Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has managed to do something no politician has ever dared to do in the United States of America: He has made it acceptable to discuss socialism in a country that despises the very concept. He has successfully created a movement that has engaged and energized young voters, the next generation of Americans who will define the future of this country. Sanders has changed the political landscape by carving a niche for himself within the Democratic establishment that has left the party leadership unsettled and scrambling for answers.
Can the Democratic Party Unite Behind Bernie Sanders?
In 2016, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) did everything it could to discredit Sanders’ campaign, ensuring that it was Hillary Clinton who secured the party’s nomination. The DNC probably thought the Sanders phenomenon was a short-lived burst of enthusiasm that would fade away over time. Four years later, the septuagenarian is back with the energy of a teenager, his revolutionary ideas catching the appeal of a larger audience as evidenced by his strong showing in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada.
It is no surprise that the DNC would prefer anyone but Sanders as the 2020 Democratic contender. Soon after the South Carolina primary, where former Vice President Joe Biden scored his first victory, three candidates dropped out. Billionaire Tom Steyer, former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Pete Buttigieg, and Minnesota senator, Amy Klobuchar. On the eve of the crucial Super Tuesday primaries in 14 states, Biden was endorsed by Klobuchar, Buttigieg and Beto O’Rourke, who dropped out of the race in November.
The last-minute endorsements were a calculated move to stem Sanders’ surge and bolster Biden’s comeback. The tactic paid off for the anyone-but-Sanders Democrats. Biden secured more than 6 in 10 votes from the late deciders. That Biden did a sweep of the Southern states with the strong support of African American voters is no surprise. But his clinching the top spot in Senator Elizabeth Warren’s home state of Massachusetts, where he spent no time or money campaigning, Virginia, where he held just one rally, and Texas, where Sanders was supposed to win with strong Latino voter support, highlight Biden’s remarkable reversal of fortunes.
As the dust settles following Super Tuesday, the Democratic primary is shaping up to be a two-way race between Sanders and Biden going forward. Warren’s poor showing thus far, including the defeat in her home state, should make it clear to her that she has no viable path for the nomination. She has decided to stay put in the race even though she is at a distant third spot, exasperating the progressives who expect that most of Warren’s supporters would embrace Sanders should she step aside.
In the process of securing the Republican nomination in 2016, Donald Trump methodically eliminated more than 20 seasoned politicians with name-calling and a campaign promise to “drain the swamp.” Notwithstanding all the insults he meted out to them, the GOP rallied behind Trump 100% and has remained subservient to him since then. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, the two sitting senators whom Trump insulted by calling “Lyin’ Ted” and “Little Marco,” have kowtowed before the president. Senator Lindsay Graham, an erstwhile critic of Trump, is today his staunch ally.
Biden Will Prove to Be a Calculated Mistake
In strong contrast, the DNC has resented the independent senator from Vermont for using the party’s platform for the presidential nomination. The Democratic establishment is rejoicing in the resurgence of Biden, but its belief that he is the most electable candidate against Trump would prove to be a mistake. It is harder for someone with an extreme viewpoint, whether it is to the left or right, to accept a moderate middle ground. In 2016, Hillary Clinton did not get the wholehearted support of Sanders voters. The fact that the Sanders campaign was foiled by a rigged primary favoring Clinton must have played a part. By alienating Sanders’ supporters with its machinations, the DNC runs the risk of not having them come out in support of Biden in November.
No matter how well coached, Biden’s propensity for stumbling in public with his gaffes would be mercilessly exploited by the Trump campaign. Biden cannot differentiate himself from Barack Obama’s legacy without being critical of his own role in the administration for eight years. Clinton, a consummate career politician, failed to do so — and lost to Trump. It is inconceivable that Biden, with his uninspiring vision, will succeed in rousing any segment of the population save those who want to return to the status quo of yesteryears.
Biden touts his electability against the incumbent president. Trump will, without doubt, bring up his acquittal by the senate and drag Biden into the very allegations that caused the House to impeach him. Blunder-prone Biden would find it difficult, if not impossible, to come out on top when that issue takes center stage.
Polls show that Sanders is very much capable of beating Trump. The real reason the Democratic establishment is afraid of pitching Sanders against Trump is that the election will become a referendum between a socially responsible way of life against pure capitalistic greed. Being socially responsible does not automatically translate into adopting socialism. The nation needs to have a chance to weigh the implications and voice its opinion. The Democratic establishment has no right to sabotage the Sanders campaign as it did four years ago. If it chooses to do so yet again, it will be at its own peril, ensuring four more years for Trump.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.