruption, and campaign finance reform are pillars of the progressive platform: policies that progressives ran on—and won.

With Rubin’s Record of Factual Ignorance, You’ve Got to Wonder Why WaPo Still Runs Her Pieces

Jennifer Rubin has full liberty to print her conjectured opinions, but the American readership should not have to decipher truth from subjective thoughts. Her excessive number of heavy-handed opinion-pieces disguised as factual reporting reflects negatively on the Washington Post’s credibility. Printing an occasional op-ed on a candidate and their policy agenda is one thing; posting 20-plus smears on one candidate and his policies borders on journalistic malpractice. Now more than ever, it is imperative that the media remain objective and factual in their coverage. Attacks by Rubin under the banner of The Washington Post typify a continuing trend of anti-Sanders and anti-progressive media bias that does not reflect the priorities of the American people, desperate for real change.

Editors: Elizabeth Griffith, Marci Abraham, Nancy Weaver, and Alison Hartson

  1. “Ed Schultz: MSNBC told me not to cover Bernie Sanders campaign launch” Newsbusters, 20 Apr. 2018 https://www.newsbusters.org/blogs/nb/pj-gladnick/2018/04/20/ed-schultz-msnbc-told-me-not-cover-bernie-sanders-campaign-launch
  2. “Washington Post ran 16 negative stories on Bernie Sanders in 16 hours” FAIR, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, 8 Mar. 2016, https://fair.org/home/washington-post-ran-16-negative-stories-on-bernie-sanders-in-16-hours/
  3. “Today’s Front Page… Bernie’s Sandy Hook Shame — Defends Gunmakers against Newtown Kin Suit.” Twitter, New York Daily News, 6 Apr. 2016, twitter.com/NYDailyNews/status/717685017418268672.
  4. “Did Sanders supporters throw chairs at Nevada Democratic convention?”Snopes,Fact Check, 19 May, 2016, https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/did-sanders-supporters-throw-chairs-at-nevada-democratic-convention/.
  5. “Media slammed for preemptively crowning Hillary Clinton” Truthdig, 8 Jun. 2016, https://www.truthdig.com/articles/media-slammed-for-preemptively-crowning-hillary-clinton/
  6. “A short history of media smugly dismissing Bernie Sanders’ campaign at every step of the way” In These Times, 5 Apr. 2016, http://inthesetimes.com/article/19030/despite-the-medias-constant-dismissal-bernie-sanders-is-still-competing-wit
  7. “17 op-eds by Jennifer Rubin from The Washington Post” The Washington Post, 20 Mar.-20 Jun. 2019, https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1skqTakWbH_DT4C7msMjeXSlRK4AzXfKlfcoaUsBxuOo/edit#gid=0
  8. Rubin, Jennifer. “Democrats Don’t Need a Left-Wing Nominee to Turn out the Base.” The Washington Post, 10 May 2019, www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/05/10/media-shouldnt-parrot-lefts-debunked-talking-points.
  9. Kessler, Jim, and Lanae Erickson. “Don’t Let Progressives Fool You. Moderate Democrats Can Win.” The Washington Post, 7 Nov. 2018, www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/dont-let-progressives-fool-you-moderate-democrats-can-win/2018/11/07/37648218-e2b1-11e8-ab2c-b31dcd53ca6b_story.html.
  10. Edsall, Thomas B. “Opinion | How Far Left Is Too Far Left for 2020 Democrats?” The New York Times, 10 Apr. 2019, www.nytimes.com/2019/04/10/opinion/democratic-candidates-primaries.html.
  11. Scher, Bill, et al. “Did the Left Misread the 2020 Democratic Primary?” POLITICO Magazine, 14 May 2019, www.politico.com/magazine/story/2019/05/14/joe-biden-2020-226872.
  12. “Harris Challenges the Thinking on the Best Way to Challenge Trump.” West Central Tribune, 4 May 2019, www.wctrib.com/opinion/columns/4608378-jennifer-rubin-harris-c
  13. “Joe Biden might be the best bet for beating Trump. But he might not get that far” Washington Post, 25 Apr.2019, https://beta.washingtonpost.com/opinions/joe-biden-could-be-the-best-bet-to-beat-trump-if-he-gets-that-far/2019/04/25/57196880-6759-11e9-82ba-fcfeff232e8f_story.html
  14. How Biden can show he is the best bet for beating Trump” Washington Post 6 Apr. 2019 hhttps://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/04/26/biden-can-show-whys-hes-best-equipped-beat-trump/?utm_ter&utm_term=.15db2f4f3e5d
  15. “How Joe Biden plans to defeat Trump” Gulf News 28 May 2019, https://gulfnews.com/opinion/op-eds/how-joe-biden-plans-to-defeat-trump-1.6404616
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  22.  “What the media doesn’t get about Joe Biden” SF Gate 12 Apr. 2019, https://www.sfgate.com/opinion/article/What-the-media-doesn-t-get-about-Joe-Biden-13762537.ph
  23. “Here’s the thing about electability” Washington Post 5 Feb. 2019, https://beta.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/02/05/heres-thing-about-electability/
  24.   “Bernie’s week goes from bad to worse” Washington Post 25 Apr. 2019, https://beta.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/04/25/bernies-week-goes-bad-worse/
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  27. Kessler, Jim, and Lanae Erickson. “Don’t Let Progressives Fool You. Moderate Democrats Can Win.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 7 Nov. 2018, www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/dont-let-progressives-fool-you-moderate-democrats-can-win/2018/11/07/37648218-e2b1-11e8-ab2c-b31dcd 53ca6b_story.html
  28. Rubin, Jennifer. “Democrats Don’t Need a Left-Wing Nominee to Turn out the Base.” The Washington Post, 10 May 2019, www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/05/10/media-shouldnt-parrot-lefts-debunked-talking-points.
  29. “Sanders likely can’t turn it around, but Biden can. Here’s how” Washington Post, 3 Jul. 2019, https://beta.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/07/03/sanders-likely-cant-turn-it-around-biden-can-heres-how/?utm_te
  30.  “Don’t let Bernie duck the hard questions” Twin Cities Pioneer Press 5 Apr. 2019, https://www.twincities.com/2019/04/05/jennifer-rubin-dont-let-bernie-sanders-duck-the-hard-questions/
  31. Three rules will keep democrats from falling off a cliff” Washington Post 2 Feb. 2019, https://beta.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/02/08/three-rules-will-keep-democrats-falling-off-cliff
  32. “They blew it: the candidates who foolishly mimic Sanders’s healthcare gambit” Washington >>Post, 10 Apr. 2019, https://beta.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/04/10/they-blew-it-candidates-who-foolishly-mimic-sanderss-healthcare-gambit/
  33. “Warren and Delaney had a good night. CNN had a terrible one” Washington Post, 31 Jul. 2019, https://beta.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/07/31/warren-delaney-had-good-nights-cnn-had-terrible-one/
  34. “‘Electability” and “Bernie” don’t belong in the same sentence” Washington Post, 31 Mar. 2019, Berniehttps://beta.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/03/31/electability-bernie-dont-belong-same-sentence/
  35. “ How Biden gets his electability back” Washington Post, 10 Jul. 2019, https://beta.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/07/10/how-biden-gets-his-electability-back/?noredirect=on&utm_ter
  36. “Democrats might need Biden more than they know” Washington Post, 7 Mar. 2019, https://beta.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/03/07/democrats-might-need-biden-more-than-they-know/
  37. “New Democrat Coalition” 30 Nov. 2018, https://newdemocratcoalition.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/new-democrat-coalition-inducts-30-members-elect-and-elects-new-leadership?1
  38. “Blue Dog caucus page” 27 Nov. 2018, https://bluedogcaucus-costa.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/blue-dog-coalition-announces-leadership-new-members-for-the-116th

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