Krugman Over the Edge: He Should Apologize for Smearing Bernie Sanders With False Charges

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders pauses while speaking at a campaign rally in a hockey
U.S. Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders pauses while speaking at a campaign rally in a hockey rink at Monroe Community College in Rochester, New York April 12, 2016. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Paul Krugman has been waging a one-man war against Bernie Sanders, lobbing bombs and missiles from his perch at the New York Times, in column after blog post after column. It is interesting that has chosen to repeatedly smear Bernie, ad nauseum, rather than try to promote some positive qualities about Hillary Clinton or her record, about which he has said very little. Perhaps it is because for Krugman, who is neither a moderate Republican nor a conservative Democrat, nor a neoconservative militarist on foreign policy, it's not so easy for him to promote Hillary.

But on Friday he really went "over the edge," to use his own words. And this time, he really owes Bernie and his millions of voters and supporters an apology.

In his column, he argues that Bernie does not consider African-Americans to be "real Democrats," which implies that Bernie is a racist. What is the evidence that he offers for such a serious charge?
Just these two sentences in his column:

Over the past week, Mr. Sanders has declared that Mrs. Clinton leads only because she has won in the "Deep South," which is a "pretty conservative part of the country." The tally so far, he says, "distorts reality" because it contains so many Southern states.

Let's ignore that he exaggerates what Bernie actually said. For Krugman, because Hillary "won big in the South" by "getting an overwhelming majority of Black voters," this means that Bernie's brief statements are an "effort to delegitimize" these voters, saying they are not "real Democrats" and "shouldn't count."

But this is nonsense. There is an obvious way to understand Bernie's statement that is consistent with what any historian or political scientist can tell you. The white voters who would vote for a progressive, populist candidate like Sanders are lacking in the Democratic primaries in Southern states. This is a reasonable observation and does not imply in any way that African-American voters are not "real Democrats."

Of course, these states are conservative, by most measures -- no secret there. Now, white people are still the majority of the country, including in the South, and some white people are not conservative -- 40 percent of white voters voted for President Obama in 2012.

Other white voters, including some non-rich and working-class whites, may have a mix of inconsistent views but will vote for someone like Bernie in a Democratic primary, because they can see he is more likely to defend their interests than Hillary on a whole set of issues: against commercial agreements like NAFTA or the TPP that push down wages and export good-paying jobs; against the corruption of our political system and the destructive influence of Wall Street banks; against the massive redistribution of income that has made the United States a vastly more unequal society than it was 30 years ago. On these and other issues, Bernie and Hillary have very, very different track records.

And Hillary has taken tens of millions of dollars from corporations that are on the other side of the issues that these white voters care about. Perhaps that is why 84 percent of Democratic voters, in a recent poll consider Bernie to be "honest and trustworthy," a 28 point lead over Hillary.

It is outrageous for Krugman to smear Bernie Sanders in this way, on the basis of Krugman's own personal, and not very believable, interpretation of a couple of sentences stated by the candidate. Bernie has been fighting for civil rights and against racism since the 1960s, including his arrest for protesting racial discrimination in housing at the University of Chicago in 1963.

Krugman has repeatedly attacked Sanders for rude comments or emails he has received from people that he describes with the media-invented pejorative "Bernie bros." If some random pro-Hillary internet trolls criticize me for this piece, rest assured that I will not try to attribute blame to Hillary Clinton, or to her campaign.

It's not surprising that Krugman has to go to such great lengths to discredit Bernie. Someone who has been in politics for 40 years and has no dirt on him; who is not getting a dollar from corporations or Super-PACS, but is funding his campaign with a record 6 million contributions averaging 27 dollars each; who has been fighting consistently for the same progressive goals throughout his political career -- this is a rare politician indeed, and not so easy to tarnish.

But really, Krugman should apologize this time. He has gone too far.

Danny Glover is an actor, director, producer and activist.