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1/31/20

Is there a coordinated plan to stop Bernie Sanders?

In the past week, we've seen a deluge of articles in major publications pushing the same line: Bernie Can't Win, Bernie Is The Opponent Trump WantsRunning Bernie Sanders Against Trump Would Be an Act of Insanity, Bernie Sanders Can't Win, Bernie Could Win the Nomination. Should We Be Afraid? and Democrats Court Doom by Backing Bernie Sanders, among others.

This flood of well-placed on-message opinion pieces coincided with another item in the news: on Saturday, presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg also pivoted towards attacks on Sanders' electability, (incorrectly) warning that Sanders "performs the worst against Trump". Buttigieg, of course, was one of the attendees of dinners held by Democratic financier Bernard Schwartz to discuss What To Do About Bernie.

Is there coordination afoot? My guess is "probably" - though we can't say for sure. On one hand, it seems a little unusual that this many people decided to roll out nearly identical takes in the space of a week. And many of the bylines also provide grounds for suspicion: Bennett and Erickson are openly running an opposition campaign that is targeting Sanders and trying to bring other rivals on board, for example, while Goldberg has coordinated hits on Sanders with rival campaigns before. But on the other hand, one can also explain the timing by just looking at the news: Bernie Sanders is surging in the polls, so a lot of people who think that socialists aren't electable have decided to rehearse their predictable take.

That said, perhaps my standards of evidence are too exacting. After all, it was little more than a year ago that we saw headlines like Inside Bernie-world's war on Beto O'Rourke and Sanders supporters deny coordinated attacks on O'Rourke's progressive credentials; Center for American Progress president Neera Tanden suggested that the criticism of Beto felt "a bit orchestrated"; CAP fellow Topher Spiro insinuated that it might be "a concerted effort"; and Cliff Schecter and John Aravosis declared the criticism a "coordinated hit".

The evidence? Articles by Zaid Jilani, Branko Marcetic, and Elizabeth Bruenig, along with tweets from David Sirota.

As I noted at the time, it's pretty easy to explain those posts as an organic response to what was, that month, an extremely aggressive campaign rollout for Beto. But since major media outlets consider three articles and a few tweets to be adequate basis for "is there a conspiracy in progress" speculation, I can only assume that some big articles about the coordinated What To Do About Bernie opposition campaign are already on the way.