Politico reports, “Joe Biden has rolled up endorsements from four of the largest — and most politically influential — unions in the past 10 days, a show of force that has bolstered his standing as the de facto Democratic nominee for president and dealt a serious blow to Bernie Sanders’ flickering hopes.” (Those unions are the National Education Association, the United Food and Commercial Workers, the American Federation of Teachers and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.)
He is, for all intents and purposes, the presumptive nominee, and yet Sanders announces he is going to stay in the race through New York’s April 28 primary (unless it is moved to June 2 along with others?). He also declares he is ready for the next debate! (There is no next debate scheduled, and the chances the Democratic National Committee would countenance such a ludicrous affair are slim to none.)
Matt Bennett, head of the moderate Democratic group Third Way, tweeted: “This is selfish, stupid, unforgivable. The primary is over, and we are in the midst of a world-historic catastrophe. The president is creating new disasters every day. What the hell is @BernieSanders doing?”
Well, in one sense what he is “doing” is proving his critics right, namely showing himself to be a self-absorbed crank. He wouldn’t get off the stage in 2016, precluding the party’s unification behind Hillary Clinton; he is doing the same now with regard to Biden. He has never been a Democratic Party man. To the contrary, he has spent a good deal of the campaign attacking “establishment” Democrats (i.e., millions of voters who cast ballots for Biden).
What was vaguely pathetic — a defeated candidate unable to give up the stage — now seems a bit unhinged. He lost, doesn’t he know? He needs even more loses to get the hint he will not be the nominee? The longer he stays in, the more feckless he and his “movement” looks, and the less leverage the left will have with Biden, who has already moved into a general election mode. (He is vetting vice presidents and advocating that the convention not be “canceled,” at least not yet.)
The notion that Sanders is there to “discuss” the issues is preposterous given that the only issue right now is the coronavirus. Moreover, that was his excuse for staying in for the debate on March 15, two days before he was crushed in Illinois, Arizona and Florida. Haven’t we discussed the issues for over a year and through 11 debates? To the extent Biden is incorporating his rivals’ ideas, that reflects the handiwork of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), whose bankruptcy and student debt forgiveness proposals Biden has adopted.
Biden is now the titular head of the Democratic Party (along with Speaker Nancy Pelosi). He advocates for the party’s positions in Congress (e.g., enacting vote-by-mail for 2020) and carries not only his own message (Trump blew it and cost lives by not acting sooner on the coronavirus), but the party’s message (the bailout must focus on making workers whole, not on bailing out corporations). He remains concerned about electing Democrats up and down the ballot.
The Biden camp declined to comment on Sanders’s announcement or on the prospect of another debate. That’s in keeping with their practice of not poking at Sanders. They have been giving him “space” to decide what to do. I suspect they will ignore him and, in due course, rack up the 1,991 delegates they need. In the meantime, the people most aggravated by Sanders’s obsessive fight to stay in the limelight may be the new generation of left-leaning leaders who are watching him turn the “movement” they want to lead into a joke.