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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

What Should Sanders Get…Besides Out?

Tuesday’s primary results should convince even die-hard Bernie Sanders supporters that former Vice President Biden is going to be the Democratic nominee for president. Now comes the problematic choice that Sanders, his campaign and his supporters must face: What should Sanders do to serve the causes he championed and the country he loves?

It would be helpful if the more contentious social media Bidenistas would tone down their “Bernie should just quit” mantra. Do we really have to remind them that any presidential campaign that wins more than 40 percent of the delegates in primaries and caucuses has earned some respect? What is not going to happen is Sanders and his supporters quietly pledging their wholehearted fealty to Biden, while getting nothing in return.

The Democratic presidential contest is not a football game in which you annihilate your adversary then gloat about it. Here’s hoping the Bernie-haters among Biden supporters get the clue. Fortunately, Biden, unlike the current President, is mature enough to understand that successful politics is about bringing people together.

As Harold Meyerson observes in his article, “Biden: The Leader as Follower: Over the past few days, the Democratic front-runner has begun inching leftward, since he’s realized he needs to in order to beat Trump” at The American Prospect:

For those who want to see the Democratic nominee dispatch Donald Trump in November, and those who want to see the Democratic nominee move to a more progressive position, there was good news yesterday—only, it didn’t come during last night’s debate. It came before the debate began, when Joe Biden’s campaign announced he’d shifted his position on free public college. Previously, Biden had supported tuition-free education only at two-year community colleges. Now, he supports it at four-year public universities and colleges as well, for every student whose annual family income doesn’t exceed $125,000—a position his debate-stage rival, Bernie Sanders, staked out several years ago, and has improved upon since.

The move was of a piece with Biden’s decision on Saturday to support Elizabeth Warren’s proposal for making bankruptcy far less onerous for middle-class Americans—a clear turnaround from Biden’s zealous promotion of the very onerous bankruptcy legislation he helped turn into law in 2005, which made it almost impossible for people to get out from under medical and other forms of debt.

In other words, the Biden campaign has figured out that in order to win in November, he has to do more to win over progressive voters and voters under 50—so long as that requires embracing positions that are widely popular.

Well, the campaign has sort of figured that out. Partially. Sometimes.

Biden has also inched a bit leftward on the leading issue of health care reform. He understands that there is a large contituency for Medicare for all, and perhaps an even larger one for Medicare for all who want it. Those constituencies are not going to quietly embrace a more timid health care reform package, especially in light of the Coronavirus crisis. (The bumper sticker version: “Don’t like ‘big government’? Next time you want to stop a pandemic, call your insurance company.”)

Yet, Sanders supporters should also not expect too much. Biden is more moderate than their candidate, and he did win by large margins in many states. They too should be fair-minded and realistic enough to tone down the residual acrimony. ‘Sore loser’ is as bad a look as ‘sore winner.’

Sure, there are specific ‘gets’ that many Sanders supporters would welcome, such as Warren as veep, other left-leaning Dems in the cabinet, a more progressive party platform, or changes in party delegate rules. But policies are the core concern of the Sanders movement, and any bridges Biden can build in that regard will help unify Democrats in November.

So it’s time for adult supervision among all of the 2020 presidential candidates and their supporters. Democrats are in an exceptionally-good position at the moment to unify and win back the White House, control of congress and a bunch of state governments — if the party’s grown-ups will rise to the challenge.

One comment on “What Should Sanders Get…Besides Out?

  1. Victor on

    Actually the main problem the left has with Biden is lack of trust.

    Hillary double down on moving to the right with her VP choice. Staff choices will be even more important this time around.

    The behavior of Congressional Democrats is also something people will be looking out, specially seeing how they are already capitulating on robust proposals already during this major crisis.

    Maybe Biden can nudge Congressional Democrats to hold their ground a bit on issues like paid sick leave.


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