Bernie's Winning Strategy: Suspend His Campaign While Continuing to Collect Delegates
If the progressive movement still turns out to vote for Sanders in the remaining primary contests, he can tie - or even overtake - Biden's delegate lead.
There is always light in the midst of darkness.
When I woke up to the news that Vermont Senator & progressive champion Bernie Sanders was suspending his campaign, I felt an all-too-familiar feeling creep back up: despair coupled with an angry, rage-inducing political cynicism that nothing in America will change, that business-as-usual will continue on, and that America's one and only people-powered movement had finally been sacrificed on the altar of corporate greed and establishment do-nothingness.
Joe Biden has given me no reason to feel any other way.
Furthermore, he has given millions of progressives no reason to believe otherwise. He has staunchly resisted Medicare for All, even though the circumstances have never made it clearer that it's exactly what America needs right now.
This moment in American history is unprecedented. The COVID-19, "coronavirus" pandemic is sweeping the globe, and America's ailing healthcare system finds itself under the media spotlight. Millions have filed for unemployment, signaling the start of what Bernie Sanders believes to be one of the worst economic recessions in modern history.
For millions worried about their healthcare, their access to affordable education, their small businesses, and the environmental struggle against climate change and corporate greed, the end of the Sanders campaign has felt like a death-blow to the future we so desperately hoped we could achieve.
As I was being swept away by the currents of despair, Bernie announced during his live stream address to supporters that his name would remain on the ballots in the remaining primary contests, so that he could continue to collect delegates in the hopes of pushing the party platform further to the left during their delayed, August convention.
He seemed enthusiastic and hopeful that he could still make a change, even as I felt cynical about his odds of influencing a corporate establishment that is opposed to arguably his biggest policy proposal- Medicare for All.
We still have yet to see which concessions - if any - the Biden-wing of the Democratic party will be willing to make to progressives. There are a lot of months in between now and August and the political landscape can change - especially now since mainstream media will come to focus on the Biden versus Trump match-up.
As I sat there thinking about the timing of Bernie's suspension - with nearly half of the states left to vote - I started to think that perhaps this is shaping up to be the most strategic move the Sanders campaign has ever made. It may seem like - from the outside - the end of his bid for the nomination, but I wonder if Bernie Sanders and his closest campaign advisers see it that way.
Here are his words regarding his continued presence in the race, taken directly from the e-mail he sent out to supporters:
And, on a practical note, let me also say this: I will stay on the ballot in all remaining states and continue to gather delegates. While Vice President Biden will be the nominee, we should still work to assemble as many delegates as possible at the Democratic convention where we will be able to exert significant influence over the party platform and other functions.
- Bernie Sanders
The one thing Bernie has that Biden doesn't is enthusiasm among his supporters, along with a grassroots infrastructure capable of raising awareness around his campaign and the issues it addresses via a millions-large social media following.
Where Bernie Sanders suffered the most was in mainstream media - which has disproportionately given his opponents more airtime since the 2016 race, and which overwhelmingly has supported the narrative that he could not win the nomination after Super Tuesday - despite so many states remaining in the contest.
He has also been criticized by many within his own movement for not going hard enough against Joe Biden and his policy/character weaknesses against Donald Trump. There are many who would have liked to see him go on the attack regarding Biden's electability.
Well, Bernie may have just done that, without having to be the one to go on the offensive.
There is growing concern among voters that Biden is in an even worse position than Clinton in the general election, as he is a candidate that has a weak record on trade that hurts his chances of winning working-class votes that went to Trump last time around.
As far as polls go, around this same time in 2016, Clinton was projected to beat Trump by double-digits. Then her lead fell as the election drew nearer, culminating in a disappointing electoral college defeat - even as she took the popular vote.
As for 2020, Biden is barely leading by single digits, and we can expect that gap to shrink to a relatively even, heated contest in November.
Donald Trump, much like Bernie Sanders, has an enthusiastic support base that will turn out to vote in the general.
America can count on that.
But to return to Sanders' decision to suspend his campaign, the more I think about it, the smarter a move it seems to be, and the more hopeful I become that he can still make a case for the nomination in August.
There are three reasons I'm still optimistic:
- Mainstream media will now focus entirely on Joe Biden versus Donald Trump. Unlike the silence surrounding Biden's sexual misconduct within traditionally liberal media outlets, right-wing media will not spare Biden on this issue. This will force left-leaning mainstream media outlets to have to defend, investigate, or otherwise cover these very same allegations or else risk allowing America's right-media to define the discourse. We can expect a fiasco on par with the Hillary Clinton email gaffe, although regarding a far more serious accusation: sexual assault. This will likely hurt Biden's polling by muddying the waters for independents and non-partisan voters who don't see much of a difference between Donald Trump and the establishment-left. Meanwhile, Bernie will be continuing to collect delegates.
- By suspending his campaign months before the DNC convenes to select a nominee, Bernie Sanders has put a bullet through the oft-repeated sentiment that he cares more about his ego than defeating Donald Trump. By urging his supporters to continue to vote for him in the remaining primaries - even as he stumps for Joe Biden against Trump and the GOP - Bernie will curry a more favorable media presence that continues to raise awareness about the policies he cares deeply about, such as Medicare for All. By officially placing himself outside of the race for the nomination, Bernie can enjoy a relatively easy media spotlight as a Biden surrogate that will ensure no one is able to claim that Sanders and Sanders alone is obstructing the left's chances of unseating Trump. Meanwhile, Bernie will be continuing to collect delegates.
- There is always the chance that progressive voter turnout will stay the same - or even increase, to counter a defeatist attitude - in the remaining primaries, whereas Bidens' will decrease due to the belief that he has already won the nomination and that there is no further need to cast a ballot. By suspending his bid for the nomination and embracing his role as a party-influencer, Bernie has made the contest about ideas - which nonetheless could still secure him the presidential nomination, as meanwhile, Bernie will still be collecting delegates.
In one fell swoop, Bernie has removed himself as a target for left-leaning, establishment media and placed the entire emphasis on Biden versus Trump, which is sure to expose Biden's weaknesses to give us a clearer image of his prospects in November, as both Democratic voters and party insiders will be able to watch and assess his poll numbers between now and the convention.
Bernie can still leverage the grassroots coalition that has supported him thus far to encourage voter turnout in the remaining primaries - if not for him, then for his policies and ideas.
Either way, there is always the chance that the progressive movement can help Sanders even the delegate score with Biden - or overtake him altogether before the convention.
Nothing has really changed as far as the race goes. Bernie's supporters can still vote for him in the remaining contests.
Here is the best-case scenario: Bernie stumps for Biden until August, but despite acting as a surrogate, Biden's polling against Trump continues to drop, as progressives continue to turnout consistently for Sanders in the remaining primaries. As for Biden's support base, their turnout would remain the same, decrease due to believing the contests are over, or shift slightly in Sanders' favor due to his policy vision and the eroding faith in Biden's electability.
When Bernie heads to the DNC in August, it is with an even delegate score or a slight lead.
Will Biden survive the onslaught regarding his sexual misconduct and his lack of a bold policy vision for America? Or do Donald Trump's poll numbers continue to increase, such that he seems poised to beat Biden in a landslide, electoral college victory?
That is the question I am most interested in heading into August.
One thing is certain: progressives lose nothing by continuing to turn out and vote for Bernie in the remaining primaries, but lose everything by staying home and capitulating to defeatism. Even if Bernie cannot stage a delegate comeback, securing more delegates is the best chance he has for getting Biden and the party to officially adopt Medicare for All ; which the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for. If progressives truly want to change America, they will vote for down-ballot "Berniecrats," utilizing resources such as this one, to find out who to support.
From one point of view, this seems like Sanders has admitted defeat. From another, it's a strategically viable route to the nomination, even from the position of an officially "suspended" campaign.
Bernie has decided to take the high road when it comes to party unity and present a strong challenge against Donald Trump and the GOP, while not sacrificing the ability for Democratic voters to cast a ballot in the process ; which, to me, seems like an extremely calculated, strategically smart move.
If I were a voter in the remaining contests, I would still happily cast my ballot for Bernie Sanders on the slight hope that maybe , just maybe , anything can happen between now and August and that perhaps 2020 is the year for political upsets