Joe Biden is a weaker candidate against Trump, argues Roots Action co-founder Norman Solomon.
This is a rush transcript and may contain errors. It will be updated.
Elizabeth Warre…: I was told at the beginning of this whole undertaking that there are two lanes, a progressive lane that Bernie Sanders is the incumbent for, and a moderate land that Joe Biden is the incumbent for. And there’s no room for anyone else in this. I thought that wasn’t right, but evidently I was wrong.
Jaisal Noor: Welcome to The Real News. I’m Jaisal Noor. It’s a brand new race in the Democratic primary with just three candidates left led by Joe Biden, who beat expectations on Super Tuesday after a commanding victory in South Carolina, and after the backing of several former rivals and much of the Democratic establishment. If Bernie Sanders is going to win back the momentum he needs a strong performance in upcoming primaries and the democratic debate. On Thursday, Elizabeth Warren announced she’s suspending her campaign.
Elizabeth Warre…: I’ve had a chance to get out there and talk with millions of people, and we have ideas now that we talk about that we just weren’t talking about even a year ago. A two cent wealth tax, and universal childcare that could be real, we could make it happen. And canceling student loan debt for 43 million Americans, and raising social security payments. Those are life changing events for people. And we could actually do this.
Jaisal Noor: The next Democratic debate is March 15th and it will be followed by delegate rich primaries in Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Ohio on March 17th. Well, now joining me to discuss all of this and more is Norman Solomon. He was a former delegate for Bernie Sanders, co-founder, National Coordinator of RootsAction.org which is supporting Bernie Sanders. And he wrote the recent piece, A Profound and Historic Question for Elizabeth Warren: Which side are you on? Thanks so much for speaking with us again, Norman.
Norman Solomon: Glad to be here.
Jaisal Noor: So looking forward, the stakes couldn’t be higher for the Sanders campaign. Obviously he faced a major setback on super Tuesday. He was the favorite according to the odds makers, and now Five ThirtyEight, The New York times blog has given Biden a seven and eight chance to take the democratic nomination. Your thoughts right now?
Norman Solomon: Well, a lot of this is a media and political pundit expectation game. If we had said a month or two or three ago that it would be down to Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden most people would’ve thought that was farfetched. Bernie has an uphill climb, but certainly can win the nomination, and against Donald Trump as well. And what we’re seeing now is a corporate gang up on Bernie Sanders. At the political level, virtually almost all of his opponents who have lasted into these last few weeks basically teaming up to bash and trash him. We’ve had not only Joe Biden carrying the mantle of corporate America, although he wouldn’t quite put it that way, but we see Pete Buttigieg, we have Amy Klobuchar, we have Michael Bloomberg, [inaudible 00:03:24] back from the past. These are like five political candidates from the election who had at one time or another huge media cache and were seen as major candidates [crosstalk 00:03:39].
Jaisal Noor: And some who had framed themselves as progressive, like O’Rourke and others.
Norman Solomon: Yes. And O’Rourke was hard to grasp, what he meant by that, he sort of was, and wasn’t progressive and didn’t want labels. And then of course we’ve had this effort by other candidates as well. Most recently I think Pete Buttigieg to claim to be progressive, and then within a year after launching the campaign was very much running an anti progressive effort. So these are people who whatever their positive characteristics have enormous opportunistic tendencies.
And I think when you look at those five I’ve mentioned who were ganging up on Bernie Sanders now, what a contrast to somebody who for several decades has been saying the same basic social change message of economic and social justice, and that’s Bernie Sanders. And in the midst of all that, now of course, as you mentioned, we have the recent withdrawal from the campaign of Elizabeth Warren and that’s one of the major unknowns as we go forward, as to what role she might be willing to play.
Jaisal Noor: Now, you and many others have called for Warren to back Sanders in the primary. She has declined to endorse anyone so far. In 2016, she sat out the primary until Hillary won the race, which angered some people. But it’s been reported that not many people thought that Sanders had a shot, and he proved them wrong. At least one poll I saw has her supporter split between the two candidates. And Warren was interviewed on Rachel Maddow last night. And now, it was a wide ranging interview, she talked about some of the work that she has done with Sanders. And it’s worth mentioning, Warren launched her political life opposing Joe Biden on things like the bankruptcy bill. But she also raised the online harassment carried out by some supporters of Bernie Sanders. I want to play a little bit of that clip.
Elizabeth Warre…: I think there’s a real problem with this online bullying and sort of organized nastiness. And I’m not just talking about who said mean things, I’m talking about some really ugly stuff that went on.
Jaisal Noor: So Warren went on to highlight the doxxing of two officials from unite here that had opposed Sanders on Medicare for all ahead of the Nevada caucuses. So on one hand you have real instances of online harassment, which have really captured the media narrative, and some Warren supporters are concerned about that. And then on the other hand, on Thursday, a Nazi flag was unfurled at a Sanders rally. And as far as I can tell, that’s received far less coverage. Can you respond to both? And I mean Sanders has openly denounced these supporters that have attacked other supporters of other candidates including of Warren. But this still continues to be a major narrative in the media and just what people are saying online. Yeah, I wanted to get your response to that.
Norman Solomon: There’ve been awful online attacks and sometimes online and offline against a number of candidates, certainly including Elizabeth Warren, certainly including Bernie Sanders, and some of their top spokespeople and so forth. The night before last when Bernie Sanders basically spent an hour with Rachel Maddow on the air, she raised this as well. And when Sanders raised the question not only or addressed the matter of not only really horrible attacks by people who said they were Sanders supporters, but also the incoming. The attacks for instance, as we know on Nina Turner, a co-chair of the Sanders campaign, terrible online racist and sexist attacks, just awful. When the question of attacks on Bernie Sanders came up from him, Rachel Maddow made clear, “No, I don’t want to talk about the outgoing from people who said they support somebody else. I want to talk only about attacks by people who said they were Sanders’ supporters.”
And I think that sort of gives away the game for weeks and really months at this point. Outlets like the New York times, Washington Post, CNN, MSNBC, they don’t want to talk about it in a single standard way. They want to talk about attacks that are done in the name of, vile attacks done in the name of supporters of Bernie Sanders, whether they’re supporters or not. Sometimes we don’t know, but certainly some of them are people who feel they’re supporting Sanders. But the mass media don’t want to talk about the vile, vicious attacks including racism and sexism that have been launched consistently against some of the top officials of the Sanders campaign and against Sanders himself.
So I think underneath all of that, sure we should condemn all of those sorts of attacks. No question. At the same time, why are the corporate media focusing only on one aspect of that where they feel that they can make Sanders look bad? And the answer to be very brief about it is these are corporate media outlets. They’re opposed to Bernie Sanders. The media watch group FAIR for many months, and actually four or five years has been documenting corporate media attacks on Bernie Sanders. Consistent, outrageous patterns.
So what are the vested interests of these corporate outlets? And I would just sum up. They don’t want higher taxes. They don’t want challenges to the military industrial complex. They don’t want somebody in the white house who will really go after income inequality, and try to diminish the power of huge corporations, and the wealthy over our political process. So I think this whole question of online harassment has been really tainted and the well has been poisoned by the vested interest of corporate media.
Jaisal Noor: And Norman, I wanted to ask you, so one argument that I’ve heard and something that Elizabeth Warren made directly before she dropped out of the race, something that Sanders will have to address more, if he’s going to win over her supporters, if he’s going to get this increased turnout, which we saw in places like New Hampshire but not in some of these super Tuesday States, is that … One of the arguments is that the questioning of Bernie Sanders accomplishments in office saying that, Warren was the one that could have gotten things done. She had the plan, but really questioning, what has Sanders accomplished? Is he the person to get something done in this current political landscape? And so how do you respond to that?
Norman Solomon: Well, Bernie Sanders was known in Congress as the amendment King, very effective in proposing and implementing amendments to legislation. There’s a huge benefit that we owe a debt of gratitude to Bernie Sanders for having to do with Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act when it was very close in terms of the votes in Congress, whether Obamacare would be passed. Bernie Sanders rather than simply going with the democratic party line said to president Obama quite explicitly, “If you want my vote for the Affordable Care Act, you must put in that bill, huge funding for underserved communities via community clinics.” And federally qualified health centers received as a result more than 11 billion with a B dollars. Like many people around the country, urban and rural areas, I live a few miles from a federally qualified health center that is assisting low income, middle income people and they’re able to do it largely because of Bernie Sanders. How often do we hear that mentioned in the news media? Virtually never.
Jaisal Noor: And looking forward, the next debate it’s going to be Biden and Sanders and Sanders has already taken the gloves off against Biden. I wanted to play a clip of an ad that Sanders is running in the States with upcoming primaries.
Joe Biden: When I argued that we should freeze federal spending, I also meant social security as well. I meant Medicare and Medicaid. I meant Veterans benefit, I met every single solitary thing in the government. And I not only tried it once, I tried it twice, I tried it a third time and I tried it a fourth time.
Bernie Sanders: Well, we’ve got some bad news for them. We are not going to cut social security. We’re going to expand benefits. I’m Bernie Sanders, and I approve this message.
Jaisal Noor: So you have the set of ads that Sanders rollout, really using Biden’s own words against him, which that’s going to happen in this primary. That’s going to happen in the general election. We’ve seen some pushback against these ads saying, look, this is, someone even called it a kamikaze effort. You’re going to hurt Biden too much. You’re going to hurt the Democratic nominee too much by using these tactics. Do you think these are going to be effective in States like Michigan and States like Illinois, and Florida that are going to be voting in the upcoming weeks, and that Sanders is going to have to do well in if he’s going to stay in this race or if he’s going to win.
Norman Solomon: Much of the most effective messaging against Joe Biden will be his own words, the footage, the video of exactly what Joe Biden has said and what he’s advocated for and against. And anybody who says, and this is aligned from corporate Democrats and corporate media, Bernie Sanders shouldn’t do this because then it’s going to damage the prospects of defeating Trump. The Republican operatives, the Trump campaign is well aware of everything about Joe Biden’s record. They’re well aware of the fact that all of this video it’s available and you can bet they would use it against Trump. And not only issues like social security and Medicare, but also his fierce advocacy for invasion of Iraq, his advocacy for the credit card companies, and also his fierce support and advocacy for NAFTA. And when we get down to electability issues, again, corporate media rarely ever mentioned this, is that in the States that determined the 2016 election, they were shocking because Trump won them in the upper industrial Midwest.
If you look at Michigan and Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, it would apply to Ohio as well, NAFTA is despised. Working people there attribute NAFTA to the departure of jobs that has decimated communities. Well, Joe Biden championed NAFTA, he championed other corporate trade pacts that sent jobs overseas where workers are oppressed and get very low wages, bad working conditions, and many factories were shuttered in these communities that then voted for Trump. So the reality is that Joe Biden is a sitting duck for the demagoguery of the Trump campaign. At the same time that Joe Biden truly helped decimate some of those communities. So this is reality. This is history and it’s better that it come out now than wait until Trump can use it against Biden.
Jaisal Noor: Now, Norman, last thing, today Sanders was asked if he thinks Biden can beat Trump. He said yes. What are your thoughts on that?
Norman Solomon: Well, we would hope but we need for any Democratic presidential nominee to defeat Trump. I know that Biden has campaigned casting great aspersions on Bernie Sanders capacities to beat Trump and we know that the match-ups, the polling in those pivotal swing States show that Bernie Sanders is several points ahead of Trump. This is all about a progressive message to get out the vote, get out the turnout and defeat this horrible president, and we would be best off doing that with a strong progressive candidate, that would be of course, Bernie Sanders.
Jaisal Noor: All right, Norman Solomon, thank you so much for joining us. Co-founder, National Coordinator of RootsAction.org which is supporting Sanders wrote the recent piece, A Profound and Historic Question for Elizabeth Warren: Which side are you on? Please send us your questions and comments on this video on Twitter, on Facebook. Thanks so much for watching The Real News Network.
Norman Solomon is the co-founder and National Coordinator of RootsAction.org, and a coordinator of the Bernie Delegates Network.