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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.

Monday, April 13th, 2020

Bernie Sanders endorses Joe Biden for president less than a week after exiting race

Unit­ed States Sen­a­tor Bernie Sanders of Ver­mont has for­mal­ly endorsed for­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Biden, less than a week after with­draw­ing from the race for the Demo­c­ra­t­ic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion. On Mon­day, both men appeared to their sup­port­ers via live stream on split screens and had a friend­ly dis­cus­sion of the upcom­ing gen­er­al elec­tion and pol­i­cy issues.

In nor­mal cir­cum­stances, such an endorse­ment would have been announced at a cam­paign ral­ly or sim­i­lar large event, but COVID-19 has had the effect of con­fin­ing polit­i­cal can­di­dates to their homes, only able to com­mu­ni­cate via the internet.

Sen­a­tor Sanders made it very clear that he would be cam­paign­ing for Biden in the com­ing months: “We need you in the White House and I will do all I can to make that hap­pen.” Biden in turn said, “I’m going to need you, not just to win the cam­paign but to gov­ern.” They com­mit­ted to cre­at­ing “task forces” to build the Democ­rats’ pol­i­cy plat­form going into the Novem­ber election.

Such state­ments showed that both men were keen­ly aware of the pow­er­ful coali­tion that Sanders com­mands. Sanders’ sup­port­ers are young, pro­gres­sive and high­ly diverse, and are on the whole deeply skep­ti­cal of the Vice President.

Sanders’ promise to cam­paign for Biden (as he did for Hillary Clin­ton in late 2016) may per­suade many unen­thu­si­as­tic pro­gres­sives, and Biden’s state­ment that he will need Sanders “to gov­ern” is doubt­less intend­ed to sig­nal a turn towards more pro­gres­sive poli­cies once in the White House.

Biden’s out­reach to Sanders sup­port­ers start­ed a day after the Sen­a­tor dropped out, with com­mit­ments to reduce the Medicare eli­gi­bil­i­ty age by five years and expand stu­dent debt for­give­ness (although many pro­gres­sives were far from impressed by the lim­it­ed nature of such promises).

The Vice Pres­i­dent has also promised to nom­i­nate a female vice pres­i­den­tial can­di­date, rec­og­niz­ing a need for diver­si­ty in the White House. Although there is lit­tle evi­dence that con­test­ed pri­maries hurt can­di­dates in the gen­er­al elec­tion, there is lit­tle doubt that Joe Biden’s team are breath­ing a col­lec­tive sigh of relief.

The for­mer Vice Pres­i­dent did not per­form well in the two ear­ly states. He improved his show­ing in Neva­da, but did not win the state.

Biden’s turn­ing point came in South Car­oli­na, where he won a his­toric vic­to­ry that set in motion in an extreme­ly for­tu­itous series of events: Biden’s most ide­o­log­i­cal­ly sim­i­lar rivals dropped out en masse, while Eliz­a­beth War­ren con­tin­ued to com­pete for pro­gres­sive sup­port with Sanders until after Super Tuesday.

Biden sub­se­quent­ly received received a flood of endorse­ments from impor­tant fig­ures in the par­ty. Final­ly, COVID-19 put an end to the mass events and grass­roots orga­niz­ing that are Sanders’ chief form of campaigning.

Sanders’ 2020 endorse­ment for Biden comes much ear­li­er than his 2016 endorse­ment of Hillary Clin­ton. Four years ago, Sanders vied with the for­mer Sec­re­tary of State almost all the way to the con­ven­tion, and only endorsed his rival in mid-July (although he then cam­paigned for Clin­ton determinedly).

Sanders’ endorse­ment of Biden in April shows how much has changed in the past four years. Back in 2016, the pos­si­bil­i­ty of Trump win­ning seemed incon­ceiv­able to many, but in 2020 most vot­ers believe (at least at this junc­ture) that Don­ald Trump will be re-elec­t­ed. Nei­ther Sanders nor Biden want to take any chances.

With the pri­ma­ry defin­i­tive­ly over, the gen­er­al elec­tion in Novem­ber looms before Joe Biden and the Democ­rats. More than any oth­er year, this is an elec­tion of unknowns: Will the vot­ers reject Trump? Will they accept Biden? How will COVID-19 affect the cam­paign and vot­er par­tic­i­pa­tion? If Trump does lose, will he even admit defeat? Will he even hand over pow­er peacefully?

Joe Biden has an enor­mous task on his hands, but his bur­den may well be light­ened by the sup­port of Bernie Sanders’ camp in the com­ing months.

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