I’m proud of my vote for Bernie Sanders in the 2016 Democratic primary. As an FDR Democrat, how could I have acted otherwise? Roosevelt gave us huge public works projects when we needed them — but, like Sanders, he was far from a Stalin or Castro.
Contrary to hints from his enemies, Sanders is not keen on nationalizing private property just for the joy of it or killing off enemies in stadiums.
Read Sanders’s recent speech at George Washington University and visit the issues section of his Web site if you want to know where he’s coming from. Shame, shame, shame on Sanders’s detractors for either laziness or sheer dishonesty. Yes, Sanders is angry. Why shouldn’t he be, given the outrageous wealth and income gaps between the rich and the poor — and the “socialism for the rich” compounding the outrages? Or the Democratic Party’s less than stellar record on healthcare or the environment?
So why did I vote for Joe Biden in the 2020 primary, and why am I begging Sanders to leave the presidential race immediately?
Because Biden stands more of a chance of winning the general election against Donald Trump — a traitor, crook, climate denier, life-jeopardizing incompetent, racist, self-proclaimed rapist, xenophobe, and at least an aspiring fascist dictator who, knowingly or not, might pave the way eventually for a full-strength Nazi. Despite Sanders’s good intentions, he has not helped himself by calling himself a “Democratic Socialist,” or gratuitously mentioning Fidel Castro’s literacy programs. To deplore this butcher’s authoritarianism isn’t enough.
Ahead I’ll lay out my serious caveats about the former vice president. But in the end, I must support Biden to the max in the general election. The Democrats must win this one. The White House’s bungling of the coronavirus crisis is just the latest of the multifarious horrors from the Trump administration, a constant threat to life and a sustainable economy alike.
Even in the first term — ideally his only one! — Trump already is well on the way to meeting his malevolent goals. Read George Packer’s Atlantic article headlined The President Is Winning His War on American Institutions. How Trump is destroying the civil service and bending the government his will. The Republican Party at the leadership level is now the Authoritarian Party — eager to suppress votes and otherwise cheat to enable a totalitarian like Trump to stay in power. Dems can’t afford to blow this one.
Caveats about Joe Biden
Before making the case for Joe Biden as a presidential candidate to counter The Existential Threat, let me get my caveats out of the way. He is far more labor-friendly than Trump but not quite the worker’s friend he would have you believe. In the past, Biden went along with billionaire-optimized trade deals that failed to protect blue-collar Americans sufficiently, and he has talked all too often of cuts to Social Security.
Also, as shown by constant gaffes, even more than in his prime, Biden is not as sharp mentally as before. Trump isn’t, either. But he could still put up quite a fight. In regard to Biden, you already know of other troubling matters such as his less than full devotion to the fight against climate change. Bernie Sanders surpasses Biden in all those ways.
Why I’m for Biden anyway
So why am I still for Biden? Well, just as I’ve said, he’s more electable — more likely to replace the traitor-fascist-crook as president. In this era of Russian trolls and bots and massive corporate donations, not to mention the Authoritarian Party’s voter suppression, the Democrats will need all the votes they can get. The probability of Trump contesting a close election makes this even more urgent. Sanders may or may not be able to win, but even if the odds with Biden are just slightly better, I’ll go for Joe. That’s how high the stakes are.
As it happens, in the wake of the Super Tuesday results, Biden at this point appears to have a significantly greater chance against Trump than Sanders.
The youth vote on which Sanders was counting just did not turn out to the extent he was hoping. Rachel Maddow’s MSNBC interview with him on March 4 further weakened his case. I was left wondering how Sanders could sufficiently increase participation from debt-ridden young people, minorities and other screwed-over Americans between now and November. At the national level, are they sufficiently wild about Sanders in the first place to actually get out and vote for him?
How much of the country is like California, where Sanders did win the most delegates but where Biden almost surely would emerge victorious in a general election? Sanders lost the black vote to Biden in South Carolina in the 2020 Democratic primary and fared noticeably worse there than against Hillary Clinton in 2016. In the liberal, heavily minority stronghold of Alexandria, Virginia, where I live, Biden drew 49.9 percent of the vote last week while Sanders claimed a mere 23.1 percent. All this jibed with a Vox commentary, by two political scientists, written before Super Tuesday. The headline and subhead: Bernie Sanders looks electable in surveys — but it could be a mirage. New research suggests Sanders would drive swing voters to Trump — and need a youth turnout miracle to compensate.
Of course, the Democrats need to expand their base for the long run and get set to reach the new generation of voters of all colors through progressive policies like Sanders’s. But above all, we must talk about the here and now to avoid a second Trump term rather than thinking that turnout alone will rescue the Dems — or elect Democratic politicians in typically red states.
The endorsement Biden received over the weekend, from Sen. Kamala Harris, a woman of color who might end up as his running mate or attorney general, just strengthened the case for Biden.
Despite all the above, Sanders supporters might still protest, “Well, they’re both old, Sanders is 78 and Biden is 77, but Sanders has aged better. Trump will chew up Biden in debates.” Yes, that might happen. But to win debates is not necessarily to win elections. The meaner Trump is to Biden, a sympathetic figure to countless voters at the personal level, the more ground the Authoritarian President may lose in the long run.
Speaking of age, just when will Sanders release medical information as reassuring as Biden’s was? Disturbing questions remain following Sanders’s recent heart attack (here and here). Based on publicly known facts, Sanders stands a 50-50 chance of dying in office if elected, in the opinion of some doctors. That percentage might be more encouraging if Sanders obliged with specifics, but so far he won’t — and he even failed to reveal promptly that he’d suffered the heart attack in the first place.
I’ve got other issues with Sanders compared to Biden. I appreciate Sanders’s anger at the multitude of injustices of American society. The angrier he comes across, the more he may appeal to his hardcore supporters and even to people who voted for Trump as the man to fix The System. But he will also alienate other constituencies such as well-educated white women. They and many others, including more than a few union workers, may also worry about their existing health insurance plans, which Sanders’s Medicare for All approach would kill off. I want Medicare for All. But we need a more graceful transition than Sanders has in mind.
With Biden in office, we at least could buy time to debate these issues. If, however, Trump and the Authoritarian Party win, the window might close — perhaps forever.
The faster Bernie Sanders throws his support to Biden, the safer we’ll be from Trump and his Authoritarian Party – Sanders’s early withdrawal from the race would remind voters of the urgency here. Along the way, Sanders ideally would oblige with a detailed explanation to his devoted followers about the high stakes. That way, he’d help avoid the do-it-yourself Democratic voter suppression that otherwise could result. Sanders could make clear that he isn’t budging an inch from his oh-so-well-merited disgust with the status quo. Rather, he would simply evince his full commitment to Trump removal — so that the Authoritarian Party will not prevail for generations to come and maybe forever.
Image credit: By Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America – Joe Biden, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikipedia.