Biden is unable to concentrate on winning centrist votes, which are the ones he could steal from the president.
Although he may never admit it, Bernie Sanders will be the one to hand Donald Trump the win on Nov. 4, as he did in 2016, when he ran against Hillary Clinton. According to a study by professor Brian Schaffner, as quoted by Karl Rove – architect of George W. Bush’s victories – 12% of Sanders supporters in the 2016 primary ended up voting for Trump (“Biden Can’t Lose, at Least Until November,” The Wall Street Journal, March 12, 2020). This percentage represents about 48,000 voters in Michigan, where Trump won by only 10,704 votes, or 51,000 voters in Wisconsin, a state he conquered by only 22,784 votes. The list of examples could go on. The key point is that those past political ratios could now be replicated.
Weeks ago, Hillary Clinton said she would certainly support a Sanders nomination if he became the Democratic candidate. She also said she wished Sanders had been equally loyal to her. An Emerson survey found that 87% of Joe Biden’s voters would vote for the Democratic candidate, whoever he is. Some 90% of Elizabeth Warren’s supporters would do the same. However, only 53% of “Sandernistas” say they would vote for any other Democratic candidate.
The reason behind this attitude is that Sanders’ approach in 2016 contributed to advancing an effort to radicalize the party to the left. If Clinton had won four years ago, the party would still be competing with the Republicans for the political center, which Sanders hates. He is a socialist who wishes to move the Democratic Party, which, to him is no more than an election platform and to which he does not belong, further to the left. He intends to storm the party. At this stage in the primary process, Sanders already knows he is not going to win. However, there has never been such a spotlight on a politician with beliefs like his. If Biden defeats Trump, the Democratic Party will be more or less a centrist party. If he loses, there will be more reason to seek a turn to the left.
Last Wednesday, Sanders warned Biden that, in the debate they would hold today without an audience, he would ask him to clarify several issues, such as public health care, free higher education and the capacity of billionaires to pay for their own campaigns. The fact that he gave Biden four days’ notice seems to be a skillful way of trying to define the Democratic Party’s platform. Not that it will have a great impact on the campaign. It certainly has no impact on the course of a presidency. That is why everyone was so surprised when they saw that Trump kept his campaign promises: because nobody ever does.
Biden’s problem is that, in order to win the election, he should focus on winning centrist votes, the only support he can steal from Trump. And yet, at this point in time, he has to fight against losing the left wing of his own party.
And this is all happening while Sanders’ support during the primaries has been significantly lower than four years ago. The problem is that there have been fewer “Sandernistas” – voters in their 20s – than senior citizens. Sanders is failing to inspire those young supporters to flock to the polls, which is where primaries are won. Not on Instagram.