Whatever might be up in the air around the world right now — COVID-19 takes no prisoners — there is one clear certainty: Joe Biden will win the Democratic primary in a history-making comeback. On Tuesday night, Biden shattered any chance of a Bernie Sanders comeback with a landslide victory — the 0.1 percent chance, according to FiveThirtyEight’s forecast.
The expectation is for Sanders to drop out now, and that is the conventional wisdom. But there is a case that should be made for Sanders to remain in the race.
He can push the Overton Window.
The Overton Window is a spectrum of acceptable government policies, and a shift means that the options available have changed, moving in one ideological direction.
To some extent, Sanders already moved the window in a leftward direction. He accomplished that in 2016, with his campaign against Hillary Clinton and the success that followed. At the start of the 2020 race, we saw evidence of that; campaigns almost entirely embraced Medicare for All.
Sanders can shift the window further, staying in the race and demanding leftward movement from Biden. Sanders remaining in the race is damaging to Biden, so Sanders can force Biden to shift on some of the issues most important to him.
Health could take center stage.
As both Sanders and Biden are obscenely old, health is always a factor, and having an alternative option to be the Democratic candidate would be a luxury for everyone — especially with COVID-19 floating around the world.
While Sanders is older than Biden and has already suffered a heart attack this campaign, anything could happen to Biden and having someone already poised with the money and structure to continue campaigning could avoid an absolute crisis. The ideal alternative candidate would be someone under 60 — Amy Klobuchar, Cory Booker, Andrew Yang, Pete Buttigieg — but they’ve already dropped out.
His principles have never compromised before.
If Sanders has been one thing in his decades-long political career, it is consistent. He has rarely — if ever — compromised his ideology and principles. Even in 2016, when the primary was well in the hands of Clinton, Sanders remained in the race.
While staying in the primary could ultimately damage Sanders’ legacy and the Democrats’ chances of winning in 2020 (although that seems in the bag right now, with the economy on the verge of recession), he has never been worried about that before. What he is concerned about is progress and principles, and that shouldn’t compromise today.
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Sanders has lost; that much needs to be accepted by his supporters and the candidate himself. But that doesn’t mean that he needs to drop out.
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