Now that U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders has ended his pursuit of the Democratic presidential nomination, he should rally his supporters to focus on beating President Donald Trump.
Former Vice President Joe Biden is clearly the nation’s best chance at healing from the pandemic and civic strife stirred by Trump’s first term. The Times editorial board endorsed Biden ahead of Washington’s March 8 Democratic primary, after first supporting U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar.
Biden will be a formidably qualified candidate to restore honor, accountability and leadership to the nation’s highest office. Sanders, too, once received this editorial board’s backing — four years ago in the 2016 nomination process — for his energetic challenges of corporate control of American politics and governance. These messages resonated strongly with Washington voters. Sanders came within 22,000 votes of beating Biden in the state primary, after handily leading the Democratic field in donations here. Those fervent supporters should make a difficult but necessary pivot to help Biden.
Between now and Election Day, voters need to hear more from the Vermont senator. He remains a resonant voice for the powerless. His millions of supporters deserve his guidance about how the nation can best move forward. That means holding up Biden’s long history as a senator and vice president who shaped national policy, across decades, to help the underserved and underprivileged.
While some Sanders critics contend he remained in the 2020 race too long, his tenacious fight rallied young voters who are needed in the months ahead. The health of American representative democracy relies on participation from all sectors of society, and for decades getting young adults to register and vote has been a longstanding civic deficiency. Academic studies in the U.S. and Denmark have found that civic engagement by young people creates lifelong voters. The Democratic Party he ran to lead — without ever joining — must take a hard look at building bridges to this fresh crowd.
Sanders energized masses of young voters by saying progress is within reach. Biden must now show their voices count. Wednesday, Sanders mapped a path for his followers to demand Democratic leaders address policies he focused on during his campaign. There is little chance the more centrist Biden will fully embrace universal Medicare, basic income and housing for all. Biden succeeded in the Senate by recognizing that politics is the art of the possible. But plans Biden debuted Thursday for Medicare expansion and college-loan forgiveness show how deeply he shares the goal of aiding the economically vulnerable, which is the evidence Sanders backers need to see.
“If we don’t do more than just run on defeating Trump, we’ll end up with another Trump again,” U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Seattle, said Friday. Jayapal, a prominent Sanders supporter, said she will now campaign for Biden.
Supporting a less-liberal candidate may be hard for Sanders die-hards, but as Sanders said Wednesday, Trump is too dangerous to remain in office. The voters and donors who backed Sanders’ mantra of “not me but us” must put their votes and spirit toward the greater good.
Sanders has a unique ability to preach this sermon and should do it.