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Bernie Sanders is not ‘Biden’ time

ColumnMarch 12, 2020
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By Amy Goodman and Denis Moynihan

Former Vice President Joe Biden did well on Super Tuesday II, winning four of the six states in the March 10th Democratic presidential nomination contests: Idaho, Michigan, Mississippi and Missouri. Bernie Sanders won North Dakota, and currently has a narrow lead in Washington, with 67% of votes counted. The cable pundits and Democratic Party elites quickly pounced on the results, demanding Sanders drop out of the race, and calling for an abrupt cancellation of the remaining primaries and debates.

Democratic Rep. James E. Clyburn of South Carolina told NPR, “I think when the night is over, Joe Biden will be the prohibitive favorite to win the Democratic nomination … I think it is time for us to shut this primary down, it is time for us to cancel the rest of these debates.” James Carville, a Democratic operative with decades-long ties to the Clintons, told MSNBC, “Let’s shut this puppy down, and let’s move on and worry about November. This thing is decided. There’s no reason to keep it going but not even a day longer.”

Alicia Garza, an Elizabeth Warren supporter who co-founded the Black Lives Matter Global Network, tweeted, “I couldn’t disagree more … Keep the debates, and make sure that the issues that Black people care about are being discussed. Biden needs to work for these votes.”

Rev. William Barber II, co-chair of the Poor People’s Movement, added, “The Poor People’s Campaign insists primary debates should not end until Biden and Sanders address the poverty that affects 140 million Americans — 52.1% children, 61% of African-Americans and 66 million whites.”

More than 30 state and territorial primaries and caucuses have yet to be held, representing perhaps as many as 40 million Democratic voters. Naomi Klein, senior correspondent at The Intercept, who has formally endorsed Sanders, appearing on the “Democracy Now!” news hour on Wednesday morning, said, “Everybody who is talking about shutting it down in unity are talking about protecting their candidate [Biden] from voters. Donald Trump is not going to ‘shut any puppies down.’ He is going to go after Joe Biden with the gloves off … Joe Biden, before that fateful primary in South Carolina, had been written off by many of the pundits who are now saying that he is inevitable. It has been months since we have put real scrutiny on this candidate with the full spotlight of a presidential debate, and we absolutely have to do it.”

Sanders himself ended any speculation that he would be dropping out, speaking early Wednesday afternoon:

“Donald Trump is the most dangerous president in the modern history of our country … he is a racist, a sexist, a homophobe, a xenophobe and a religious bigot, and he must be defeated, and I will do everything in my power to make that happen.”

Sanders then challenged Biden, offering several questions he intends to ask his Democratic opponent at the next debate — the first head-to-head debate between the two — to be held in Phoenix this Sunday, with no audience due to the coronavirus pandemic:

“Joe, what are you going to do for the 500,000 people who will go bankrupt in our country because of medically related debt?”

He posed ten additional questions, with topics ranging from healthcare, the climate crisis, student debt, mass incarceration, immigration, and his signature issue, wealth inequality and the inordinate political power of billionaires and corporations.

Sanders highlighted two key ways that his campaign is clearly winning: earning the votes of younger voters, and promoting bold policies that are clearly much more popular than the incremental reforms offered by Biden.

Bernie Sanders won more than 3/4 of the votes of 18- to 29-year-olds, and a majority of 30- to 44-year-olds. Latinos also turned out by significant majorities for Sanders. He won close to 90% of the Arab-American vote in Dearborn, Michigan, the Detroit suburb with the highest concentration of Arab-Americans in the country. A clear majority of Democratic voters nationally, despite which candidate they voted for, supports a single-payer healthcare system like “Medicare for All” over the current, for-profit system. This holds true even in Mississippi.

“There was a coalition that could have won, a progressive coalition, and that could still win, but obviously the chances are much slimmer,” Naomi Klein reflected. “It is not about Bernie. People in this movement are not fighting for Bernie Sanders. They’re fighting for Medicare for All. They’re fighting for a Green New Deal. They are fighting for the issues that they need to survive.”

Both Biden and Sanders cancelled their Super Tuesday II evening rallies due to the coronavirus threat. Soon after, Donald Trump announced plans for a large rally in Milwaukee next week. In this time of contagion and crisis, the Democrats should demand more debate and more voter participation, not less, as a vaccine against the science-denying commander in chief who imperils us all.

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