It’s still a two-person race, Bernie Sanders. But it’s no longer between you and Joe Biden. It’s between Joe Biden and President Trump.
How do we know? Sanders may ask. But I believe he knows because the vast majority of Democratic voters have spoken. Biden has won three Super Tuesdays (19 of 24 contests), many of them by huge margins. In at least two states Sanders won not a single county. In the midst of the present coronavirus pandemic voters said they do not want the Vermont Senator’s medicine.
Turnouts in the recent Democratic primaries have surpassed those of 2016. It’s not “the establishment” speaking, which the Vermont senator regularly suggests is the case; it’s the broadly based Democratic electorate that craves someone else, someone calmer, more even-handed, and less “revolutionary.”
It was disastrous for Sanders to praise Fidel Castro’s literacy program just before the Florida primary. Socialism is not popular in the Sunshine State, the nation’s third largest state whose population is nearly a quarter Hispanic. In a blowout election Biden carried all 67 counties, winning 62 percent of the total vote to Sanders’ 23 percent. One can well imagine how his vainglorious insistence on being called a “socialist” would play in a general election.
Sanders understands that he already is a victor in helping to shift the national conversation to shortcomings in our present health care system, the need to confront climate change, and the utter inequalities of wealth and political power in our nation.
Among young people who make up a significant part of his movement, alleviating huge college costs to students also has been gaining in popularity. One difficulty is philosophical as well as financial. He wants public colleges and universities to be free (financed by a tax on stock trades) and calls for the cancellation of all student loan debt; Biden supports making only two-year community colleges debt free and supports a more modest limitation of student debt. Sander’s second difficulty is political: While the young support him in disproportionate numbers, they are lackadaisical in demonstrating it on Election Day.
His political problems do not end there. The delegate count today shows Sanders significantly behind Biden, and the calendar suggests more losses for him ahead. Because of the coronavirus outbreak it is no longer possible for him to conduct his preferred manner of retail campaigning, namely, the in-person large rallies with crowds second in size only to those that gather for President Trump. Without them Sanders has lost the most effective means of building his movement.
Democratic voters know that Biden is a capital-D Democrat; about Sanders they know no such thing. A Washington eminence for half a century, the former vice president has gained a measure of trust few politicians enjoy. Exit interviews taken when voters leave the polling place reveal that they admire his moderation, experience, empathy and basic decency. In contrast with Sanders they note his pragmatic temper, one that is open to negotiation and cooperation. Such ingredients are necessary in “restoring the country’s soul,” as he hopes to do.
Democrats agree on their one main objective: taking back the White House and carrying members of Congress with them, perhaps even winning control in the Senate. In what may become known as the coronavirus election, not only do they believe that Biden can deny a second term to Trump, they fear an overwhelming defeat if Bernie Sanders is their candidate. Biden has said that Americans prefer “results’’ instead of a ‘’revolution. The greatest prize “result” would be the right to redecorate the Oval Office.
Ron Lora, a native of Bluffton, is professor emeritus of history at the University of Toledo. His column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the The Lima News editorial board or AIM Media, owner of The Lima News. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.