The Progressive Bloc is an opinion column by Contributing Writer Quinton Bradley that discusses politics, society and culture from an unapologetically left-wing perspective.
On Wednesday, Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., announced the end of his campaign for the 2020 Democratic nomination a quarter before noon via livestream. Addressing his supporters, Sanders thanked them for “…helping to create an unprecedented grassroots political campaign that has had a profound impact in changing our nation.”
Perhaps sensing that many of his die-hard followers would feel distraught with the sudden news of the candidate bowing out of the race amidst the 24-hour news cycle of layoffs, skyrocketing numbers of unemployment claims, contagions and deaths all due to the COVID-19 outbreak that has upended the nation and the world at large, the Vermont senator served as a voice of reason, imploring that the fight for a better future doesn’t end with the Sanders campaign.
“As many of you will recall, Nelson Mandela—one of the great freedom fighters in modern world history—famously said that ‘It always seems impossible until it is done,’” Sanders said. “And what he meant by that is that the greatest obstacle to real social change has everything to do with the power of the corporate and political establishment to limit our vision as to what is possible and what we are entitled to as human beings.”
Sanders followed up by mentioning his key campaign proposals.
“If we don’t believe that we are entitled to healthcare as a human right—we will never achieve universal health care. If we don’t believe that we are entitled to decent wages and working conditions—millions of us will continue to live in poverty. If we don’t believe that we are entitled to all the education we require to fulfill our dreams—many of us will leave school saddled with huge debt or never get the education that we need. If we don’t believe that we are entitled to live in a world that has a clean environment and has been ravaged by climate change—we will continue to see more drought, floods, rising sea levels and an increasingly uninhabitable climate. If we don’t believe that we are entitled to live in a world of democracy, justice and fairness without racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia or religious bigotry—we will continue to have massive wealth inequality, prejudice and hatred, mass incarceration, terrified immigrants and hundreds of thousands of Americans sleeping out on the streets in the richest country on Earth.”
Further into the livestream, Sanders did what many were expecting and what many others wished he wouldn’t do: he voiced his decision to end his campaign.
“I wish I could give you better news,” Sanders said, his voice calm and measured. “…we are now some 300 delegates behind vice president Biden and the path toward victory is virtually impossible…I have concluded that this battle for the Democratic nomination will not be successful. And so today I’m announcing the suspension of my campaign.”
Next, the now-former candidate gently addressed the “Bernie or Bust” faction of his supporters.
“I know that there may be some in our movement who disagree with this decision, who would like us to fight on until the last ballot cast at the Democratic convention, I understand that position. But as I see the crisis gripping the nation—exacerbated by a president unwilling or able to provide any kind of credible leadership and the work that needs to be done to protect people in this most desperate hour—I cannot in good conscience continue to mount a campaign that cannot win and which would interfere with the important world required of all of us in this difficult hour.”
Capping off his speech, Sanders looked toward a brighter future for the nation.
“As I hope all of you know, this race has never been about me. I ran for the presidency because I believe that as a president I could accelerate and institutionalize the progressive changes that we are all building together…while the path may be slower now, we will change this nation. And with like-minded friends around the globe, change the entire world.”
Now that the Democratic primary has all but officially been won by former vice president Joe Biden, one question remains: Where does the left go from here?
After the March 10 primaries, which saw Biden expanding his delegate lead in a dominating performance and earning endorsements one after another, any rational person could have seen that Sanders’ campaign was dead in the water. Blame, conspiracy theories and mockery abounded online. Cable news channels were (rightly) critiqued for their obvious bias against Sanders. On Reddit, suspicions about everything from secret backroom deals orchestrated by key moderate Democrats to outright ballot manipulation via the electronic voting booths flooded several subreddits.
On Twitter, the reactions ranged from hopeful optimism to bitter admissions of defeat. The abysmally low turnout among younger voters (one constituent that Sanders had placed his electoral hopes on) was blamed. The sky-high percentage of black voters that supported Biden during the South Carolina primary were blamed. Supporters unwilling to see the writing on the wall conducted far-fetched scenarios and napkin math to plot out Sanders’ supposed path to victory. Some centrists and moderates whose Democratic candidate preferences could have been summed up as “Anyone but Bernie” relished the news as they belittled their more idealistic, typically younger and often poorer progressive counterparts.
A month later, we now find ourselves stuck with Biden—former vice president, former Delaware senator, supporter of for-profit health care and friend of late segregationist Strom Thurmond—as the presumptive nominee.
Was I a Sanders supporter? Yes. Do I like Biden? No. Do I, as does South Carolina Congressman Jim Clyburn—who played an invaluable role in rallying black support for Biden in his state’s primary—consider Biden to be an “honorary Black man”? Absolutely not.
Biden represents everything that we as progressives loathe: corporatism, cronyism and a seemingly pathological penchant for lying compounded with his private appeasements to the wealthy highlighted by one particular instance last year in which he told a room full of rich donors at a fundraiser in New York that he would not “demonize” the rich and that “nothing would fundamentally change” if he were to become president.
And that’s true, in a sense. Nothing would fundamentally change. The working class will continue to be an afterthought in the minds of Democratic elites. The cruel system of for-profit healthcare will continue to flourish and policies such as free public college and free childcare will continue to be scoffed at by Ivy League-educated liberals who make six figures writing opinion columns for well-known legacy publications. Yet, one thing will change:
Donald Trump will no longer be president.
As much as it pains me to agree with the bevy of gated community-dwelling soccer moms and “Vote Blue, No Matter Who” Obama/Clinton/Biden fanatics who prioritize popularity over policy, the past few months alone have solidified just how much of a danger President Trump is to anyone not residing within his inner circle.
Two months prior to the Coronavirus outbreak that has ravaged the nation and taken scores of lives in New York, Trump downplayed the seriousness of the coming threat, at one point even referring to it as a “hoax” being utilized against him in the upcoming presidential election. Only as the death toll began to rise did the president finally declare it to be an emergency, and even then, supporters of his online (many of them proponents of the QAnon conspiracy theory) still contend that the COVID-19 epidemic is either being blown out of proportion or is simply a hoax.
Due to this, thousands of people—mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, sons, daughters and grandparents across the country—have become mere statistics to the current administration. The same administration whose supporters and constituents suggested that working-class Americans “get back to work” in the midst of a deadly pandemic to stabilize a crippled economy.
While a Biden presidency may represent a return to “normalcy,” (i.e., corporations and lobbyists having a heavy hand in the administration’s affairs) a second Trump term will possibly result in a further shifting of the Overton Window so far to the right that the Democratic party and progressives at large will become virtually irrelevant.
A new, more media-savvy incarnation of the alt-right may arise, emboldened by four additional years of a Trump presidency. Abortion rights and the meagerest of government programs that aid the poor may be decried as “socialism.” And the moderates within the Democratic party, always eager to peel off some conservative voters and to not be seen as “radical” by any means will possibly find their niche within the newly established political discourse by adopting more conservative views as the ever-slimming line between establishment Dems and garden variety Republicans will continue to wither into nothingness.
Nationality will replace rationality, the corporate mantra of “profit over people” will grow ever louder and an open white supremacist may even run for congress—and win.
Like many progressives who may read this, I’m no fan of Biden. But we should not view a Biden election as a“lesser of two evils” outcome, but rather a trap door to the growing quasi-fascistic horror show that is the Trump presidency. With a Biden presidency, progressives can at least have some space to fine-tune their policies and talking points and work within the system, as progressive superstar Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez appears to have been doing lately.
Fighting for policies decried as “too expensive” or “impossible” by Wall Street-loving Democrats will be tough enough, do you think the battle will be any easier if far-right thought becomes fully entrenched in mainstream politics?
So in conclusion, vote for Biden if you still plan on voting, but feel no need to do it enthusiastically. Call him out when he lies, criticize him for his positions in the past, bring up his sketchy mental state, frequently mention his support of cutting social security back in the nineties and bring up Tara Reade—one of several women that have accused the former vice president of sexual assault who has all but been ignored by the mainstream media—as much as possible. Pressure the Democrats as much as you can into earning your vote. Don’t let them take it for granted as a means to oust Trump.
If you’re still fuming about Sanders’ loss, take some solace in the fact that as the entire world seems to be crumbling before our very eyes, the upcoming Biden vs Trump debates should make for some quality entertainment as we speed further toward oblivion.