Run Bernie, Run!
The Democratic Party can sharply contrast themselves with Donald Trump & the GOP by safeguarding the people’s right to vote — not by sacrificing it on the altar of fear & paranoia.
Before COVID-19, it was unlikely that Bernie Sanders would drop out of the Democratic primaries before every registered voter was given the opportunity to select a candidate.
After COVID-19, it’s anyone’s guess as to what the Sanders campaign will do going forward.
During the 2016 election against Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders remained in the race until the end, collecting as many delegates as he could in the hopes of pushing the party platform further to the left.
Furthermore, he justified his continued presence on the desire to give every person a voice in the electoral process — a principal I wholeheartedly agree with. There are, after all, many Biden supporters who would appreciate a chance to vote as well.
There is no need for a feud between the two wings of the Democratic Party when it comes to protecting its members’ voting privileges.
But do Biden, Sanders, and their supporters see things the same way?
There are some clues in Bernie’s immediate response to the crisis, which was to put the election on the back-burner and focus directly on responding to the threat the virus poses, not only to our ailing healthcare system, but to our economy as well.
Currently, he is building support for legislation aimed at giving relief to the American people — most notably the working class — in the hopes of avoiding a situation similar to the 2007–2008 financial meltdown.
This would seem to indicate that, while not totally abandoning the campaign trail, his focus is on what he can do in the present moment to rescue the American people from the worst health and economic impacts of the virus.
A recent piece published by MSN suggests that Sanders is in “no rush” to make a decision regarding the future of his campaign, and that he has floated several options regarding how to move forward.
I believe Senator Sanders should stay in the race until July — as he did in 2016 — and that furthermore, not doing so would set a dangerous precedent that Donald Trump and the GOP could capitalize upon in November.
Times such as these make arguments in favor of suspending our rights as democratic citizens seem appealing. Getting rid of our voting privileges is one such right that should be protected at all costs.
How will the Democratic Party respond to this crisis, specifically when it comes to their nomination process?
It is no secret that the Democratic rank and file don’t really like Bernie Sanders.
Every single contender — with the exception of Warren, who has remained quiet since suspending her campaign — has dropped out and endorsed Joe Biden’s candidacy.
It is likewise no secret that the media isn’t favorable to him, either.
By and large, mainstream media’s political commentary has painted Sanders as too far to the left to win the hearts and minds of the average American voter, and gives Sanders and his supporters a rough treatment on the issue of Democratic unity.
This is despite the fact that Sanders platform isn’t that far left by the standard of European social democracies, and a few other developed nations around the world.
Right now, however, the media landscape is shifting. Coverage of the electoral process — which is always a gambling game — has largely faded. In its wake, there is nearly non-stop reporting on COVID-19 and its spread throughout the nation — and the world.
By covering COVID-19, the media has been forced to shine a spotlight on America’s ill-prepared healthcare system. Health experts are concerned as to whether or not it can handle a rapid surge of coronavirus cases without being overwhelmed, with most opinions suggesting that it can’t and that we need to be doing more, not less, to prepare for an uptick in infections.
While fear and anxiety in an uncertain time such as this are certainly justified, canceling the Democratic primaries is precisely the wrong response.
Now more than ever, it is important for the Democratic Party to draw a sharp and distinct contrast with the GOP — which has a long history of being in favor of voter suppression policies — and to allow its members to have a say in who ends up facing off against Donald Trump in the general election.
Healthcare has risen to the forefront of our national discussion. People are beginning to see the need to take action, and to take action swiftly.
While I do not wish to sound opportunist, this is a media landscape that favors Bernie Sanders, who has long advocated for a single-payer, universal healthcare system that would provide for the needs of each and every citizen.
He is also holding Donald Trump’s feet to the fire — something that more partisan Democrats can appreciate — in insisting that he treat COVID-19 and its potential economic impact as a severe, national emergency. He has called on Trump to utilize the Defense Production Act to make sure our healthcare institutions remain stocked with the necessary supplies they will need to handle the expected surge in coronavirus cases.
All of this demonstrates exceptional leadership on part of Bernie Sanders. Leadership Democratic Party insiders should embrace, not reject, regardless of who the nominee is.
I can forgive Democratic voters for thinking that the election should be dropped and that Sanders should exit the race and back Biden as soon as possible.
Politically, these are very frightening times. I believe that a crisis such as this makes America ripe for the disaster of authoritarianism and that we ought to remain vigilant regarding the current administration’s actions during this period.
The single most important thing the Democratic Party could do to avoid that scenario would be to adapt its nomination process and to safeguard its members’ right to vote. Doing so would send a clear and strong message to Donald Trump and the GOP that there will be no tolerating any funny business when it comes to the November election.
Bernie is justified in remaining a contender on the basis of his healthcare stance alone. Right now is the time to push for temporary healthcare relief measures that can evolve into a more permanent, equitable healthcare system in the future.
Even if Bernie stands no shot at winning the nomination, a coronavirus-ravaged political landscape can empower Sanders to truly push the party to the left.
Speaking for myself, if Biden were to come out in favor of Bernie’s Medicare for All system, and commit to making that the first and most important goal of his first four years, I would consider that ample reason to cast my vote for him November.
Progressives would be able to hold him accountable, and he’d sink his chances at a second-term if he failed to deliver.
Furthermore, should the Democratic Party abandon its voting process for fear that Sanders-Biden divisions will widen among their support base — or that Sanders might pull off a political upset in a more favorable, albeit tumultuous political environment — they will be unknowingly playing into the hands of Donald Trump.
Donald Trump is a man that knows what makes Sanders supporters angry. He styled himself as anti-establishment in his 2016 run against his more favored GOP contenders. He did so to capitalize upon the fact that Sanders was being minimized by the media and by party insiders, and he did this to curry favor with America’s working-class, independents, and disillusioned Democratic voters.
Those are all demographics that the Democrats need to win in November, or they can consider their case hopeless.
In other words, Bernie Sanders has a tremendous amount of political leverage right now. And the current crisis has only increased that leverage.
If the Democratic Party decides that democracy can be foregone due to a crisis such as this, they will not only anger progressives — who the Democratic Party needs to defeat the GOP in November— but also set a very dangerous precedent headed into the general election.
I don’t know about you, but I believe crises such as this one are when true colors start showing. The Democratic Party can choose to empower the people in this moment by sticking up for their right to cast a ballot, or they can mimic the worst qualities of their supposed political opponents by accepting the viewpoint that roughly half of the people who haven’t voted yet are unimportant and should simply fall in line.
Now is not the time to be stripping away the American peoples’ voice. Now is the time to be actively encouraging it.
How can the Democratic Party do that?
- First and foremost, Bernie Sanders should remain in the race, even as his fundraising machine and the army of grassroots volunteers that have grown up around him take on more of a support role amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Bernie and his supporters, as well as any other members of the party interested in safeguarding the right to vote, should begin pressuring the DNC to move toward a fully vote-by-mail system, so that people can cast their ballots without fear of becoming infected. The DNC should likewise leave the voting period open until June, as right now, the American people are struggling to adapt to the lockdown measures aimed at stopping the spread of COVID-19.
We are essentially in one, long, drawn-out election holiday.
From now until November, we may be stuck inside our homes, watching the news and seeking ways in which we can volunteer to help our fellow citizens during the course of the pandemic.
This is not the time to be thinking that our votes are unimportant. Precisely the opposite is true: perhaps there was never a time when they were more important.
So, in the off chance that Bernie Sanders or someone in his campaign reads this piece, I say to him:
There was never a time in which the American people didn’t need your ideas — and your exceptional example— more than now.