Bernie Sanders can still influence this race. Here is how.
Bernie’s supporters still have a chance to influence this race, but they need to give Biden a reason to listen first.
Bernie Sanders has been the de facto leader of the Democrat party since 2015. In fact, the Independent socialist from Vermont has probably had more influence on politics during that time that anyone not named Donald Trump.
During a presidential campaign that has spanned half a decade, Sanders broke records. Within 24 hours of his announcement to run this cycle, he raised $6 million. In one day. That’s a $250,000 an hour. During the four quarters of 2019 he raised $18.2m, $18m, $25.3m, and $34.5m respectively. Each quarter, the campaign had the largest haul for any candidate in the Democrat field.
He (sort of) won the Iowa Caucus, he won the New Hampshire Primary, and he dominated the Nevada Caucus. He also paved new ground when he became the first Jewish politician to win a presidential nominating contest in New Hampshire 2016.
And that is not to mention his historic achievements in the Senate.
“Some politicians build a campaign, others begin a movement… Unlike Biden, Sanders’ work doesn’t stop in the Senate. He works in the streets. Organising, protesting, campaigning… doing. But Sanders is also a seasoned politician, with the infrastructure, organisation, and not to mention money.”
It was not all good news though, as Bernie himself said the day after Super Tuesday:
“Have we been as successful as I would hope in bringing young people in? The answer is no”
The Sanders campaign experienced a similar fate amongst African American voters, losing that group to Biden by 50 points in southern states.
There is a threat that Bernie’s successes stand for little after losing the second primary in a row. But Sanders can have a role in this election still; it will just take an awareness and an ability that his supporters have not yet demonstrated.
At the moment, there is an evident frustration amongst some both in the press and on social media which indicates a steely unwillingness to vote for Bernie’s once-rival, Joe Biden, in the November general election, irrespective of the impact that has on a Trump re-election. Even if people are not willing to go that far, they are not willing to endorse the nominee.
But once the dust has settled, and it will, these powerful Bernie voices have an opportunity perhaps unlike any other loser in history. The irony is, this comes as a result of Biden’s several weaknesses. Weaknesses that will make the Sanders defeat hurt more at the moment.
Sanders’ supporters can use Biden’s weaknesses to their advantage.
Despite slightly better noises coming from the Biden campaign since his Super Tuesday victories, Biden’s campaign, at least compared to Bernie’s, is… well… pathetic. His policy platform is skeletal, his campaign infrastructure is thread-bare, and his ability to raise money has been severely curtailed due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
Thankfully for Biden, there is an expert stood to his left to help him out.
To begin on this new trajectory, Sanders supporters must first accept they got some things wrong. Admitting that is not surrendering to the system, or giving up on the cause, it’s putting themselves in a position where they can influence things.
Secondly, there has to be some realisation that what Biden is offering is quite radical to start with. As well as a $15 per hour wage commitment, Biden has also an impressive student debt relief plan, and a bankruptcy plan and climate change plan that dwarf any other party’s nominee in history. There is room for more, of course.
Some of the arguments against this, go: “But it wasn’t his idea — he is only saying this because x,y,z has come up with it”. As if that is a reason not to support him. Bernie supporters simply have to view that as a positive, not a negative. When Bernie entered mainstream politics, the Left’s policy platform was relatively absent. Bernie ‘professionalised’ it — for want of a better phrase — and it is frustrating in the extreme to have developed an entire body of policy, only to have some voters reject it.
But Sanders can have a similar impact on Joe Biden’s policy platform. After all, the Democratic nominee has demonstrated a willingness to listen before. Biden will need to refine existing policy and come up with enticing and exciting new proposals, who better to help him with that than Bernie?
Finally, there needs to be an appreciation that Biden actually did beat Bernie; he beat Bernie by more than Hillary Clinton did four years earlier. This means Biden has his own voters to attend to, quite a lot of them, in fact. Sanders supporters need to remember they are the losers asking the winner for concessions, not the other way around. Compromise will have to occur. But it can occur, that is the point.
If Bernie’s supporters are interested in that that, then truly huge things are possible; Biden’s platform is ripe for their influence. But if they don’t, and they want to moan on Twitter for four more years, then that truly is an opportunity wasted.