Bernie Sanders Has Emerged as the De Facto Leader of the Democratic Party Amidst the COVID-19 Crisis
#WhereIsJoe paints a grisly picture for Democrats in November. Will they join with the leader of the progressive movement and meet this moment in U.S. political history, or watch as Trump steals it away?
The Democratic Party is in dangerous waters right now.
The first few rounds of primary voting placed Biden firmly in the lead, but he has been largely silent since the COVID-19 crisis started heating up.
As of this moment, a #whereisjoe hashtag is trending on Twitter, in which people are asking the presidential hopeful how he plans to demonstrate some leadership amidst this crisis.
Speaking as a Bernie supporter myself, how Biden chooses to work with, rather than against, his progressive rival will be a large factor in determining if feel comfortable voting for him in November, should he win the nomination.
If he wanted to earn that vote, he'd embrace Medicare for All as a critical component of his platform, and work with Sanders as he heads back into Washington to advocate for legislation that will help avoid an economic catastrophe in the wake of the pandemic.
While I do not wish to prioritize politics above public health and well-being, there is still an election going on, and left-leaning America can rest assured that the Trump administration will not hesitate to use its response to COVID-19 as political fuel both during and after the pandemic has subsided.
Mitt Romney has called for $1,000 checks to be given to every American for the duration of the crisis. Recently, Trump signed through legislation providing economic relief to citizens and has stated that he hopes checks will start rolling out in April.
These are proposals that sound eerily familiar to those Bernie Sanders wants to implement, yet his own party and the media have spent the better part of four years blasting him for being too radical to get anything done.
Bernie has gone further than his Republican colleagues, calling for a $2 trillion dollar economic relief package capable of providing Americans with $2,000 a month until we have weathered out the storm.
He has likened the situation we are facing to a new recession, one in which we must mobilize on wartime scales if we are to avoid an economic meltdown. His Democratic colleagues have been slow to agree.
Given the current estimates - that nearly half of all Californians will become infected, with potentially 70–150 million people falling victim to coronavirus nationwide - I'd say that Sanders' assessment of the situation is not an overreaction.
If Democrats fail to side with Bernie in demanding a bailout for the American people, they will be allowing the Trump administration to take credit for some of Bernie's most popular ideas . This would come back to haunt them in November, as Trump would be the one to spin the narrative that it was his administration that came to the rescue during the crisis, not Democrats.
I would like for Biden to rise to the occasion and to assist Bernie in pressuring both parties to put aside partisan politics so that effective legislation can be drafted that will minimize the worst impacts of the virus.
Were he to do so, I'd feel comfortable casting my ballot for him in November. As right now, I'm more interested in leaders that can adapt to change and do what is right than in how firmly they can contrast themselves with their political opponents.
Some steps Biden could take to cement his status as a worthy front-runner:
- Adopt Medicare for All into his platform and support Bernie Sanders as he advocates for it in Washington. This would require him siding with the American people rather than with the healthcare giants who have conglomerated around his campaign.
- Assist Sanders and his progressive allies (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, etc) in raising awareness on Capitol Hill regarding the need to provide economic relief to every citizen and to make sure they have access to the healthcare they'll need, even if they can't afford it.
- Put his campaign on hold and urge the DNC to delay the primary process until we know to what degree COVID-19 will sweep the nation. It would also be responsible to push for an entirely vote-by-mail or drop-off system for the remaining primaries, to avoid putting the safety of voters at risk.
Despite being the front-runner and the media/establishment's top pick to face off against Trump, Biden has failed to emulate the best characteristics of Bernie's leadership ethos.
I'm no longer afraid of Sanders losing the nomination.
His response to COVID-19 has shown me that he'll have an important role to play in the U.S. political scene with or without it, and his movement isn't going anywhere.
It is hard to feel as if Sanders hasn't already won the battle of ideas when it comes to the heart and soul of the Democratic Party.
As of right now, 70% of Americans support Medicare for All.
How are those numbers going to change now that COVID-19 has forced us to come face-to-face with the ways in which our healthcare system has left millions disadvantaged, and worse, how our economy is woefully unprepared for the financial consequences of such a pandemic?
The only remaining question for me is, will Biden and the rest of the party catch-up to Sanders and his ideas in time to mount a formidable challenge to Trump in November, or will they throw this moment away?