Mr. Sanders has campaigned on a false choice between his radical agenda and a corrupt status quo, so his implication that Mr. Biden could move the nation in a positive direction is a welcome change of tone, and one we hope his supporters rally behind. There are ways short of revolution for progressives to realize substantial achievements, and if Mr. Sanders and his flock look more closely at Mr. Biden’s agenda, they will find much to like.
The former vice president shares almost all of Mr. Sanders’s broad goals: universal health-care coverage, universal college access, tax hikes for the wealthy and fighting climate change, to name a few. That he proposes accomplishing them at a far smaller price for the federal government does not mean he would fail to make a big difference in people’s lives.
On health care, for example, Mr. Biden pitches building on Obamacare, which undersells his plan’s ambition. The former vice president would establish a Medicare-like program that any American could buy into, including those with private health insurance. Low-income Americans would be auto-enrolled. People denied Medicaid access in Republican-governed states would be covered. Subsidies enabling people to afford their insurance would be pumped up. These are plausible means to achieve full coverage and limit costs for the insured.
On climate change, Mr. Biden would rejoin the Paris accord and commit the nation to achieving net-zero carbon dioxide emissions no later than mid-century, with a substantial down payment by 2025. He would insist on legally binding emissions targets and an “enforcement mechanism,” which could be a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade program of the sort Mr. Sanders used to favor. He would reverse the Trump tax cuts to pump $1.7 trillion over 10 years into clean-energy research and deployment. Mr. Biden has a far more detailed international climate agenda than other candidates. His plan would make the United States the global leader in combating global warming that it should have been before.
As for college affordability, Mr. Biden would double the maximum value of Pell Grants, vastly boosting the number of students eligible for federal help, and halve student loan payments. This plan, like the others, lacks the stark simplicity of Mr. Sanders’s proposals, but that is in part because it takes into account complexities that the Vermont senator disregards.
We do not expect Sanders supporters to be pleased that their preferred candidate is losing. But this is not an existential moment for the progressive agenda. Rather, it is a time for Mr. Sanders and his supporters to act on the reality that Mr. Trump, not Mr. Biden, is the real threat to the nation.