Bernie Will Certainly Return a Few More Times This Campaign Year

It took a while, but Bernie Sanders has left the race for the Democratic presidential nomination in the United States. Is his role completely over now?

Bianca Pander, expert on America and partner at the BKB campaign office: “No, if I were Joe Biden I would adopt some of Sanders’ plans and try to bring him and his “Our Revolution” movement into the campaign. The Bernie Sanders movement consists of many energetic young people and small local progressive organizations, such as unions and sustainability clubs, all with their own highly motivated followers. You have to get them to support you to consolidate the Democratic Party. That is the only way to ensure that the progressive and younger wing of the Democratic Party will be enthusiastic enough to show up at the polls in November. Just saying ‘Yes, but four more years of Trump would be even more disastrous, so vote for me’ is not enough.”

Maarten Zwiers, assistant professor of American studies and history at the University of Groningen: “Although he is no longer officially in the race for the Democratic nomination and will no longer campaign, Bernie Sanders will remain on the ballot in states where primaries are still to be held. He can no longer win the nomination, but Sanders can still gather delegates to put pressure on Joe Biden to make his platform more progressive. Sanders applied a similar strategy in 2016; he lost to Hillary Clinton after a long primary battle, but Clinton adopted some of Sanders’ positions, such as a $15 minimum wage. Sanders has also indicated that he wants to team up with Biden to defeat Trump, so we’ll see Bernie return a few more times this campaign year.”

Koen Petersen, political scientist and expert on America and author of “End Goal White House — How Americans Choose their President”: “On the contrary, Bernie Sanders has turned Democrats into a decidedly progressive party. Joe Biden was forced to swing left to win the primaries and is now calling for a $ 3.4 trillion (12 zeros!) tax hike and $1.7 trillion in climate spending over a decade, free higher education and an American version of national health insurance. If Biden wants to keep the crucial Sanders supporters, he cannot abandon this immediately. But it does unnerve the moderate voters he needs to beat Trump — a diabolical dilemma. Sanders has minimized the Democratic leeway in the political center.”

Sanders suspended his campaign the day after the controversial Wisconsin primary, where many people had to choose between their health and democracy because of COVID-19. Some 15 American states have postponed the primaries to June 9 due to COVID-19, but Wisconsin did not follow suit.

How Political Was That Decision?

Pander: “It led to absolutely absurd images of people standing in line for hours and hours in the pouring rain, while maintaining a 6-foot distance. Irresponsible really. How political is that? Well, the judges who made that decision are conservative and you see that Republicans deal with this crisis differently than Democrats in many ways. For example, the governor of Louisiana allowed Mardi Gras to continue in New Orleans and the governor of Georgia reopened the beaches while the spread of COVID-19 got worse and worse.”

Zwiers: “The Democratic governor of Wisconsin, Tony Evers, wanted to postpone the primaries, but Republicans in the Wisconsin legislature and the conservative judges at the state supreme court stopped that in the end. It fits in with a strategy that Trump and his allies are now rolling out, which builds on the Republican tradition to make voting as difficult as possible for minorities and vulnerable groups in American society.

“There are now proposals to allow mail-in voting because of COVID-19. The Republicans strongly oppose that, even though some Republican supporters — older white voters — would also benefit. Democrats have an interest in having as many voters as possible. Due to the pandemic, an important section of the Democratic constituency will vanish, for example, people with lower incomes who cannot afford good health insurance and therefore do not want to run the risk of getting COVID-19 while standing in line at the polls. It shows once again that Sanders’ plea for Medicare for all would strengthen the Democratic majority in the American political system.”

Petersen: “The election date was not very important for the Democratic primaries. But in the background, a more important political battle is raging over how to improve the organization of elections structurally. An important question is: Can voters also vote by mail instead of just at the polls? Due to COVID-19, this discussion is once again in the spotlight. Several states have had good experiences with mail-in voting. The Democrats support it, thinking they can mobilize people who otherwise don’t turn out, and thus achieve better results. Republicans see this as a threat and try to put it off as long as possible by pointing out fraud risks.”

In the meantime, Biden seems almost invisible during the coronavirus crisis, while his rival Donald Trump gets attention every day as president. Is this a prelude to the November presidential election?

Petersen: “Biden is relatively invisible because he is forced to campaign from home via video messages and interviews. His basement, where his webcam is located, does not make a presidential impression. Trump is in the news every day. Although he cannot organize campaign rallies either, he uses his daily press conferences as a campaign platform to reach millions of Americans. With the White House as a backdrop and American flags in the background, this provides him with distinctly presidential optics. As long as the restrictions are in place, Biden will have to try to conquer the White House while in a cage.”

Pander: “Of course it is incredibly challenging to campaign for the Biden team. He continues to have to come up with something to make the news. And now you cannot organize rallies where you usually attract all kinds of local press to spread your message. This crisis highlights the many ways in which Americans have not maintained their society. Unemployment numbers are rising, the number of insured is greatly decreasing, more and more people are experiencing financial difficulties and the disparity in America is widening. So there is an opportunity for the Democrats. They must come up with plans for what American society should look like post-COVID-19. And Biden can show that the Democratic Party is much more than just him alone; Biden has to put other talented people on display. Show that it is still a party that wants to fight for a better and fairer America.”

Zwiers: “Now is the time to step out of the shadows and show that he is THE alternative to Trump. Biden has had plenty of opportunities to present himself as the alternative, because Trump’s policy for fighting the pandemic is, of course, a disaster in itself. But instead of doing that, Biden calls the president. I understand the instinct to stand behind the country’s leader in times of crisis and to give him advice, but there has not been any presidential leadership at all in recent weeks. Now that Bernie Sanders is out, Biden has to push ahead, take over key parts of Sanders’ agenda so that he can actually present himself as the progressive answer to Trump’s drifting policy. Let’s not forget Barack Obama, who kept quiet during the primaries but who can now campaign for his buddy Joe Biden.”

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