The opposite effect

The Washington Post‘s editorial board wrote a pretty blistering attack on Bernie Sanders and his “fiction-filled campaign” last night. It includes a few fair points–Sanders does tend to brush off questions about the very real legislative challenges his agenda would face with a lot of way-too-optimistic talk about “political revolutions” and the like–and a bunch of vapid centrist dogma being presented as though it were Received Wisdom–apparently all the bad parts of our massive and unstable financial sector are gone now and we must never speak ill of them again. Also, don’t give me bullshit like “Mr. Sanders’s story continues with fantastical claims about how he would make the European social model work in the United States” unless you’re also prepared to acknowledge that part of the reason those claims seem so fantastical is because our political system and our news media suck out loud when it comes to representing the interests of anybody outside the oligarch class.

On the other hand, his hair is frequently not up to Post standards, so I’ll give them that

Anyway, I’m not here to defend Sanders. I’m approaching this election the way I approach most elections: looking to vote against the worse of the two candidates, which is almost certainly going to be whoever gets the Republican nomination. I also happen to be the rare foreign policy voter (we do exist), and while I am generally sympathetic to Sanders’ lefty orientation, his foreign policy (to the extent he has one) is a mixed bag at best. Clinton’s is objectively worse, don’t get me wrong, but still not as bad as Donald “take the oil” Trump’s, or Ted “let’s find out if sand can glow in the dark” Cruz’s, or Marco “Project for the New American Century” Rubio’s. I am kind of here to complain about WaPo’s editorial page, because the viewpoint it usually pushes is genuinely harmful to the country and the planet, but I digress.

What I started wondering after I finished reading the WaPo screed is, can a newspaper endorsement ever work in reverse? Or, in this case, can a newspaper un-endorsement ever work in reverse? It seems clear that, even in this modern internet age, they can still work as intended–when the New Hampshire Union Leader endorsed Chris Christie, it vaulted him from afterthought to serious player in New Hampshire (although he’s still pretty much an afterthought everywhere else). But here we have a candidate running an explicitly “anti-Establishment” (so explicit that it’s led him to say some dumb things from time to time) campaign being called an unserious hack by maybe the most Establishment of newspapers. Everything about this op-ed plays into Sanders’ narrative, including the fact that it was produced under the supervision of an editorial page editor, the notorious Fred Hiatt, whose consistently and thoroughly neoconservative views on foreign policy have made his name something of a punchline among the kind of people who might be sympathetic to a Sanders campaign. Sanders has already pointed that last part out, by the way.

Plus, this is DC’s newspaper of record trashing a candidate for office at a time when, you know, plenty of people in the rest of the country don’t think so highly of DC. That might be relevant, or it might not, I’m just wondering.

So my question is, could the Post‘s obviously loathing for Sanders actually be good for Sanders? I don’t think it will swing Iowa to him or anything, but I also don’t think it’s going to cause Sanders supporters, or undecideds for that matter, to start rushing for the exits.

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