State of the Race 2020: Bernie Drops Out
Written by Ben Szioli
It’s all over now, folks; or at least, that’s the conventional wisdom. Senator Bernie Sanders (VT) is ending his campaign for president, leaving Former Vice President Joe Biden (DE) as the presumptive nominee.
However, Meltdown March seems to have hit Former Vice President Biden particularly hard, and it’s not clear how exactly he survived without criticism. Biden likely held on for a victory in yesterday’s Wisconsin primary, though results will not be released for a week. However, he now stands accused (credibly) of sexual assault, after a former staffer repeated allegations against him from 1993 . He also made his least coherent statement of the entire campaign, discussed below.
Externally, it is unclear how Biden can possibly win a general election. The first adjective I can think of that applies to President Donald Trump (FL) but not Biden is “Republican.” After all, “creepy,” “embattled,” “senile,” and even “orange” all don’t fit the bill. I don’t understand what will become of these concerns, in an election when Democratic voters swore they’d take anything but President Trump or, apparently, Bernie.
JOE BIDEN’S PATH FORWARD
Biden now has to choose a Vice President and find some way to cobble the party back together. His past statements indicate that’s impossible. Biden has already sworn up and down that he would never support the healthcare plan preferred by most voters. He has already said he has “no empathy” for young people and dismissed their support of Senator Sanders. He has already treated the black vote as a monolithic possession of his own. He has already pledged to choose a VP as conservative as himself.
At every turn, Biden is doubling down on the party’s existing, exclusive tactics. His response to a party revolt in the form of Sanders is to cut down further on dissent. The more challenging the election becomes, the more Biden falls back on the votes of people who already supported him and who were always going to support him. If Biden refuses to bend, he will easily underperform Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (NY)’s 2016 results against Trump.
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In 2016, weary progressives were willing to vote for Former Secretary of State Clinton in order to potentially avoid ever placing Trump in office. But with him already there, the “lesser of two evils” argument is exposed as mental abuse. The same progressives, who by and large voted for Clinton, have already been blamed for Trump winning in 2016, simply because they had the audacity to challenge her in the primary. Why should they support Biden in 2020 just to take the same blame if he isn’t good enough to win?
That’s what the madness of this all comes down to. If a candidate isn’t competent enough to win the general after they won the primary, then apparently, we blame the voters. The choice by centrist talking heads to blame Sanders voters in 2016 created a rift. Sanders had to run in 2020 in order to engage his supporters and try to close that rift. If Sanders had been allowed to compete fairly in this year’s primary, his supporters would have merged with the party, and whether he won or lost, the party would be nearly twice as large as it was in 2015.
However, Sanders was openly obstructed. It’s comical, but centrist Democrats do actually insist that the primary was a fair and normal election.
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Let us make no assumptions whatsoever: let’s proceed as if absolutely nothing that happened to Sanders was structurally unfair. We can still take the statements of Democrats, where they publicly stated they would never nominate him, and that they would rather nominate literally anyone else. After Sanders beat out every other candidate in the days before voting began, the party openly admitted that they would try to rob him even if he won the primaries. And throughout the campaign, they moved in lockstep with mainstream media so that there were always credulous journalists flocking to amplify the party’s talking points
All else aside, the party publicly encouraging an appearance of impropriety is… improper. No election can be fair if the people running it allow it to be perceived as a fix. Even if nothing was done wrong to Sanders, the party should have bent over backwards to make the process appear completely fair. So why didn’t they?
It’s important to remember that the party admitting it is trying to unfairly stop Sanders is part of why the party succeeded at it. It created the perception that Sanders could never have won, when in fact, he absolutely could have, were it not for the determined media campaign against him. Obscure party rules like the primary schedule and the two-ballot voting system at the convention were used to argue that the process was already profoundly fixed against Sanders. The same thing happened in 2016, albeit with a different obscure rule; namely, pre-election superdelegate surveys. And both times, that perception blunted progressive enthusiasm.
Centrist critics argue that Sanders supporters should stop fighting, because their refusal to line up behind Biden before the primary ended is futile and can only re-elect Trump. That argument, however, accepts as given that the process has always been fixed against Sanders and so effort put into his candidacy was, by that logic, a waste. The insistence that the election was over before it was mathematically over is an admission that the electoral math doesn’t decide elections.
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In a lot of ways, the rank-and-file fallback onto Biden can be seen as an embrace of oligarchy over populism; that Democratic voters don’t care about anything besides stopping the backlash against the system as it existed under Former President Barack Obama (HI).
However, the purpose of a primary is for candidates to compete . The winner must be able to defeat all their opponents. What you will not hear is Sanders supporters insisting that he be nominated despite losing; whereas just a few weeks ago, every candidate besides Sanders at the debate pledged to try to rob him, should he have won the primaries but not the Democratic National Convention.
To the party, the election was already over before a single ballot was cast: Democrats nominated Biden, and Biden beat Trump. To them, it may as well have already happened. I can’t tell if they have their cart ahead of their horse, or their chickens counted pre-hatch, but someone needs to tell them that the primary wasn’t over until today, and the general isn’t over until November.
They will say that it was “how are you gonna pay for it?” that made Bernie lose, or it was Cuba, or it was black voters; it was Representative Jim Clyburn (SC); it was young voters staying home… the truth is, it was the media.
The media told us who was likely to win – who would be robbed – and the people accepted that narrative at face value. I may have said this in previous columns, but in large part, the world runs on narratives. A story in the news, reiterated by many outlets and many different opinion writers, no matter how universally bought out they are, forms a powerful narrative that can change minds and warp perceptions.
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So what is Biden’s path forward? First, he has to address the sexual assault allegations against him. Then, the party needs to address how they will handle his cognitive decline. This mental decline is represented best by the following quote, which I promise is a word-for-word gloss of what he said in a video appearance the other day:
“We cannot let this – we’ve never allowed any crisis from the Civil War straight through to the pandemic of ’17 – all the way around – ’16 – we have never, never let our democracy – sakes second fiddle – way they – we can both have a democracy and at the same time, correct the public health.”
Every single utterance Trump has ever made seems downright philosophical next to this. Trump’s worst (possibly stimulant-driven) babble is eloquent in comparison.
The Democrats have cried up and down that they do not want a sex criminal as a president, that the president shouldn’t have dementia, that the president should be well-spoken. Now they find themselves choosing the spitting image of the person they claim to hate, all – what – to fight fire with fire?
I don’t see how Biden can possibly win. This is the darkest day in Democratic Party history.
Well, there’s a caveat, actually. Biden cannot win unless he does a 180 degree turn on policy, including making many compromises with Bernie’s base. However, Biden indicated recently that he feels he doesn’t need to do anything to attract those voters. I don’t believe he actually thinks they will support him if he thumbs them in the eye. He likely knows they will not, and he intends to blame them instead of himself if he loses.
I have to wonder, with Wisconsin results unannounced, if this isn’t why Bernie dropped out. With the writing on the wall in 2016, Bernie supported Clinton (probably) precisely because she was too poor a candidate to win, and he knew it.
Opposing her after it became inevitable that she would lose (which was right around when she was nominated, unfortunately) would have secured an opportunity for Democrats to personally blame Bernie for Trump winning, in the same way they manipulated their own concession of the 2000 election (which Former Vice President Al Gore (TN) mathematically won and would have won on appeal) to blame former candidate Ralph Nader (CT) for electing Former President George W. Bush (TX). Bernie has been smart enough to prevent that twice now.
Unfortunately, I fear that pro-Bernie concessions may start and end at choosing not to blame Sanders, in the same way they started and ended at mild DNC reform in 2016. And while the DNC was moderately reformed, the state and local Democratic parties doubled down on their antagonism, pushing out even the most genuine Sanders supporters at the grassroots level. There’s no reason that won’t occur again. It’s hard to imagine the rightmost centrist Democrats ever sharing a party with progressives. Why would they? Democrats have admitted that they don’t stand for any of the progressive policies that voters want.
WHY WAS I WRONG?
After the Iowa result, I predicted that Biden was following the collapse of 2016 Republican candidate Former Governor Jeb! Bush (FL), a party favorite propped up by polling who collapsed after the first ballots were cast. So why is Biden not Jeb(!)?
Well, for one, Jeb actually wasn’t doomed. It was the unique combination of two Florida frontrunners in the Republican primary that did him in. Both Jeb! and Senator Marco Rubio were possible compromise candidates for anti-Trump Republicans. However, the inexperienced Senator Rubio was unrealistic about his chances and overshadowed Jeb, while Jeb remained in the race too long and hindered Rubio. Because the two were both from Florida (a single-state presidential ticket is a big no-no) a Rubio-Bush ticket was impossible, and the Republican establishment was helplessly split.
Biden faced no such divisions. Once Senator Liz Warren (MA) stepped aside for him, Biden had no opposition and claimed the entire “anti-Bernie” vote.
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It’s truly sad that the Democrats spent the last 4 years doing nothing but opposing Bernie, to the point that their voters couldn’t even tell the difference between the various non-Bernie candidates. The electorate was fed a consistent stream of talking points, and due to the incredible voter suppression that makes primary voting nearly impossible for some, the tiny population that turned out for the Democratic primary vote was skewed in favor of the party’s lies, and against Bernie Sanders.
They count this as a victory, but the fact is; if every single American voted for who they thought was best, and we totaled those numbers, the people would choose Bernie. Polling reiterates this over and over and over again. Whether it be among self-proclaimed liberals, or independents, or young people, or just the general non-voting population, Bernie is the most popular politician in America. The fact that he didn’t win is not a knock on him, or his supporters. It’s a sign of the reality that politics in America is profoundly broken; most of all during the primary elections, which are run by the parties themselves and have no constitutional oversight.
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PREVIOUSLY IN “STATE OF THE RACE”:
- 11/27/19: Part One
- 12/4/19: Part Two
- 12/12/19: Part Three
- 12/19/19: Part Four
- 12/27/19: Part Five
- 1/14/20: Part Six
- 1/22/20: Part Seven
- 1/27/20: Part Eight
- 2/2/20: Pre-Iowa
- 2/12/20: Post-New Hampshire
- 2/29/20: Pre-South Carolina
- 3/3/20: Super Tuesday
- 3/15/20: What The Hell Happened?
- 3/17/20: Arizona, Florida, and Illinois
- 3/24/20: Georgia, Take #1