Editorial: Bernie wins if he plays ball
Give Sen. Bernie Sanders credit. After his shellacking in Tuesday’s primaries — in which former vice president Joe Biden won in four or five of the six states, including a trouncing of Sanders in Michigan, 53-40 percent, and blowouts in Mississippi, Missouri and Idaho — Sanders chose to remain quiet. Rather than issue a fiery commentary or create excuses, he left the space open for Biden to claim victory, which he did with grace.
Furthermore, in comments to the press this Wednesday, while Sanders announced he would continue his race for the Democratic primary nomination through next Tuesday’s primaries in Florida, Georgia, Illinois and Arizona, he sounded as if his real aim was to press this major campaign points in a one-on-one televised debate with “my friend Joe Biden” in Phoenix this Sunday. He went on to say he would press Biden on answering several key questions, including issues related to Medicare-for-all legislation, student debt, climate change, medical debt and so on. He laid out the questions he would ask Biden, as if he were setting him up four days in advance so Biden could be well-prepared for the answers.
Why? Because, it would seem, if Sanders is going to support Biden and bring his army of energetic volunteers with him, he needs Biden to carry the torch on these issues.
Make no mistake, Sanders will press his campaign points hard in Sunday’s debate. He’ll explain until he’s red in the face why he is the better candidate to take on Trump, and he’ll make a big deal about his campaign being able to attract America’s young adults — the future of the party and of the country. And he’ll want the Democratic Party to recognize that if Biden falters, he’s the best candidate to take his place.
But mainly, if things go Biden’s way next Tuesday, Sanders is making the case that he wants Biden to forcefully embrace his key issues in exchange for bringing that youth and energy to the Democratic ticket.
As well he should.
It’s also how Sanders wins. If he uses his grassroots campaign and enthusiastically helps Biden defeat Trump, keep the House and flip the Senate, Bernie could get his share of the credit for Biden’s victory — and either a place on the cabinet or a prominent position in the Senate leadership.
As importantly, he will have moved the party’s and the country’s politics significantly toward the center-left over these past two election cycles. In terms of modern political history, that’s no small feat for any candidate, but particularly not from someone who has acted as a political outsider for much of his political life, and hailed from such a small state.