Do I wish Bernie had decided to continue his campaign? Yes. But I get it on why he made the decision he did. The honest truth is that it could be that his decision, given the specifics surrounding it, could end up being the best thing he could have done to advance the political revolution at this time, given the problematic primary election results from February 28 to March 17.
If Bernie had suspended his campaign AND said that he is now urging his supporters to vote for Joe Biden in upcoming primaries, that would have been a very bad move. It would have undercut the negotiating power of Bernie campaign leadership with the Biden campaign as they attempt to push Biden to be better on the issues and better in other ways.
It would mean that, at the August Democratic Convention, with a lot fewer Bernie delegates in attendance, Biden and the establishment Democrats he is aligned with would likely take minimal steps to incorporate the programmatic, internal democracy and other demands of the progressive movement Sanders leads. That would be bad for the on-going battles between the corporatists and progressives in the DP and bad for the overall progressive movement.
Bernie’s announcement was a recognition that, although a majority of voters 45 years and younger were ready for the revolution, a majority, a pretty big majority, of voters over 45 were not. As of the spring of 2020, the numbers just aren’t there for Bernie.
Could that change over the next couple of months because of the pandemic and the rapidly deepening economic recession/depression? Maybe, and that’s why I wish Bernie hadn’t dropped out. But there’s a counter-argument to that:
Right now and for the coming months, the survival and healthcare needs of tens of millions of US Americans for months and years to come are very much wrapped up with what kind of steps the federal government takes now to strengthen our health care system and support the economy. US Senator Bernie Sanders has already had a positive impact, with other progressives in Congress, to get legislation passed that will help working people and those most in need of assistance. They were able to weaken, though not fully stop, the Trump/Republican effort to pass legislation that overwhelmingly benefits corporations and does little for those most in need.
Bernie is playing and will continue to play an important role in this regard in April, May and beyond.
A big question mark in the aftermath of his suspension decision is what road those who support Sanders will take as far as voting in November. I am certain that a big majority, at least 80%, will end up voting for Biden or whomever the Democratic nominee will be. Bernie himself has been clear all throughout his campaign over the past year that if he doesn’t win the nomination he will support whomever wins because of the absolutely critical need to remove Mafioso Don from the White House.
There is one way, and one way only, to do that: replace him with the Democratic Presidential nominee.
Some of my Facebook friends, and some actual friends and sister/brother organizers, have been very clear that their response to Bernie dropping out is to organize for a new progressive party, or to support the Greens. I get it on why they feel that way. Biden is not Bernie. I believe Tara Reade. Biden will not do what Bernie does: make every effort to do the right thing for the people and the planet. Biden is a known compromiser with power and big money. There is much more.
But he’s not a would-be dictator, a 21st century fascist, climate denier, white supremacist, misogynist, narcissist and pathological liar. His appointments to the federal courts won’t be all about trying to lock in regressive and destructive policies for a decade or more. And because there is now a strong progressive force in and outside the Democratic Party that will likely grow stronger as the recession/depression deepens, he will have no choice but to bend to some, hopefully many, of our demands, depending on our movement’s strength and tactical smarts.
I’ve been involved with electoral politics since 1974. My first major involvement was as a national coordinator of the National Campaign to Impeach Nixon. Since then I’ve run twice for office, both on third party lines, as a city council candidate in Brooklyn in 1993 of the Black-led Unity Party and as a Green Party US Senate candidate in New Jersey in 2003. I’ve actively supported probably 20 or so other candidates, progressive Democrats, Greens and other independents. I was an active member of the Green Party up until a few years ago when I left because of my disagreement with their electoral tactics, particularly when it comes to Presidential campaigns.
So I get it on why some people are very pissed right now and have no intention of voting for Biden.
The problem is our electoral system. We don’t have proportional representation, where people vote for their favorite party, as well as, usually, individual candidates, and parties get representation in government based on the percentage of their vote. We have, instead, winner-take-all, so when progressives don’t vote for the one non-Trump Presidential candidate who has a shot at winning but, instead, vote for someone on a third party line, that is in essence a vote that supports Trump’s reelection. I know some will attack me for saying that, but it’s true.
Let the debate continue.
Ted Glick is the author of the forthcoming Burglar for Peace: Lessons Learned in Catholic Left Resistance to the Vietnam War. Other writings and other information can be found at https://tedglick.com, and he can be followed on Twitter at https://twitter.com/jtglick.