This morning we learned that Senator Bernie Sanders has suspended his campaign. Presidential campaigns are famously marathons and not sprints. Last June I began the Election 2020 Chronicles with two Republican candidates and twenty Democratic candidates.
President Trump was always the presumptive Republican nominee but the Democratic field was wide open. Back then the fear among us Democrats was that the field was so crowded they would strangle each other, or to use a popular image, form a circular firing squad. On February 12th I suggested that Bernie may defeat former Vice President Joe Biden and give President Trump the opponent he wanted.
Bernie famously describes himself as a “Democratic Socialist” and that has always troubled me. A Socialist government owns the means of production and all citizens are government employees. Workers are allowed to own property and choose their jobs but there is no private industry. Critics (like me) of socialism believe that, for instance, if the government owned the auto industry we’d all still be driving Model T’s. Without the competition that Capitalism provides there’s no advantage to improve.
This is not what Bernie suggests. He does want Medicare for all, but even Medicare isn’t socialized medicine simply because doctors are not government employees. But the Republican playbook salivated at the idea of running against a Socialist. They would blow fear into the electorate by claiming Bernie would take all of their freedom away from them. It might have worked.
Now comes the next challenge: convincing Bernie’s supporters to support Joe. When Bernie ran against Hillary Clinton in 2016 many of Bernie’s supporters felt they couldn’t support Hillary because the Democratic National Committee conspired against Bernie. Frankly, they had a point.
My hope going forward lies with the warm relationship between Bernie and Joe. I hope that, unlike 2016, Bernie’s supporters will feel better about voting for Joe. If they don’t we may well have another 4 years of Trump.