ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Bernie Sanders and the Afterlives of Occupy Wall Street

Bernie Sanders tapped into and reactivated the hopes of the Occupy Wall Street movement. However, the tragedy of igniting such hopes that were eventually crushed brings to mind one of Mark Twain’s many sardonic and insightful quips: “If voting made any difference they wouldn’t let us do it.”

If the members of the mainstream American media were shell-shocked at the Bernie Sanders phenomenon, they certainly did a reasonably competent job of hiding it for a long time. They were of course not totally unaware of the unprecedented social and political despair as well as hope that Sanders simultaneously unleashed and tapped into during his ultimately unsuccessful run for the Democratic nomination. The initial narrative of ridiculing and dismissing Sanders as the unhinged socialist presumably peddling pie-in-the-sky-before-you-die fantasies have, as a consequence of the many impressive wins at the primaries, eventually morphed into the constant reminders that it is mathematically impossible for him to get the support of regular delegates needed to clinch the nomination. The entrenched elites of the mainstream media were behaving quite like the proverbial weather forecasters who predictably blame the weather for their inaccurate predictions.

While for many professional media hacks are of course expected to produce smokescreens, even a serious intellectual such as Paul Krugman penned a hatchet job of a rant on Sanders that did not deviate from the dominant media narrative. In one of his regular columns for the New York Times, he labelled Sanders’ ideas as “utterly unrealistic” and suggested, as many other media commentators did, that Sanders’ critiques of Hillary Clinton would pave the way for Donald Trump in the White House (Krugman 2016). Many social media commentators and activists—unlike a majority of the mainstream media operatives—were of course shocked and his colleague in economics and Robert Reich, the former Secretary of Labour under the Bill Clinton administration, provided a convincing counterpoint to such outlandish claims (Reich 2016). Quite a few polls had indicated that if nominated, Sanders, due to the unbelievable enthusiasm and hope he had ignited, would have defeated Trump. In the end of course, the entrenched elites of the Democratic Party played a not insignificant role in undermining Sanders and unintentionally contributed to a Trump victory (Grim 2016; Gravis Marketing 2016).

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