The media has exaggerated the positional differences between Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders and over-emphasized the few issues where they slightly disagree, which may make it difficult for Biden to get Sanders’ supporters out to vote.
One example of media coverage emphasizing the differences between Biden and Sanders is by exaggerating the difference between the two on issues like health care. Sanders, famously, supports Medicare for All, while Biden supports a public option (“Bernie Sanders” www.ontheissues.org and “Joe Biden” www.ontheissues.org). And, in debate after debate, we have seen the media moderators question Biden and Sanders about their difference in health care (“Issues: Medicare for All” www.factcheck.org). Additionally, it’s common knowledge that there have been many articles in political publications about the difference. Yet, what these articles seem to ignore is that Biden and Sanders’ difference on this issue is small. They both want to make sure everyone has health coverage and they both favor additional government intervention into healthcare to achieve that goal. The difference-that Sanders wants to eliminate private health insurance and Biden doesn’t-is not nearly as large as the difference between Sanders and Donald Trump or even Biden and Trump-who favors less government intervention into health care than even Obamacare allows. This exaggeration of Biden and Sanders’ disagreement makes them seem like exact opposites on the issue, when in fact they are much closer to each other than they are to Trump.
Another way in which the media has emphasized the differences between Biden and Sanders is by over-focusing on the issues where they disagree or have a different past record. For example, many people on the left have criticized Biden for saying-more than a decade ago-that he would not taking cutting social security off the table in order to negotiate with Republicans in Congress (Farley www.factcheck.org). This includes New York Times columnist Elizabeth Bruenig, who wrote on Twitter that she would never be Biden’s running mate “because I personally feel that offering to slash social security to get Republicans to agree to whatever grand bargain is a bad idea, and I do not wish to advance that sort of politics” (Yglesias www.vox.com). Columnists like Bruenig continually emphasize this difference between Biden and Sanders, along with their small health care disagreement, yet they seem to ignore the social issues, where Biden and Sanders largely agree. Biden and Sanders are both pro-gun control, support LGBTQ rights, and have voted for liberal judges for the Supreme Court (“Joe Biden” www.ontheissues.org and “Bernie Sanders” www.ontheissues.org), yet we almost never hear the media emphasize that. This focus on the few issues where Biden and Sanders disagree creates the inaccurate perception that they are on the opposite side of every issue.
This media coverage is creating a situation in which many Sanders’ supporters think Biden is further to the right of Sanders than he actually is. I ran into a Sanders supporter on primary day in Missouri who said that Biden “has the opposite position of Bernie Sanders on every issue.” This is obviously an exaggeration and misconception. However, this woman was convinced that because Biden didn’t support Medicare for All-something that has been emphasized by many media outlets-he was “as bad as any Republican.” My concern is that this woman’s misconceptions may make her not get out to vote for Biden in the general election, and America will be stuck with four more years of Trump.
Some of Sanders’ supporters are also under the impression that Biden’s current platform is more conservative than it actually is. The same woman that I met on primary day said that she thought that Biden wanted to “cut social security” as part of his current platform. Again, this statement is false. Biden’s current platform does not include anything about cutting social security, nor has he suggested it would be a good idea in the debates (Farley www.factcheck.org). In fact, Biden’s current plan is to expand the program (Farley www.factcheck.org). However, because the media has emphasized Biden’s past suggestion that cutting social security was on the table to negotiate with Republicans in Congress, this woman was convinced that he currently wanted to do that. One could see where this would create a problem with convincing her to support Biden in the general election over the Green Party candidate, or over not voting, and again, we may be stuck with four more years of Trump, something that is unacceptable.
Progressive media coverage needs to start emphasizing Joe Biden’s full record and platform, and not just the issues on which he is different than Bernie Sanders, in order to paint a more accurate picture of him. They also need to show that Biden is much closer to Sanders than to Trump on the issues in which they disagree than they have suggested in the past. We all must get out and vote to defeat Trump. We must get a competent person into the White House. The time to unite is now.
“Bernie Sanders.” 2020. www.ontheissues.org.
Farley, Robert. “Biden Vs. Sanders on Social Security and Medicare.” Fact Check. 2020. www.factcheck.org.
“Joe Biden.” 2020. www.ontheissues.org.
“Issues: Medicare for All.” Fact Check. 2020. www.factcheck.org
Yglesias, Matthew. “Joe Biden Will Have a Very Hard Time Winning Over the Berniesphere.” Vox. 2020. www.vox.com