WASHINGTON – Sen. Bernie Sanders is facing a dilemma after his latest primary defeats this week: Should he abandon his presidential campaign and help unite the party around former vice president Joe Biden as the Democratic nominee or would it be better to continue with his “revolution” to move the party’s – and the country’s – political debate leftwards?
After suffering heavy defeats in the primaries held on Tuesday – when Biden won the majority of the delegates in Florida, Illinois and Arizona, Sanders is contemplating his next more and, at present, he will be “having conversations with supporters to assess his campaign,” campaign manager Faiz Shakir announced in a statement on Wednesday without providing further details about how long those internal deliberations might last.
“In the immediate term,” Sanders is “focused on the government response to the coronavirus outbreak and ensuring that we take care of working people and the most vulnerable,” added Shakir.
Hours after Sanders announced that he was evaluating his candidacy, rumors began circulating about his possible withdrawal from the race, a move that would virtually leave the field to Biden, who is already far ahead in the delegate count.
Right away, however, Sanders’ campaign communications chief, Mike Casca, denied those rumors, saying that they were “wrong,” and reiterating that the senator had not suspended his campaign and that he was simply reviewing whether or not to continue.
“He’s not suspending,” Casca said. “Nothing has changed since this morning’s statement.”
In recent days, some Democrats, including former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, have been calling with greater emphasis for Sanders’ withdrawal while Biden’s campaign continues to be very careful not to alienate the senator’s supporters and, at the same time, has been trying to capture their support.
Mathematically, Sanders still has an outside chance to capture the nomination, but doing so would mean he’d have to win by a wide margin in the states that still have not held their Democratic primaries and which, in some cases, have delayed those votes because of the spread of the coronavirus, which has thrown much of US life into turmoil.
“The story has already been written,” Democratic strategist Jose Parra told EFE, adding that he feels that “the only thing remaining for Sanders to do is to try and move the agenda toward the left.”
Parra, who worked on Barack Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign as an adviser for communicating with Hispanics, said that “something catastrophic” would have to happen to Biden for Sanders to be able to win the nomination.
In addition, the coronavirus has taken from Sanders his best tool for recovering – his ability to mobilize thousands of volunteers, fill campaign rally venues and make the walls resound with words and ideas that have been virtually forgotten in US political discourse, words like “revolution” and “oligarchy.”
For a number of days, the Democratic presidential hopefuls have been pursuing their campaigns on the Internet and social networks, where Biden and Sanders are talking with voters, but they have been unable to continue with taking advantage of the hugely important impact that meeting face to face with voters has always had.
One of the reasons that Sanders could decide to remain in the Democratic race is the coronavirus and the way in which – in his judgment – it has shown the overwhelming need for a public health system that guarantees medical care to all citizens, regardless of their ability to pay.
Last Sunday, in a televised debate with Biden, Sanders took advantage of the opportunity to emphasize the differences between them, noting that he has been pushing for “Medicare for all” that would replace private health insurers, while the former VP only wants to make moderate changes in the prevailing health care model.
On Tuesday evening, Sanders did not speak publicly after the results of the primary contests became known, although Biden did. Even before all the polls had closed, however, the Vermont senator published a list of proposals to deal with the coronavirus, including providing $2,000 in subsidies to every American citizen.
Back in 2016, Sanders had lost the Democratic presidential nomination race to Hillary Clinton, but he won another kind of victory – managing to move the political debate to the left – he fostered the rise of a new generation of young lawmakers, including New York’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who aspire to make big changes that would do away with corruption in the political realm.
Could history repeat itself? At present, Sanders’ future remains cloudy, although there are still three weeks before the next round of primaries in Alaska, Hawaii, Wyoming and Wisconsin and – as the past couple of months have shown Americans and people around the world, many unexpected developments can occur.