...And ensure the former Veep keeps his promise for 'one of the most progressive administrations since Roosevelt'...
By Ernest A. Canning on 4/24/2020, 11:05am PT  

While it might appear counterintuitive, if a significant number of people vote for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) in the remaining primaries, that could enhance former Vice President Joe Biden's chances to defeat President Trump this November.

Let there be no mistake as to the tactical reasoning behind this assertion.

As observed recently by one of the Left's foremost intellectuals, Prof. Noam Chomsky, the U.S. 2020 Presidential Election will be "the most crucial election in human history." The re-election of Donald J. Trump, whom Chomsky describes as a "sociopath" and a "gangster", would produce an "indescribable disaster." It would threaten the survival of constitutional democracy and rule of law in these United States. Citing the climate crisis and an enhanced threat of nuclear war, Chomsky also argued that Trump's re-election would threaten the very survival of humanity.

It is vital that Trump be defeated. Basic math tells us that the only way sensible Americans --- Democrats, Independents and sane Republicans --- can avert Chomsky's "indescribable disaster" is to unite in support of the Democratic Party Nominee. There is virtually no chance that a third party candidate can win the 2020 election. Disaster cannot be averted by refusing to vote as a form of ill-considered protest.

Basic delegate math also reveals that, as Sanders clearly asserted, Biden will be the nominee. He offered that assessment, first, when he announced his decision to suspend his campaign and, again, during a joint, must-watch livestream endorsement. (See video posted below).

In Chomsky's view, there are "many enormous differences" between the presumptive empathetic Democratic Party Presidential Nominee and the "sociopath" who now occupies the White House.

As demonstrated by the President's asinine and unlawful decision to cut Congressionally authorized funding of the World Health Organization in the midst of a deadly global pandemic, Trump is impervious to either legality or political pressure. That stands in stark contrast to Biden, who, over his decades-long tenure on the Senate Judiciary Committee, demonstrated a basic commitment to the rule of law, and who, per Chomsky, can be "pushed" to accept a progressive agenda.

So why does a vote for Sanders now help Biden win this fall?...

Win-Win

Sanders's decision to both endorse Biden and to remain on the ballot in the remaining primaries has created a potential win-win scenario. The decision allows voters to safely exert political pressure on Biden in order to secure a commitment to concrete progressive policies that will meet the needs of the many, create a more just, egalitarian democratic society and serve to help fend off a climate catastrophe. If primary voters elect a maximum number of Sanders delegates to the Democratic National Convention, it enhances the likelihood that the Convention will produce a robustly progressive platform. Because those progressive policies are immensely popular, a large number of votes for Sanders in the remaining primaries could also maximize the unity required to defeat Trump, to retain control of the House and to take back the Senate.

Although the livestream endorsement video reveals that Biden is astutely cognizant of the politics-driven need to advance a progressive agenda --- he proclaimed that his administration would be the most progressive since FDR occupied the White House --- there are reasons why a significant number of votes for Sanders in the remaining primaries will be needed to ensure that Biden emerges from the Convention, backed by a unified Party

Progressive policies bridge the generation gap

There's a dangerous and acute ideological divide between progressive voters under the age of 45 and neoliberal "centrist" Democrats.

Biden, according to Waleed Shahid, the Communications Director for the youth-dominated progressive organization, Justice Democrats, "lost under 45 votes in nearly every state by double digits." Citing a recent Monmouth poll [PDF], Shahid adds that the former Vice President is currently "tied with Trump among voters under 35." That poll, if accurate, is especially ominous because it doesn't account for eligible under 35 electors who might either vote for a third party candidate or simply fail to cast a vote.

Justice Democrats is but one of a bevy of youth-dominated progressive organizations that submitted an open letter to the presumptive Democratic Party nominee. The content of that letter accords with the immortal words uttered in 1857 by the former slave-turned-abolitionist, Frederick Douglass: "Power concedes nothing without a demand."

The groups argue in their letter that concrete progressives polices --- as opposed to mere lip service towards a progressive agenda or Biden's call, during the primaries, for a "return to [the] normalcy" of the Obama years --- is imperative to motivate support from their members. Their "energy and enthusiasm", they argue, will be needed "to win up and down the ballot in November"...

For so many young people, going back to the way things were "before Trump" isn't a motivating enough reason to cast a ballot in November. And now, the coronavirus pandemic has exposed not only the failure of Trump, but how decades of policymaking has failed to create a robust social safety net for the vast majority of Americans.
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[W]e grew up with endless war, skyrocketing inequality, crushing student loan debt, mass deportations, police murders of black Americans and incarceration, schools that have become killing fields, and knowing that the political leaders of today are choking the planet we will live on long after they are gone. We've spent our whole lives witnessing our political leaders prioritize the voices of wealthy lobbyists and big corporations over our needs. From this hardship, we've powered a resurgence of social movements demanding fundamental change. (Emphasis added).

They go on to inform the former Veep that he must "earn" their support with a real commitment to a series of progressive policies. Their demand is consistent with the advice offered by Rep. James Clyburn, (D-SC), whose endorsement, more than any other, provided a launch pad for Biden's ensuing electoral victories. Biden, in Clyburn's view, should "incorporate as much of the efforts of Bernie Sanders as he can."

Biden's mixed-bag response

Much of what was said during the joint Sanders/Biden endorsement discussion suggests Biden understands these concerns and the need to "earn" progressive support.

Biden, whose ability to reverse his previous neoliberal positions has been practically and intellectually enhanced by the catastrophic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, said that his would be the most progressive administration since the White House was occupied by Franklin D. Roosevelt. He praised unions; explicitly supported Sanders' call to raise the minimum wage to $15/hour; openly challenged income and wealth inequality*; proposed making community colleges tuition free for all; public colleges tuition free for anyone earning less than $125,000/year; a minimum of $10,000 in student debt relief; and total cancellation of student debt for those misled by private for-profit colleges. He pledged to support comprehensive immigration-, racism- and criminal-justice reform. Biden's comments on the need for sustainable green infrastructure projects suggest he will support a Green New Deal. He also praised Sanders' slogan, "not me, us", which entails a tribute to the bottom/up, democratic basis for the "political revolution" long sought by the Vermont Senator.

Biden was receptive to the core message he received from that bevy of youth-dominated progressive organizations. "We can't just build back to the way things were before," he told Sanders. "That is not good enough. We need to build for a better future. That is exactly what these task forces, yours and mine, have been put together to focus on."

The task forces he referenced entail six policy working groups from staffers in both campaigns, who will separately focus on healthcare, education, the economy, criminal justice, immigration and climate change.

Of course the devil will be in the details of the concrete proposals that emerge from those working groups. Continued pressure via support for Bernie Sanders in the remaining primaries is therefore warranted, especially after Biden offered a separate healthcare pronouncement that gives rise to concerns that the policies produced by the groups could fall well short of the expectations of those voters under 45.

Shortly after Sanders suspended his campaign, but before the joint televised endorsement --- against the backdrop of exit polls which revealed majority supported for Medicare for All in states that have already voted --- Biden offered a concrete proposal to lower the age of Medicare eligibility from 65 to 60.

Biden's over 60 eligibility proposal immediately drew harsh criticism not only from Sanders' supporters but also from the single-payer advocates at Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP). Susan Rogers, M.D., PNHP's president-elect, derided Biden's proposal as a "so-called 'big' gesture [that] is simply not sufficient to to address the healthcare crisis in the country, especially now that the coronavirus outbreak has paralyzed the economy and thrown millions out of work --- and off of employer-provided insurance."

It was one thing for Biden to rely upon insurance industry disinformation to help secure the nomination; quite another for the presumptive nominee to offer a proposal that would be of no benefit to under 45 voters at a time when the deadly COVID-19 pandemic has exposed life endangering deficiencies in our dysfunctional, for-profit healthcare system --- dysfunctions that occasioned severe shortages of testing, supplies, and the availability of hospital beds and personal protective equipment. Over a span of just two weeks in late March, 3.5 million out-of-work Americans lost their employer-based insurance. Tens of millions have been added to the jobless ranks in the weeks that followed.

In the case of healthcare, the new pandemic-related statistics, coupled with a pandemic-related surge in insurance industry profits (United Health reported $5 billion in first quarter 2020 profits), not to mention the chutzpah reflected by the insurance industry (which announced that they will likely increase premiums by 40%) all provide ample intellectual justification for the joint Sanders/Biden healthcare task force* to set forth a concrete proposal to call for the passage of Medicare for All. Indeed, those factors suggest that Biden would do well to advocate an immediate transformation to Medicare for All, as opposed to Sanders' four-year process that would gradually reduce the eligibility age to 55 in year one, 45 in year two, and 35 in year three. Under the Sanders plan, under 35s would have to wait until the 4th year before they'd be eligible to receive Medicare.

* The disparate economic impacts occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic have also strengthened the case for the Biden/Sanders economy task force to challenge income and wealth inequality head-on. During a relatively brief period, as tens of millions of Americans, sheltering in place, have lost jobs, income and healthcare coverage, Jeff Bezos, already the world's richest man, added $24 billion to his already obscene wealth.

A 'political revolution' for Joe Biden

If a significant number of the electorate express their support for Medicare for All and other concrete progressive policies by casting votes for Sanders in the remaining primaries, that would enhance Biden's ability to provide concrete progressive policies while minimizing opposition to his decision that might otherwise be voiced by the neoliberal "centrist" wing of the Democratic Party. It would also serve to highlight, for the entire electorate, the manifest differences between a Biden administration and the criminal sociopath who now occupies the White House.

Biden's support for Medicare for All would also spell an end to his insurance and pharmaceutical industry campaign funding. That loss, however, could be offset by the same active grassroots support that Sanders received from a large number of youth-dominated organizations. It is the support those organizations offered in their open letter to the nominee. Hopefully, it would also occasion a reversal of the recent Democratic Socialists of America refusal to endorse Biden's Presidential bid.

Even if the concrete policies that emerge from the Biden/Sanders task forces fall short of the ideal, progressives must come together to actively support the Democratic Party nominee. Anything less will lead to an irreparable disaster.

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The full, must-watch Bernie/Biden endorsement video follows...

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Ernest A. Canning is a retired attorney, author, and Vietnam Veteran (4th Infantry, Central Highlands 1968). He previously served as a Senior Advisor to Veterans For Bernie. Canning has been a member of the California state bar since 1977. In addition to a juris doctor, he has received both undergraduate and graduate degrees in political science. Follow him on twitter: @cann4ing