Goodbye, Bernie: what now?
Article by Matilde Monteleone | Illustration by Guido Brualdi
After the defeats in Idaho, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, and especially in Michigan and Washington, and the decisive ones in Florida (22.8%), Illinois (36.12%) and Arizona (32.9%); on April 8, Senator Bernie Sanders announced the withdrawal of his Democratic nomination for the presidential elections, saying that “the campaign may be over but the struggle is not”.
The unexpected withdrawal, due to both the latest defeats and the critical situation linked to the Covid-19, has therefore made Joe Biden the Democratic candidate for the US presidential elections to be held in November 2020. But what does this mean for the American left?
Democratic orthodoxy vs. radical stance
Although on April 13, Sanders unexpectedly declared his support for Biden in a major joint effort to defeat Trump, the ideological differences between the two senators have always been quite clear.
While Sanders, who has always declared himself a socialist, anti-capitalist and statist, has carried out a program to battle the social inequalities that characterize the United States, Biden, on the other hand, represents the emblem of the democratic establishment.
Unlike his former political adversary, i.e. the promoter of social reforms typical of the Left, such as the universal health care system, the increase in minimum income, and guaranteed university fees, it is not a bold claim that Biden lacks such a clear political ideology.
Precisely for this reason, probably, the electoral coalition that emerged in the democratic primaries includes a part of the white suburban middle class, the Afro-Americans and the Latinos, the working class – sometimes defined as obsolete – of the Midwest (hence the nickname of Joe Middle Class), the liberal and the “urban” with culture and non-traditionalist ways of life.
Behind this strategic choice is Obama, with whom Biden collaborated for 8 years as Vice-President. Obama, in fact, has always been in favour of a large center-left coalition as the only weapon to win the presidency, and Biden is the candidate to whom more than any other could be recognized the ability to build such a coalition with the goal of victory.
On the contrary, a radical and revolutionary approach would only significantly reduce the chances of success against the Tycoon. On the other hand, Biden has always claimed to be the only candidate who could really defeat Trump: “Let’s come together and defeat Trump”.
Retrieved from Joe Biden’s Twitter account
Sanders’ mistake, however, was to sacrifice inclusion for ideological purity. Super Tuesday has done nothing but prove these theses, showing how the Democratic voters want a stable and well-versed candidate, not someone who overthrows the establishment.
At this juncture, one has to ask: do the US primaries set themselves as the example of the end of the maximalist left? Is moderating and approaching the center the only way to defeat the populist right?
Several personalities within the Democratic Party have expressed the same perplexities, starting with the parliamentarian Ocasio-Cortez, who attacked her party calling it a conservative-center one, because against public health care on the ”Medicare for All” model.
Another object of attacks against Biden was his controversial stance on abortion, having stated that he didn’t ”think a woman has the sole right to say what should happen to her body” and having voted for the Hyde amendment, which prohibits federal funding for abortion except in cases of rape, incest and when the mother’s life is in danger.
However, while it is clear that Biden is more centre-bound than left-wing, it should be noted that he needs the left-wing electorate to win, now more than ever. Hence, Biden’s mission now becomes that of being able to attract the votes of those who have always believed in Sanders’ challenges, namely, young people and radical movements, without whom the presidency seems far away.
Thanks to the premature retirement of Bernie Sanders, Biden now has seven months to succeed in reaching this target. But will it be enough to defeat Trump?
The polls now give Biden an advantage, but it is still very early to make predictions, not least because, as we know, the electoral system in the US does not guarantee the presidency to the candidate who gets the most votes.
Surely the current health emergency situation is critical for Trump, because, on the one hand, the economy, which has always been his strong point, will suffer a serious collapse. On the other hand, he maintains a position of indisputable power: from the White House he can launch economic policies characterized by huge aids (we are talking about a two trillion dollar plan) and maintain constant communication with the world.
Biden, on the other hand, finds himself having to manage an electoral campaign while isolated in his home in Delaware and with social media (of which he is not an expert) as the only means of contact with his constituency.
Moreover, unlike his opponent, Biden certainly does not stand out neither for his personality and charisma, nor for a particularly appealing electoral program.
So it is fair to say that the game is still completely open, and that the global pandemic and the ways in which it will be addressed will play a very important role for the future US presidency.