Sen. Bernie Sanders is overdue on an expected decision to exit the presidential race. Once that happens, Democrats must come together and focus on winning the most important election of our time. That kind of language is used to describe elections every cycle, but it’s never been more accurate than today.
President Donald Trump’s first term — including his cruel immigration policies, disastrous trade wars, a belated response to the coronavirus pandemic and the almost-daily flood of vitriol and lies he has poured into America’s political system — has been nothing less than catastrophic. The nation’s norms and institutions cannot withstand another four years under Trump.
Sanders brought some important issues to the table. He should now end his campaign and work with presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden to continue advancing those ideas. And Sanders’ followers should remember the lessons of 2016, when their anger at his primary loss to Hillary Clinton prompted too many of them to sit out the general election. With so much at stake, this isn’t the time to repeat that disastrous protest.
This newspaper recommended Biden’s nomination for multiple reasons, having less to do with the needs outlined in Sanders’ policy positions than with their political viability. Universal health care and free college access sound great in concept, but without a realistic road map to make that happen — both financially and politically — they are nothing but nice ideas.
Sanders’ refusal even to talk about compromise on those and other issues as a way of getting half a loaf instead of none is a key reason why many Democrats who may agree with his philosophy and passion didn’t see him as the best nominee. That and the likelihood that he would repel moderates and disaffected Republicans who will be essential to defeat Trump may explain why primary voters have decisively backed former Vice President Biden.
Biden voters needn’t apologize for seeking out a safe-harbor candidate in these stormy times. And Sanders’ supporters should recognize that their candidate has, in fact, had an impact. Biden’s call for a public option on health care, for example, may not be the all-in approach they favor, but it’s significantly more bold than even the approach of Biden’s former boss, President Barack Obama.
Democrats today widely view health care, education and economic fairness not just as policy priorities but as human rights.
Sanders helped foster that sea change in thinking — and Biden’s ability to work the system and willingness to compromise where needed could help bring that thinking at least partly into reality.
But that can only happen if Biden is elected. Otherwise, we’re in for four more years of going in exactly the opposite direction that Sanders’ movement sought to take us. The senator and his followers must not lose sight of that in November.
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