Parts of Bernie Sanders' message to the VT delegation to the Democratic Convention would strike many Vermonters as familiar fare from the longtime Independent socialist. Bernie bashed big media, deplored Republican tax breaks for the super-rich and called for a grassroots mobilization to change the direction of the United States.
But Sanders' stance today also differs from the radical perspective with which he's long been associated. Bernie noted that this is the first Democratic convention he has attended. He strongly supports Barack Obama and makes clear there are virtually zero degrees of political separation between himself and the Democrats' presidential candidate.
The pathbreaking politician who once attacked the Democratic Party as indistinguishable in crucial ways from the Republican Party has muted that message. Bernie has come to Denver to back Obama wholeheartedly, not to fault the Dems as insufficiently progressive.
At a breakfast session Thursday, Sanders blasted the corporate media for alternately ignoring and trivializing the presidential campaign.
Noting that the non-cable TV networks are devoting only one prime-time hour to the Democratic Convention, Sanders said NBC, ABC et al apparently decided that's the most they can set aside "in between the game shows, the reality shows and the commercials" in order to inform viewers of what he described as "the most important election in our lifetime."
Bernie also criticized the big media's "horse-race" approach to election coverage, saying the misplaced emphasis on personality keeps becoming more pronounced. Sanders said it is unlikely that reporters for mainstream outlets will ask John McCain about "the collapse of the middle class and the growing gap between the rich and everyone else in this country." Instead, he added, the media "will be talking about what McCain has to do to win over brown-eyed people in Oklahoma."
The choice facing voters in November could not be more stark, Sanders continued, noting that he will "running around the country" campaigning on behalf of Obama.
As an example of the distinctions between the Republican and Democratic candidates, Sanders pointed to Obama's and McCain's respective responses to legislation he is sponsoring in Congress to double funding for the federal heating assistance program for low-income Americans. Obama voted for the bill, while McCain, on the other hand, did nothing to halt a Republican filibuster that prevented the legislation — which had received a 50-35 vote for passage — from winning Senate approval.
Bernie said he does respect McCain's service to the United States. "I'm not here to demagogue John McCain," he told the delegation. "He's a nice guy." But the policies that McCain favors would be "disastrous" for Vermonters and for most Americans, Sanders declared.
Even so, electing Obama "will not be a slam dunk," Sanders warned. Obama's spending advantage will not ensure victory, he predicted. "I know from my own experience that TV and radio ads are not where it's at. There has to be a real grassroots campaign of knocking on millions of doors."