It’s fairly obvious that Bernie values your participation more, and Joe’s more interested in your bucks.
By Anatole d’Ecotopia
A few weeks ago, we did a quick analysis of the Biden campaign website (Joe Biden.com Deconstructed) to answer the question “is Joe Biden closing the deal with the people he needs to reach?” The answer, for the most part, was “no”. We felt that the persistent shakedown for cash was fairly tone-deaf in the early phases of what could still wind up being the next Great Depression, also felt that there was little to no outreach to nonaligned voters crucial to any possible success in November.
Now, with the New York Democratic Primary back on and Bernie Sanders’ campaign suspension and endorsement of Joe Biden a full month behind us, it’s time to ask similar questions about Bernie’s site.
Also, more recently, we examined the core of both Sanders and Trump support, found elements of cultism in both cases, found Trump guilty of encouraging it, gave Bernie a pass — which may possibly have been a bit generous. Media may have exaggerated the Bernie Bro phenomena, but Media did not invent it. It is entirely fair to wonder just how much Bernie is either explicitly or tacitly encouraging the cult of personality that has grown into place around him.
So let’s look at his website… and find out.
Let’s start with the obvious and unsurprising. Nowhere on the entire site will you find the word “suspended” or the words “Joe Biden” — in fact, there is nothing on the site whatever that would constitute “news” with the exception of a YouTube link posted April 30 — for a virtual COVID-19 ‘town hall’ featuring Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Representatives Pramila Jayapal and Mark Pocan.
If you want news, perhaps unsurprisingly, you need to go from the website proper to social media feeds. Also unsurprisingly, the site makes this extremely easy; there are top-navigation links directly into Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. Similar links are on the Biden site, but — like policy content — plan on doing some scrolling and clicking to get there, past endless and persistent donation requests. By contrast, the Sanders site merely features a “Donate” button in a persistent top navigation. It’s always there — but at least it doesn’t follow you around like a panhandler. What does follow you around is a persistent sign-up sheet that reminds you “This is your movement”. Not so much like a panhandler… more like some very sincere young thing with a petition on a clipboard and a handful of bumper stickers… appropriately enough.
The policy content is well-organized, well-written, and accessible — key points on top, details on the bottom, just as it should be. A significant contrast is the amount of policy content, as well as how it’s presented: The Biden site presents a total of 19 items on the page entitled “Joe’s Vision for America”, whereas the more modestly named “Issues” section of the Sanders site is exactly twice as deep — 38 different key policy points.
An interesting contrast can be formed by visiting the Elizabeth Warren campaign website — which is simply branded as “Warren Democrats” and prominently features an embed of Warren’s YouTube endorsement of Joe Biden. Perhaps that’s the difference between a ‘suspended’ and an ‘ended’ campaign (and possibly the only difference– Warren’s and Sanders’ names both continue to appear on Democratic Primary ballots). Or maybe it’s the difference between being in the running as a running mate… and not.
If we are to deconstruct Bernie Sanders.com and ask the same questions about effective and appropriate messaging asked in deconstructing Joe Biden, the results are somewhat more positive. It’s fairly obvious that Bernie values your participation more, and Joe’s more interested in your bucks. Bernie’s policy proposals are more extensive and accessible in every sense of the word.
There remains the question of the unmentioned suspension: like Schrodinger’s famous cat in a box, the Sanders campaign is both alive and dead. If one’s only source of information on the subject is either the Sanders website or self-reinforcing social media feeds, no quantum physics are required to perpetuate this duality… merely willful ignorance and naivety.
To the question of whether or not Sander’s could be doing more to rein in the increasingly unrealistic expectations of his supporters… the answer is probably “yes, but” — as in ‘yes’, but there is a delicate balance between setting realistic expectations and maintaining an enthusiastic base in a political campaign. And this is not a situation that lends itself to nuance.
To the question of whether or not Sanders can or even should be doing more to try to instill the same enthusiasm among his supporters for Joe Biden… the answer is not just “no”, but “fuck no” — that’s on Biden, and he is no closer to it now than he was a month ago. Biden is basically partying like it’s 1999. His site may use all the latest tricks of responsive web design, but it is very much old wine in a nice new bottle. It’s going to take more than a site that looks good on an iPhone to connect to voters in 2020.
Like a cat whose life depends on an uncollapsed wave function, Bernie Sanders is trying to have it both ways — and, really, doesn’t have much choice. The only way he was ever going to secure the Democratic Party nomination was the same way Trump snagged the GOP nomination in 2016: manage to be the last guy standing after all the insider party hacks finish destroying each other. Instead of that happening, the hacks in the Democratic party caved in and endorsed Biden at strategically timed intervals that killed Sanders’ momentum and left Biden the presumed nominee — and left Sanders, if he is sincere in his commitment to the Progressive Movement, with no choice than to suspend and endorse as well… and begin the messy and unpleasant business of negotiating with the DNC.
But in order for those negotiations to amount to something, Sanders has to stay on primary ballots and continue to rack up delegates. That’s why the court-ordered resumption of the New York Primary was crucial, as will be Sanders’ showing in states like Oregon that lean both Blue and progressive. At this writing, 22 primaries remain — it ain’t over.
But in order to get those delegates, Sanders has to convince his base to get out and vote — which is going to be as difficult and dangerous as the Republican Party can possibly make it in a plague election year — and the core of Sanders’ support includes a lot of people who find voting difficult even when doing it safely doesn’t require face masks and gloves. And that requires enthusiasm, which requires — unfortunately — a certain measure of misinformation.
In the final analysis, Bernie can’t be faulted for the misinformation among his supporters — which is largely self-inflicted — nor can he be faulted for the strategic necessity of leaving it in place. If the strategy works, if Bernie winds up with enough delegates at the Democratic Convention to shape a more progressive party platform, it will have been worth it. And if the Bros actually vote this time, both now and in November… maybe they’re worth it as well.