The criticism of presidential candidate Bernie Sanders comes in three distinct flavors, depending largely upon the source.
1. Criticism from the center. These are mostly cheap swiftboating attacks and straw man arguments coming from the mainstream media and Democratic Party insiders. The attacks are usually passive-aggressive, as in the New York Times ignoring him for long stretches and then coming up with the occasional dismissive "he can't possibly win, because we say so" tripe. They often reek of cheerful condescension. See this and this.
Centrist critics are overly fond of casting Sanders as a convenient prop for Hillary Clinton, a supporting actor who exists only for the cosmetic purpose of "pushing her to the left." This trope is becoming so over-used that people are beginning to notice that it is a trope.
Or, centrists can even be openly hostile, like former Congressman Barney Frank. He's penned a vicious little hit piece ("Why Progressives Shouldn't Support Bernie") in Politico, suggesting that it would be better for the Democratic Party to be undemocratic and skip the actual debates and primaries against Hillary the Inevitable. Because otherwise, Republicans! (I forget if he remembered the standard Supreme Court fear-mongering. Truth be told, I couldn't even stand to read the whole thing.)
Or, they can simply be brazenly co-optive, as in that other stuffy establishment organ, the Washington Post chiding Sanders for not co-opting the BlackLivesMatter protesters at Netroots Nation as skillfully as other Dems once co-opted Occupy. (actually, Occupy was co-opted by police crackdowns and Homeland Security fusion centers, but facts are messy things) As if the Washington Post gave a rat's ass about a group of ragtag protesters at a ragtag progressive event that Hillary Clinton found it beneath her dignity to attend. Joan Walsh of Salon is also emerging in the role of official Sanders Scold. But so far, I have to say that Vox is beating her in the shallow corporate Dem propaganda game, which entails pitting liberals against progressives, blacks against whites. And they say the GOP is a hot mess?
A subset of critics from the center are also chiding the young black protesters themselves for being crude and rude. This smarmy allegiance to political correctness is a racial dog-whistle in and of itself. Young black kids, understandably upset about their peers being frisked and stopped, maimed, stalked and killed by police, are just too naive for their own good. Even worse, they refuse to be corralled into the vaunted Democratic veal pen. What a slap in the face to the established American order!
2. Criticism from the left. This is relatively rare, because the Left itself is rare, but for the most part, the beefs are entirely legitimate. I'm not ready to go quite so far (yet) as Black Agenda Report does in claiming that Sanders is nothing but a fraudulent Democratic plant, whose assigned sheep-dogging role is to herd the free-range disenchanted masses into the corporate Democratic pen to make the world safe for Hillary. I think that Bernie is entirely sincere in his run for national office. His domestic policy agenda, which runs more toward classic FDR-style liberalism than to "socialism," would be considered mainstream if the two corporate parties hadn't been veering off the neocon/neolib cliff over the past three decades or so. Polls have shown, for example, that a majority of Americans favor single payer health care.
But I think we should look at Sanders' political history with our eyes wide open. Read, for example, Paul Street's excellent biographical piece in Counterpunch about how Bernie came to join the Democrats in everything but name.
I've been troubled, too, by Sanders' sometimes bellicose foreign policy record and his radio silence on the security/spy/eternal war state in his stump speeches. He does not handle hecklers well. Last summer, he ordered people protesting his vote for foreign aid to Israel in the wake of the Gaza massacres to "sit down and shut up." And I am also troubled by his frequent statements that he is not a spoiler, that he likes and respects Hillary Clinton, and that he would endorse her wholeheartedly should she win the nomination. It smacks of pre-emptive capitulation.
And, I am troubled by the rise of something resembling an Obama cult around Bernie Sanders. The "Berniebots" will brook no criticism of him, not even legitimate criticism. To these people, who are easily found in media comment sections, you're either totally in the bag for Bernie, or you're a traitor to the cause. Some progressives are describing the young black activists who interrupted Bernie as naive and rude. Some people are even accusing them of being agents provocateurs from the Clinton camp. Some of this "controversy" is also probably being totally made up by corporate sock and meat puppets and bored political horse-race reporters.
These are dangerous times in the Age of Political Correctness and corporate neoliberal propaganda. If we become too afraid to question and challenge our leaders and politicians, then we have failed in our jobs as engaged citizens. I think it is perfectly reasonable to support and praise and even donate to Bernie Sanders without putting all your eggs in one Bernie Basket. Call the guy out when he's wrong, applaud him when he's right, and live to tell the democratic tale. Our activism outside the realm of electoral politics is what counts in the long run.
To Bernie's credit, meanwhile, his team is reportedly taking the criticism of his gruffness at Netroots to heart. And unlike Hillary, he is not backing away from the crowds.
3. Criticism from the right. So far, this has largely consisted of right-wing outlets simply letting the New York Times do their job for them -- they simply steal the centrist swiftboating and run with it. But Kevin Williamson of the conservative National Review has just written a zany column calling Sanders a "national socialist" -- as in Nazi. Bernie couldn't possibly be a real socialist, a L'Internationale, you see, because he is an America-firster. Williamson also disgracefully co-opted the already stale centrist false-equivalency talking point of comparing Sanders to Donald Trump. The Times' Nate Cohn should sue him for plagiarism.
But, would I be a Bernie-hater if I said that I, too, am a little concerned about Sanders restricting his criticism of the corporate coup trade deals as being harmful only to American workers? I wish he would talk more about what they're doing to 40 cents-an-hour child laborers in Vietnam, or the suicidal wage slaves in Chinese FoxConn factories, or the imprisoned Walmart textile workers of Bangladesh. (Go ahead, call me an idealist internationalist commie hippie purist from the Professional Left if you want to. I can take the criticism. And so, I suspect, can Bernie.)
But it's early days yet. Bernie is putting stuff in his stump speeches to gin up the enthusiasm. And the evils of globalization are being addressed more than adequately by Pope Francis. Bernie is a huge fan of the pope. And where there is pope, there is life.