Paul Krugman Doubles Down on Defense of Clinton Over Sanders—Questionably

It's a question of whether money is the root of all evil, or just most of them.

Photo Credit: via YouTube/Moyers & Co.

In the face of mounting criticism, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman doubled down Friday on his defense of Hillary Clinton, blasting Sanders supporters as naive and issuing a questionable—and sweeping—rebuke of left politics.

The column comes just one day after Intercept journalist Glenn Greenwald criticized Krugman’s claim this week that “every serious progressive policy expert on either health care or financial reform who has weighed in on the primary seems to lean Hillary.”

To the contrary, Greenwald pointed out, many serious experts back Democratic Socialist candidate Bernie Sanders, including the economist Dean Baker, who Krugman has previously acknowledged as a leader in his field. Not to mention 170 experts who signed a letter backing Sanders’ economic policies.

Now, Krugman is reinforcing his longtime support of the former Secretary of State, saying that the Democratic primary is a contest between simplistic economic reductionism (Sanders) to complex and nuanced theories of change (Clinton). He writes:

To oversimplify a bit — but only, I think, a bit — the Sanders view is that money is the root of all evil. Or more specifically, the corrupting influence of big money, of the 1 percent and the corporate elite, is the overarching source of the political ugliness we see all around us.

The Clinton view, on the other hand, seems to be that money is the root of some evil, maybe a lot of evil, but it isn’t the whole story. Instead, racism, sexism and other forms of prejudice are powerful forces in their own right. This may not seem like a very big difference — both candidates oppose prejudice, both want to reduce economic inequality. But it matters for political strategy.

Even more obnoxiously, Krugman pulls rank over Sanders supporters who he claims are young and naive. “As you might guess,” he writes, “I’m on the many-evils side of this debate. Oligarchy is a very real issue, and I was writing about the damaging rise of the 1 percent back when many of today’s Sanders supporters were in elementary school.”

Invoking Sanders’ supposed single-minded focus, Krugman goes on to argue that Clinton’s sophistication is needed to push back against “concerted, successful effort by billionaires to push America to the right.”

Krugman writes that “if the divisions in American politics aren’t just about money, if they reflect deep-seated prejudices that progressives simply can’t appease, such visions of radical change are naïve. And I believe that they are.”

The prominent economist’s comments come just before the Iowa caucus, slated for February 1. The piece is one of several attacks on Sanders and his supporters from prominent media figures and outlets, including a piece this week from the Washington Post editorial board, which blasted Senator’s campaign as “fiction-filled.”

And as AlterNet’s Adam Johnson has repeatedly pointed out, such pieces are part of a much broader trend, in which media gate-keepers dismiss Sanders and his supporters as unrealistic and fringe, in lieu of debating the substance of his proposed policies.

Krugman’s latest column suggests that such establishment media figures are leveraging this climate to launch spurious attacks against the left and progressive movements.


Sarah Lazare is a staff writer for AlterNet. A former staff writer for Common Dreams, she coedited the book About Face: Military Resisters Turn Against War. Follow her on Twitter at @sarahlazare.