Bernie Sanders and Comics Part 3: Why Can’t Bernie Catch a Break from the Talking Heads?

Print More

Everyone knows that television talk shows on mainstream news channels are stacked against Bernie. As Sanders’ victories in state primaries continue to roll in, the Bernie surge is described as interesting but irrelevant, except for as it adds to or subtracts from Hillary Clinton’s supposedly inevitable campaign against Trump.
Meanwhile, social media is flooded with discussions about this notable bias. Is this a contradiction of historic proportions? Or perhaps a return to a little-discussed saga within American liberal history.
Danny Goldberg, a veteran music producer of many of the most progressive, feminist, antiwar, pro-labor acts in the business, more than a decade ago offered a keen interpretation of this type of bias that somehow did not register with the Left. How The Left Lost the Teen Spirit (2003, revised edition 2005) actually explored the shift of Democratic Party leadership away from serious interest in, or even sympathy for, the attitudes of young people. The most vivid example of Goldberg’s argument lay directly in front of him: a long-standing crusade by Joseph Lieberman, the 2000 vice presidential candidate and hawkish liberal from Connecticut, in tow with presumed future First Lady, Tipper Gore. Was it a crusade against war (no) or against corporate wrongdoing and pollution (yes, but only in a certain narrow sense)? The crusade was actually against the popular music and films that, Gore and Lieberman insisted, were poisoning American youth, the very youth that patronized the forbidden fruit as eager consumers.


Not since the 1950s crusade against comic books, mirroring the contemporary political McCarthyism (sometimes with the same suggestions of Jews enticing innocent youth to sin and crime) had such a phenomenon taken the front pages. Not that Lieberman and Gore were alone. As neoliberalism displaced New Deal-ish memories and the rising middle classes displaced white working class constituencies, a kind of pop-cultural illiteracy became increasingly commonplace among Democrats. And worse: there emerged a frequently snarling hostility toward apparently uncontrollable young people, middle class and poor alike.
We survivors of the 1960s approach the upcoming Democratic Party convention with a troubled memory: 1968. Eugene McCarthy, who had won the most state primaries, was dropped like a stone for Hubert Humphrey, who had not entered a single primary. We know the story from the viewpoint of those who insist that irresponsible young radicals brought in the age of Nixon by not following the guidance of their elders. But look at it from the other side: youngsters who had gone “Clean for Gene” were informed that they had no voice in the decision of the polls. Their only responsibility, as young people, was to accept the Party decision – and vote in November. It’s a chilling memory for obvious reasons today.
There are many arguments made for and against the viability of Bernie Sanders as potential Democratic nominee, and those arguments will continue. The complaint of his supporters will be different: they were never given a fair chance to make their argument.
Old age versus youth, the corporate press against social media, aging polls against youthful enthusiasts. It all seems to go in the same direction.
(Managing Editor’s note: Paul Buhle is one of the foremost historians of American radicalism and the American Left. He has also edited 12 comic art books including Yiddishkeit and is the editor of the comic project at www.BernieSandersComics.com. This week we are running a series of blog posts by Buhle on Tikkun Daily about Bernie Sanders, comics, and the 2016 presidential election. With each post we will also be publishing comic art from he and other artists involved in the www.BernieSandersComics.comproject. Today’s comics are from Nick Thorkelson. Tikkun does not, and cannot, endorse or oppose candidates or political parties. We have published a variety of perspectives about the 2016 election and are actively seeking articles, comics, and other publishable work in support of any and all candidates for the U.S. presidency and from any political party. The views expressed in the posts and comics are the author’s and/or artist’s alone.)

_
Paul Buhle has been a contributor to Tikkun for more than twenty years.
Nick Thorkelson, artist, musician and activist since the 1960s, has contributed to many comic anthologies and is at work on a graphic biography of Herbert Marcuse. He can be contacted at Nthork@nickthorkelson.com.
Read More: 
Trump: The 2016 Election and the Rise of American Fascism by Frederic C. Tubach
Professor Johanna Fernandez talks with Tikkun about Mumia, Bernie Sanders, Love, and the Power of Radical Empathy by Grace Mungovan
Our Dreams by Ilan Stavans