NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2020

Early Super Tuesday results look good for Joe Biden — can he keep the wins coming?

It’s Super Tues­day Results Night 2020!

Polls are now closed in sev­er­al states on the East Coast. For­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Biden is the pro­ject­ed win­ner in both the Com­mon­wealth of Vir­ginia and the State of North Car­oli­na, while Bernie Sanders is pro­ject­ed to win his home state of Ver­mont. The pro­ject­ed Biden wins give him — for now — an over­all del­e­gate lead, though the night is still young and many oth­er states are also hold­ing nom­i­nat­ing events, includ­ing Cal­i­for­nia, where Sanders hopes to do well.

A week ago, the Biden cam­paign had not won a sin­gle state and was laser focused on try­ing to rebound in South Car­oli­na, which it did, spectacularly.

Biden’s South Car­oli­na win has com­plete­ly changed the dynam­ics of the race. With­in forty-eight hours of Biden’s con­vinc­ing vic­to­ry in the Pal­met­to State, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar decid­ed to end their cam­paigns and make appear­ances along­side Biden in Dal­las, Teas to award him their endorsements.

In the wake of his South Car­oli­na vic­to­ry, Biden also began receiv­ing a tor­rent of endorse­ments from Demo­c­ra­t­ic elect­ed offi­cials at every lev­el (fed­er­al, state, and local) which his cam­paign has exu­ber­ant­ly touted.

Biden has also seemed more sure of him­self at recent cam­paign appear­ances than in Iowa or New Hamp­shire, com­ing across as ener­getic and confident.

Demo­c­ra­t­ic vot­ers seem to be respond­ing enthu­si­as­ti­cal­ly to these developments.

Results tab­u­lat­ed so far in Vir­ginia sug­gest that Biden will win there, in line with media pro­jec­tions. If Biden wins the oth­er states in the South that are vot­ing today, and does rea­son­ably well in Texas and Cal­i­for­nia, he could emerge from Super Tues­day as the new Demo­c­ra­t­ic fron­trun­ner, over­tak­ing Bernie Sanders.

If Biden goes on to win the nom­i­na­tion, he will be able to cred­it the Demo­c­ra­t­ic vot­ers of South Car­oli­na with his suc­cess. They believed in him even after many pun­dits and prog­nos­ti­ca­tors had writ­ten him off.

Some pro­gres­sive activists have sug­gest­ed on social media that Biden’s recent tor­rent of endorse­ments (includ­ing from for­mer rivals Buttigieg, Klobuchar, and Beto O’Rourke) are evi­dence that the “fix is in” for Biden.

That is utter non­sense. The real­i­ty is that Biden’s cam­paign was on the ropes before South Car­oli­na. It had been los­ing cred­i­bil­i­ty, it had been run­ning low on funds, it had been try­ing to recov­er from ear­ly stumbles.

But Pal­met­to State Demo­c­ra­t­ic vot­ers — who out­num­ber the Demo­c­ra­t­ic vot­ers in Iowa, New Hamp­shire, and Neva­da — decid­ed to back Biden. Enthu­si­as­ti­cal­ly. That’s what set in motion Biden’s come­back. Not a meet­ing of pow­er bro­kers in a back­room in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., but a strong pri­ma­ry performance. 

Peo­ple are coa­lesc­ing around Biden because that’s what hap­pens after a can­di­date demon­strates they have broad-based support.

You might recall that South Car­oli­na was also where Barack Oba­ma secured his break­out win twelve years ago. Oba­ma pre­vailed in the Iowa Demo­c­ra­t­ic cau­cus­es, went on to lose the New Hamp­shire pri­ma­ry to Hillary Clin­ton, and then roared back in South Car­oli­na. He went on to win a slew of states with Feb­ru­ary nom­i­nat­ing events (includ­ing Wash­ing­ton’s Demo­c­ra­t­ic cau­cus­es!) and ulti­mate­ly built a del­e­gate lead that Hillary Clin­ton was unable to surmount.

You might also remem­ber that Oba­ma was endorsed by sev­er­al of his rivals after they exit­ed the race in 2008. Chris Dodd, Bill Richard­son, and John Edwards (in that order) all chose to back Oba­ma after Oba­ma demon­strat­ed that he had broad-based sup­port in ear­ly nom­i­nat­ing contests.

Notably, they opt­ed to give Oba­ma their endorse­ments before Oba­ma had locked up the nom­i­na­tion… while Clin­ton was still in the hunt.

That’s the same kind of coa­lesc­ing we are see­ing now. It’s to be expect­ed. There is noth­ing nefar­i­ous about it what­so­ev­er. It’s a free coun­try — well, at least for now — and peo­ple get to sup­port who they want. As the field shrinks, Bernie Sanders is also pick­ing up key endorse­ments (like Democ­ra­cy For Amer­i­ca’s). Dit­to for Eliz­a­beth War­ren (she was endorsed by EMI­LY’s List).

Although Biden has now demon­strat­ed that he has broad-based sup­port among Demo­c­ra­t­ic vot­ers in sev­er­al key states, his cam­paign has a long way to go before it will be in a posi­tion to uni­fy the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty and defeat the forces arrayed around Don­ald Trump, Mitch McConnell, and Kevin McCarthy.

Inex­plic­a­bly, the cam­paign has been open­ly con­temp­tu­ous of pro­gres­sive activists work­ing to build a Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty that is robust and healthy over the long term, as the Indi­vis­i­ble Team explained in a Medi­um post pub­lished yes­ter­day:

On release, Vice Pres­i­dent Biden was the only major can­di­date to score below 50% on our score­card over­all, and in each category.

It’s impor­tant to note that much of his pol­i­cy scor­ing was built through research into his pub­lic plans and plat­form because Biden’s cam­paign was the only one that repeat­ed­ly refused to respond to Indivisible’s can­di­date questionnaire. 

That’s right: even though he knew that Indi­vis­i­ble activists were eager to hear from him direct­ly and that these same activists have been on the front­lines of the fight against the Trump admin­is­tra­tion, Vice Pres­i­dent Biden didn’t think it was impor­tant to engage with this movement.

And after a lit­tle dig­ging, it was easy to see that this choice is part of a pat­tern: his cam­paign is not built around pro­gres­sive and peo­ple-pow­ered move­ments. Instead, it relies heav­i­ly on big donors at pri­vate fundrais­ers while pri­or­i­tiz­ing faulty elec­tabil­i­ty politics.

Less than 40% of his cam­paign fundrais­ing comes from the grass­roots, with the rest com­ing from bundlers and high-dol­lar donors. Vice Pres­i­dent Biden also refus­es to com­mit to a ban on appoint­ing his high-dol­lar donors to lucra­tive ambassadorships.

Embrac­ing big mon­ey and polit­i­cal favors is quite lit­er­al­ly the oppo­site of grass­roots demo­c­ra­t­ic values.

The num­ber one rule of pol­i­tics is don’t alien­ate your base. Don­ald Trump under­stands this rule and adheres to it; as is evi­dent, that has got­ten him very far.

If the Biden cam­paign con­tin­ues to com­mit cam­paign mal­prac­tice, as it has over the course of the past year, it will set itself up for fail­ure, just as Hillary Clin­ton’s 2016 cam­paign did. Biden’s advis­ers and strate­gists, and most impor­tant­ly Biden him­self, all need to com­mit to chang­ing the cul­ture and ethos of their cam­paign if they want to suc­ceed in win­ning the Novem­ber 2020 gen­er­al election.

They can start by return­ing Indi­vis­i­ble’s can­di­date ques­tion­naire and invit­ing grass­roots pro­gres­sive orga­ni­za­tions to pro­vide feed­back to their campaign.

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