Jeff Cohen, Did Chris Matthews Reveal What the Democratic Establishment Really Fears?

By Jeff Cohen

ainstream news outlets keep pounding home the same message — that the “Democratic establishment” or “Democratic moderates” are worried sick that Bernie Sanders can’t beat Trump. They worry about a Trump landslide, and a “down-ballot disaster” in Congressional races.

Democratic insiders, we’re told, fear a re-run of 1972 — when progressive antiwar candidate George McGovern lost 49 of 50 states to Richard Nixon. Given our divided electoral map, with nearly 40 states safely blue or red, such a scenario in 2020 is thoroughly absurd.

That didn’t stop now-ex-MSNBC host Chris Matthews — who abruptly resigned Monday after having had an on-air, Sanders-induced crack-up in recent weeks — from offering this prophecy in mid-February: “I was there in 1972 at the Democratic convention when the people on the left were dancing in glee…. And they went on to lose 49 states in their glee. So that could happen again. So clearly. That’s what I see. It could happen again.”

Let’s put aside that mad prediction. Or Matthews’ paranoid Cold War comment linking Sanders somehow to public executions in New York’s Central Park. Or his comparison of Sanders’ triumph in Nevada to the finality of the Nazi conquest of France. Or his sexism.

And let’s recognize that even a crazed TV character — like Network’s Howard Beale — is capable of blurting out an important truth once in a while. On the eve of the Nevada caucus, Matthews let the cat out of the bag about the true fears of many in the Democratic establishment:

“I’m wondering whether the Democratic moderates want Bernie Sanders to be President. Maybe that’s too exciting a question to raise — they don’t like Trump at all. Do they want Bernie Sanders to take over the Democratic Party in perpetuity? If he takes it over, he sets the direction of the future of the party. Maybe they’d rather wait four years and put in a Democrat that they like.”

Notice that the worry here is not that Sanders will lose, but that he will win. And proceed to transform the Democratic Party. And presumably the country.

Matthews was not expressing fear of 1972. It was more like fear of 1932. That’s when Franklin Roosevelt (a Sanders hero) triumphed and — propelled by labor and socialist movements — transformed society with a New Deal benefiting working people.

The corporate media’s “Bernie can’t win” drumbeat should arouse skepticism among news consumers. First, because political outcomes are difficult to predict — especially after an unstable reality-TV star and a young African American (middle name “Hussein”) won the White House. Second, because few have been more wrong for so long in their predictions than mainstream media pundits and their pals in the Democratic establishment.

In 2000, the cautious candidate of the Democratic establishment, Al Gore, was sure to win. He didn’t. In 2004, they told us the ever-vacillating John Kerry was the most electable. He lost. In 2016, media and party elites pushed hard for Hillary Clinton against the Sanders challenge, insisting she was the candidate who could beat Trump. She didn’t.

As a newspaper of the corporate Democratic establishment (and endorser of Gore, Kerry, and Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries), The New York Times has long repeated the “Bernie can’t win” mantra. So I give the Times credit for publishing an important opposing view last week in a guest column by analyst Steve Phillips of Democracy in Color: “Bernie Sanders Can Beat Trump. Here’s the Math.”

Phillips cites head-to-head polling that shows Sanders beating Trump nationally and “outperforming Mr. Trump in polls of the pivotal battleground states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.”

Phillips says the changing electorate (even from 2016 to 2020) and the particular way that Sanders won the popular vote in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada augur well for Sanders as the candidate who best matches up against Trump:

“In all three early states, he received twice as much support from voters under 30 than his closest competitor. In Nevada, he received about 70 percent of the vote in the most heavily Latino precincts…. This will be the most racially diverse electorate ever, with people of color making up fully one-third of all eligible voters. The share of eligible voters from Generation Z (18-23-year-olds) will be more than twice as large in 2020 as it was in 2016.”

More than other contenders, Sanders has shown he can inspire the two fastest-growing, anti-Trump sectors of the electorate — youths and Latinos. Writes Phillips: “In Michigan and Wisconsin, which were decided in 2016 by roughly 11,000 and 22,700 votes respectively, close to a million young people have since turned 18.” He notes that “160,000 Latinos have turned 18” in Arizona, a state Trump won by only 91,000 votes.

I co-produced a documentary in which we interviewed working-class whites in the Rust Belt of Ohio, longtime Democrats who’d voted for Obama, voted for Sanders in the 2016 Democratic primary and then jumped to Trump (often out of anger over NAFTA). These are the so-called “Obama-Trump voters” — and no Democratic nominee is likely to win more of them back than Sanders.

The progressive senator is also “most likely to reclaim those Democratic voters who defected to the Green Party” — the “Obama-Stein voters.” As Phillips points out: “The increase in votes for Jill Stein from 2012 to 2016 was greater than Mr. Trump’s margin of victory in Michigan and Wisconsin.”

As the South Carolina primary showed, one crucial voting bloc that Sanders has so far had trouble inspiring is older African Americans — although he beat Biden among blacks under 30, according to an NBC News exit poll.

If mainstream media spent less time on horse-race analysis and dubious predictions, and more time accurately presenting the candidates’ records, perhaps almost every voter of every color would know that Sanders was a brave civil rights activist at the University of Chicago — a student leader in the then-renowned Congress on Racial Equality (CORE), who “sat-in” and was arrested protesting discrimination against African Americans.

The pictures of young Bernie in action are dramatic and important to see.

At least as important as seeing Trump swing a golf club — or watching the latest anti-Sanders smear from TV pundits carrying on the Chris Matthews tradition.



Jeff Cohen is cofounder of the activism group and founder of the media watch group FAIR.

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5 thoughts on “Jeff Cohen, Did Chris Matthews Reveal What the Democratic Establishment Really Fears?”

  1. Nope ! I’m still not buying the journalist are right BS. They all work for the CIA and Chris was just performing the predictive programming mantra of Bernie may win. When they know exactly who has been selected to be next President of Walmartland. Whether it was the Muslim Gay one or the NYC slum Lord, they’ve all been selected.

  2. So today I ran into a fun loving couple from Texas, late 30s I guessed. On vacation skiing in Colorado. Just for yucks I asked how many guns did they bring with them? The man spoke up… “None, we didn’t check any but both of us are concealed carry”. The Lady chimed in with “We don’t go anywhere unarmed where we live” (outside Austin). The way she said it was matter of fact (she implied that you would be foolish to travel un-armed).

    They don’t shout from the rooftops they are voting Trump. But you know they will. There was no sense of gun fanatacism, it was just practical and not paranoid. Not that Trump is all that trustworthy on defending the original 10 Bill of Rights. He could have repealed the Patriot Act. Military Comissins Act, Etc. But look across the river in Virginia where the Dim-O-craps have vowed to confiscate legallly owned firearms door to door. Veteran Nick Freitas is leading the charge on defense of the second amendment. He won a write in candidacy after the Dims tried to shut out all Re-Blood-lican candidates not just him. Nick pulled off a miracle win agaisnt all odds.

    I am stealling this from Jessie (the Body) because the Bloods gave us 911. The Dims… Waco, The point I am making is the lunatic fringe by the left charade looks designd to drive even the most Moderate among us to run into Trump’s arms. Because the Dims make him look like Abe Lincoln running against Boris Yeltzen without the super fun part.

    How could engineered weather disasters throw the election without the usual blatant fraud? I could point to the over 160 weather jacking patents going back before 1900. People would just call me a conspiracy theorist.

  3. Jeff has a point. All those first time voters without an original thought in their heads. They grew up after the internet was a thing. They weren’t taught to think on their own, they learned to google things. Before they could even ponder the possible answers, google told them. Their average man on the street can’t tell you who won the Civil War without their iPhone. Or divide 57 by 396 without a calculator. Take away their crutch, how many could pencil in the names of all 50 states given the border outlines? How many could instantly point out Iraq on a world map? Name 20 countries in Africa? Or their girlfriend’s phone number?


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