When the 2016 presidential campaign started, there were 17 GOP candidates and just 5 on the Democratic side. The Republicans had a handful of candidates expected to make a run at winning it all – the Democrats had Hillary Clinton and a bunch of longshots. As the campaign heated up, Clinton remained at arms length of Bernie Sanders on the Democratic side while the GOP had what seemed like months-long turmoil.
But then Indiana happened and Ted Cruz and John Kasich dropped out, leaving Trump as the lone GOP candidate. Meanwhile, heading into California early next month, Sanders is still winning states and planning to stay in until the very last vote is cast…and potentially longer.
Back when it seemed like the Republican National Convention would feature chaos, drama and intrigue, the media as a whole could barely contain its excitement at the possibility of a four-night, televised Seppuku of the GOP. But now, there are rumblings the Democratic National Convention may get the chaos instead. And suddenly the media coverage has turned into sober, disapproving finger-wagging.
Last week’s New York Times headline, which arguably set off the panic, was “Bernie Sanders, Eyeing Convention, Willing to Harm Hillary Clinton in the Homestretch.” In it, it laid out some potential paths for Sanders after California, including those which saw him leading his supporters into the convention with a plan to fight not only on platform, but on the nomination itself. One of the authors of the piece, Jeremy Peters, has previously tweeted with glee about the thought of a chaos-filled GOP convention. But a DNC with chaos got him serious.
The Washington Post‘s Greg Sargent in April: “How GOP convention chaos could help Clinton win the White House”
And Sargent in May: “Will Bernie Sanders burn it all down? ”
Politico in March: “The Path To Convention Chaos”
Politico in May: “Democrats Move to Quell Convention Chaos”
Media bias is not just what stories you cover, but how you cover a story. And when it comes to the idea that there might be chaos at a convention this summer, the media seemed far more excited when it was a possibility for the RNC than when it involved messing with Hillary Clinton’s clear path to the nomination and at the DNC.
In fact, Sanders supporters are learning about the bias this cycle. In my podcast with CNN progressive pundit Van Jones last week, he talked about how Sanders had to overcome a “media blackout” to perform well in the campaign. Meanwhile the idea Sanders supporters would just quietly go and support Clinton was something Jones saw as a “dumb thing” out of touch political operatives simply assumed. “The idea that young rebels are going to just swing around and do their civic duty, it’s totally nuts,” he said.
Now with the possibility of chaos in Philadelphia at the DNC instead of Cleveland at the RNC, many in the media are doing their part in calling on Sanders to corral his supporters and go quietly into the night – page views and ratings be damned. Sanders’ “young rebels,” however, are unlikely to comply.