Since Super Tuesday, one after the other, the arms of the corporate media and Democratic establishment have been calling for Bernie Sanders to drop out. While it is true that his path to victory has greatly narrowed (there’s no sugarcoating it), right now is not the time for him to leave the stage.
Had circumstances been different, perhaps it would have been – but currently, the chances of a victory are higher than they would have been otherwise:
Time to campaign
Seven states have as of now postponed their primaries, giving Sanders more room and time to campaign and make his case to voters. He needs to be able to make the most of it to win on policy, prove himself as the more electable candidate, and appeal to Joe Biden voters to change their minds.
Next few states are good ones
The next scheduled primaries are on the 4th of April when Alaska, Hawaii and Wyoming vote – all of which Sanders won last time. Wisconsin, which Sanders also won, comes three days later. He can also expect to do well in the subsequent primaries at the end of April – Puerto Rico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island (not to mention Kentucky, Indiana, Kansas and New Mexico).
Cutting the gap in national polls
Sanders has been cutting Joe Biden’s lead in national polling fast. In a few days, he was able to close a 21-point gap at 9 points among registered votes, and down to 2 points among all voters. The catch is, of course, that half the states have already voted.
The Coronavirus crisis has completely changed the political landscape, news coverage and concerns of voters. This provides Sanders the unique opportunity to show great presidential leadership in the way Franklin Delano Roosevelt was able to project in the midst of the Great Depression, as did Obama in 2008. Policy-wise, he can easily differentiate himself from the Democrats (and Biden) and from Republicans.
Donald Trump’s approval rating at handling the crisis has risen to from a high 55% last week to a huge 60%, and Joe Biden seems to be missing this week altogether. Trump's overall approval rating has reached an all-time high of 49%. Only Sanders can provide an alternative that could stem Trump’s rise in the polls. Polls from swing states show that head to head, voters trust Trump over Biden on coronavirus, but Sanders over Trump for the same. Biden and Trump are tied in national polls too, thanks mostly to independents. In this scenario, Biden cannot beat Trump as earlier believed.
The economy is no longer “doing great”, clearly and Trump’s entire economic appeal was growth, stock market and jobs – none of which will be seeing a positive trend within the next year. Trump has nothing to offer, and nor does Biden. Voters trust Sanders on the economy and trade, and his proposals directly help both the standard of living of voters and the economy – healthcare regardless of job status, infrastructure jobs package, jobs in clean energy through the Green New Deal, affordable housing, cancelling student and medical debt, unemployment insurance, direct relief payments, and bailing out the ordinary American to keep demand steady.
Sanders has been doing the needful, with digital town halls, pushing for his coronavirus plan, fundraising millions for charities and putting his volunteer force to work on the crisis, while Joe Biden has been more or less missing over the past week.
Digital Operations and Social Media
While large rallies, multiple events a day and an unprecedented volunteer canvassing corps were the signature aspect of the Sanders campaign, it isn’t like their digital operation isn’t top-notch either, and far ahead of other campaigns, present and past – whether it is digital content creation, social media presence or digital outreach. The campaigning going digital only strengthens Sanders’ hand.
Sanders has by far the most followers of any American politician not named Trump or Obama. He also has an even, cross-platform social media reach – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Twitch, YouTube and Tiktok.
His campaign is constantly live-streaming rallies, press conferences, town halls, interviews and round-table that millions tune into in real time, and his media team is constantly churning out videos and ads at a high frequency, with enough engagement for even the least successful ones to be considered statistically viral. They even have a newsletter and a podcast. Bernie has effectively and successful created his own alternative media – outpacing even traditional news outlets when it comes to video viewership. However, Sanders will need coverage on cable news to reach older voters better.
The use of distributed organizing has truly revolutionized campaign voter outreach – and Bernie 2020’s use of it has bordered on abuse. Sanders has a huge army of phonebankers and texters who are comfortable working from home to help the campaign overrun the voter list. The texting team consisted of around 12,000 people in early February. It has now grown to over 35,000. Sanders has a huge advantage in organizing volunteers, get-out-the-vote efforts, voter outreach and organizing political action, as compared to Joe Biden.
Delegates to the convention and platform
If the idea is to gain as many policy concessions as possible and truly progressive platform, the Sanders campaign needs as many delegates as it can get to be able to place the maximum possible members on the Platform Committee as well as the rules committee. No informal undertaking given by the Joe Biden campaign can be as reliable as directly drafting the platform itself.
Respecting voters that will decide the general election
Young voters, independents and Latino voters are crucial to a Democratic victory in the November general election, and they still overwhelmingly support Bernie Sanders. While Sanders wasn’t able to turn them out at the same rate as older Democrat voters turned out for Biden, Biden was not able to turn them out at all, except Latino voters in Florida – a huge liability in the future.
Letting the youth vote – if they don’t get their chance, they wont come in November
It is absolutely imperative for the youth, and even voters up to 45, to have their voice heard throughout the primary. They must be allowed to vote. If they don’t get their chance, they might not show up in November. Biden, Neera Tanden, their allies and the Democratic leadership have no right to take away their opportunity to vote for who they want in the primary – it is the only way for young voters to speak out that can shake the party – and cancelling that can in no way lead to a positive outcome for Biden.
Primary voting and public safety?
Several Democrat guest contributors on MSNBC, CNN and constantly on Twitter, along with Biden-Warren allies have been peddling the myth that it is because of Sanders not suspending his campaign that people are facing the risk of voting. The Chair of the New York Democratic Party, Jay Jacobs, even stated that the New York primary could be cancelled if Sanders steps back for good. Patently untrue. Lying to the public is not something that should be taken lightly.
On the other hand, Neera Tanden, Symone Sanders (top Biden staffer, on CNN) and others even urged people to vote on March 17, while Bernie didn’t.
It’s not like the burden is on Bernie, there is voting on downballot primaries and measures happening too. Bernie dropping out won’t cancel those elections, or reduce voter risk in any form. Postponing the primaries and switching to mail-ballots, however, would – and this is something the Sanders campaign should be pushing for.
All is not over, and the American people need a working class hero right now in this crisis.
The author is a PhD research scholar in Modern and Contemporary History at Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, India, student activist and also an independent journalist and contributor to various media portals.