Back when Bernie announced his nascent candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination, Matt Taibbi over at Rolling Stone presciently* wrote that the “question of ‘seriousness’ . . . will dominate coverage of the Sanders campaign.”
*And I presciently put in my two cents.
He was right. Here are just a few headlines from one week in January, around the time that Bernie began to seriously close the gap with Hillary in Iowa:
Yahoo (Matt Bai), January 14, 2016: Time to take Sanders seriously
FOX moderator at GOP debate, January 14, 2016: “Hillary Clinton is getting serious competition from Senator Bernie Sanders.”
New York Times, January 16, 2016: Clinton Campaign Underestimated Sanders Strengths, Allies Say (“I always say, ‘If I’ve got an opponent that‘s breathing, I’m going to take that opponent very seriously.'”)
Vox, January 18, 2016: It’s time to start taking Bernie Sanders seriously
Wall Street Journal, January 19, 2016: Taking Sanders Seriously
Bloomberg, January 20, 2016: Clinton Wants Democrats to Take Sanders Seriously
For his part, Taibbi was way out front, writing all the way back in April: “Bernie Sanders is more serious than you think.” And if it feels like all those reporters may be engaging in some amount of groupthink, Taibbi again: “It’s a little-known fact, but we reporters could successfully sell Sanders or Elizabeth Warren or any other populist candidate as a serious contender for the White House if we wanted to.” And, it seems, those reporters have finally made that call.
Journalists aren’t the only ones just waking up to the reality of Bernie Sanders, Serious Candidate™. Only two days after he achieved a “virtual tie” with Hillary Clinton in Iowa, the secret service provided Bernie with personal protection for the first time.
And it’s not just liberals. As my inclusion of the Wall Street Journal suggests (“The socialist beats Trump by 15 points in one recent survey”, it noted) conservatives are beginning to wake up to the threat as well.
In the case of the GOP, it isn’t so much that the party ignored Sanders entirely. But as I pointed out back in April, it simply didn’t take his candidacy as seriously as Hillary’s.
More specifically, the squirrel it sent to observe his campaign was, next to @HRCSquirrel, a veritable lightweight. So if the Republicans want to respond on a scale commensurate with the emerging risk of a severe Bern, they’re clearly going to need a bigger squirrel.
As it happens, @HRCSquirrel appears to be available. After all, his account has been silent for over a year now. I can only assume that means he is no longer employed by the RNC, or at least no longer in the business of trolling Hillary Rodham Clinton on Twitter. Or maybe he’s just hibernating for the winter and will reemerge after the primaries — preferably after having eaten all the nuts.
Then again, maybe Republicans would be better off attacking Bernie with a squirrel who doesn’t spout a litany of what sound an awful lot like Bernie talking points:
All of which leaves them with one obvious alternative: meet @BSSquirrel. But even that solution is far from perfect. For one, the handle is already taken (though, admittedly, has exactly one follower and shouldn’t be too expensive to buy out). For two, that prospective account may concede too much in the handle.