Honestly, I figured he’d hang in until at least the end of May.
I guess it goes without saying today’s biggest news is the announcement from Bernie Sanders that he was suspending his 2020 campaign for the Democratic nomination for the President of the United States of America. I, for one, am a bit shocked. In 2016, he hung in until the Democratic convention, more or less, and waited until July 12 to endorse candidate Hilary Clinton.
Now, he hasn’t exactly endorsed presumptive nominee Joe Biden, but he has made noises towards reconciliation within the Democratic party. That is indeed going to be a tough row to hoe before all is said and done. There are a lot of bad feelings on the left over a contentious nomination process. Even worse, a whole lot of people are pissed off and I don’t think most of them really understand what they’re upset about.
Of course, the big question is why did Sanders’ campaign sputter out once the nominations left the caucuses. His ideas, when not labeled “socialist” by people who don’t know what “socialist” means, are not all that unpopular, even outside the Democratic party. Within the party, they’re really not all that radical. Howard Dean pushed for something similar to Medicare for all during his 2004 run. Even Hilary Clinton’s attempts at reform way back in 1992 during her husband’s first term. Hell, Nixon brought in employer-mandated health insurance back in 1973. These are not far-out, fringe ideas.
The biggest problem Sanders had during his run was attracting voters outside his base. The stereotype of the average “BernieBro” being a Millennial hipster in a Brooklyn coffee shop isn’t the whole story, not even close. He managed to bring together a fairly diverse group of folks; young and liberal for the most part, sure, but he pulled in a fairly diverse group. More women than men, more people of color than white, that sort of thing. For a “fringe” candidate, it’s not that bad.
That being said, the actual size and scope of his coalition didn’t really change to any appreciable degree from 2016 to 2020. The people he had then were the people he had now, and he neither lost too many nor gained too many. One thing that hurt that was the ginormous field of Democratic candidates who siphoned off support early on, particularly Elizabeth Warren, Andrew Yang and, arguably, Tulsi Gabbard.
Wait. Is she still in the race? Let’s double check. No, she dropped out back in March. Okay, then.
He really didn’t seem to try that hard to branch out, that’s the problem. It was like he and his followers just expected everyone to come along just because. You spend five years telling the party whose nomination you want to suck your dick and then expect them to “bend the knee” when time comes around, you’ve been drinking some bad buttermilk. I’m not going to bother with his surrogates, really, but they didn’t help things all that much, either. Didn’t hinder all that much, for that matter, but didn’t help. They were just sort of… there.
Of course, the thing that really sunk him was the almost across-the-board rejection by African American voters, particularly on Super Tuesday and especially in the South. He did well with Latino voters, particularly in the Southwest, but everyone who expected him to do well with black folks were shocked when that all washed out. It’s not for me to say why the black vote went so strongly to Biden beyond trusting him to be the best shot to get rid of Trump, but there you go. The idea that he worked under Obama and that counts a lot is as good as any, I guess.
Of course, this doesn’t mean it’s totally in Biden’s pocket. There’s still the Democratic convention – if it’s even held due to COVID-19 – and all sorts of crazy shit could happen there. It’s been since the ’50s since a “brokered convention” went down, but Sanders had made some noise that he intends to bring as many delegates as he can still get to Milwaukee in August (postponed from July because, well, you know). The idea – and y’all, this is how this is supposed to work – they can bring as much leverage to the game to influence the party’s platform as much as possible.
Like I said, nothing Sanders brings to the table is all that off-the-wall, particularly for the Democratic Party in the past. And, as we noted, the Republican party, for that matter. The real problem is something called the “Overton Window“, the idea that what’s considered “the center” is pushed left and right by changing politics. Since at least Reagan, this country has gone hard right and Clinton’s “Third Way” politics really, really didn’t help.
So what Bernie Sanders has accomplished with his last two presidential runs, if nothing else, is to push the Democratic party back closer to the actual Left and force it to pay attention to people they’ve been trying to ignore. You saw this with Hilary Clinton’s campaign (if you were paying attention) and I’ve no doubt you’ll see it with Biden’s campaign. For all his faults – and they are Legion – he’s a cagey player in the political game. He has to feel which way the wind is blowing and the lessons we’re learning during this COVID-19 business is that “the way things have to be” ain’t necessarily so.
The one thing I hope the Sanders faithful do realize that not voting for Biden out of protest or what have you is really, really, really stupid. Two Supreme Court nominations are likely to happen in the next four years, and if Trump selects two more Brett Kavanaugh’s, you can forget any sort of progressive progress for the next two generations.
If nothing else, we need to get the guy that thinks Betsy DeVos and Jared Kushner should be in positions of power as far from the White House as possible. I mean, come on. Do you really think it’s not going to get worse if Trump wins another election? If you’re “progressive politics” begins and ends with one guy, forgive me if I doubt your commitment beyond your ego.