Monday was a turning point in the race that was always going to come: the party united against Bernie Sanders. The Democratic establishment learned from the mistakes made across the aisle and united behind their last hope–this time around, that candidate was Joe Biden. There are no two ways about, Joe Biden cleaned up on Super Tuesday. After spending no time campaigning, building no organization infrastructure, astroturfed or otherwise, had no funding for ads in spending a paltry “six figures” and still dominated not only in the south, but in Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren’s own backyards in the northeast.
There is no doubt that this was an orchestrated maneuver, but it is disappointing that nobody seemed to be prepared for it. In between Joe Biden’s dominant victory in South Carolina on Saturday the 29th, and Super Tuesday, Joe Biden’s polling skyrocketed thanks to the endorsements of former candidates Buttiegieg, Klobuchar and even Beto O’Rourke. Their constituencies seemed to have obeyed, giving Biden a burst in support from suburban voters that were probably on the fence about Sanders. Amy Klobuchar’s endorsement propelled Joe Biden from the distant 3rd place he was polling in her home state of Minnesota to a dominant finish.
Last night it became clear that Sanders and the left flank of the Democratic party need to seriously reconsider their pitch to voters, specifically the more rural voters he courted throughout the 2016 primary who then switched to Trump in the general election. His campaign also needs to start making the electability case against Biden. The gloves have got to come off, and if Sanders thinks he can forgo the discomfort of exposing his supposed friend on the debate and laying his record out publicly he will likely lose the primary. He must make it clear to the public that Joe Biden stands absolutely no chance on the debate stage against Donald Trump; it will be a massacre conducted with ease. With Biden for an opponent, Trump would have nothing but ammunition, and an opponent who has proven himself woeful incapable of forming coherent sentences on the debate stage, let alone parrying attacks from an incumbent president.
But is it too late? Did the Sanders campaign take their eye off the ball? Was the billionaire curveball candidate enough of a distraction to keep Joe Biden’s deteriorating mental condition and atrocious record out of the news cycle? Apparently so, and the fundamental miscalculation of the Sanders coalition was the fact that it was obvious enough to the public that Joe Biden couldn’t do the job. They misjudged how much of the Democratic electorate looks at Joe Biden through the same rose colored glasses they view the Obama era, especially in the aftermath of the Trump presidency. Many voters, so depleted of faith in their government, just want a candidate who will return us to the status quo, before the beast of populism was stirred in 2016. Joe Biden said it himself, if he’s president, “Nothing will fundamentally change”. Sanders also struggled with older voters and also voters who wanted to “unite the party”. Turns out a lot of staunch liberals were happy to take that deal–after all, their lives aren’t so bad. To them, Trump is just a bad look, a blemish on a mostly great nation that needs to be removed before we can return to a civil status quo.
Sanders and his coalition must make a clear case that this is not an option, and that this strategy will lead to electoral disaster in November for the Democrats. Biden’s “Nothing will fundamentally change” sentiment is akin to Hillary’s “America is already great”, in that it either ignores or outright denies the systemic flaws in America’s economy. The capitalist takeover of basic human rights and services in this country that have rendered the lower class exceptionally vulnerable to financial ruin. The fatal flaw of this strategy, and of Biden as a candidate, is the failing to offer an equal but opposite vision to Trump’s for this America, in particular, America’s working class.
Trump’s election was a repudiation of Obama’s presidency, and to restage the same philosophical battle in the 2020 general election and expect different results would be insane, especially with Trump’s advantage now being the incumbent, and especially with a candidate as vulnerable as Biden. The American working class will not turn out for neoliberal Democrats, and they’ll make that clear again if Biden is the nominee by reelecting Trump in a landslide.This isn’t to say that Sanders’ campaign is dead in the water, far from it. By the time California’s vote count is final he’ll likely be within close striking distance of Joe Biden. But if he is to recover, he needs to make his case quickly to the working and professional class voters in states like Michigan, Wisconsin, and Missouri and he needs to make it now. If Bernie endures another beating next Tuesday like the one he did yesterday, we’ll likely soon see Sanders standing behind Biden, just like Amy, Pete, and Mike. And they’ll all be standing across from President Trump for another four more years after that.