On April 8, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) ended his presidential campaign, paving the way for former Vice President Joe Biden to become the Democratic presidential nominee. Perhaps the biggest challenge for Biden in the coming months will be unifying his moderate Democratic base and Sanders’ progressive supporters. Motivating young people to vote and to support him in lieu of third-party candidates and President Donald Trump will be vital for a Biden victory in the fall.
To unite Democrats, Biden supporters and campaigners must push Biden to adopt policies that were central to Sanders’ campaign to earn the vote of Sanders’ supporters in the general election. They should refrain from engaging in accusatory language, such as blaming Sanders supporters for their decision to sit out of this election.
Many Sanders supporters seem reluctant to back Biden against Trump. Polls from January and February found that only 7% of Sanders’ supporters would be “enthusiastic” about supporting Biden in the general election and a mere 31% would be “comfortable” with supporting him. While a poll from March found that 82% of Sanders’ supporters would vote for Biden over Trump, there is still a substantial amount of voters hesitant to back Biden, especially considering they will be less inclined to vote.
The hashtag #NeverBidenNeverTrump recently trended on Twitter, revealing that many avid Sanders supporters view Biden as no better than Trump and are likely to sit this election out. Their sentiments warrant consideration: Tara Reade’s sexual assault allegation against Biden, Biden’s faulty Senate voting record and the millions of deportations of illegal immigrants under the Obama administration leave many voters questioning why they should support Biden in the 2020 election.
Supporters of Biden should aim to appeal to Sanders’ base by emphasizing what Biden can do for the progressive movement in the future. Biden has recently taken pivotal stances to earn progressives’ trust, such as lowering the eligibility age for Medicare to 60 and making public colleges and universities tuition-free for students whose families earn less than $125,000 a year. Additionally, his pledge to only deport immigrants who have committed felonies in the U.S. affirms his shift left and indicates that immigrants would fare much better under Biden, given Trump’s horrific immigration track record.
While these proposals fall short of Sanders’ lofty goals of universal health care, Biden’s willingness to listen to Sanders supporters indicates that the progressive wing would thrive more strongly under a Biden administration than four more years under Trump. Sanders supporters will find that they have more to gain from a Biden administration than they initially thought in spite of its clear drawbacks.
Sanders has made it clear that he intends to push Biden further left. Despite suspending his campaign, he intends to remain on the ballot in every remaining state to gather delegates, which could allow him to influence the party’s platform at the Democratic National Convention in August. In regard to their individual campaigns, Sanders and Biden have tried to find common ground in policy that can motivate Sanders’ base. These moves will prove instrumental in optimizing Biden’s platform for the general election. This negotiation indicates the influence progressives will have over Biden if he takes office — making it easier for them to organize and push for reform.
Democratic voters, we must push Biden further left if we hope for him to gain traction among young voters and defeat Trump. Throughout Biden’s career, he has consistently shifted leftward, and he can continue to do so by affirming his commitment to the legalization of medical marijuana, adopting more policies that tackle economic inequality or raising the national minimum wage. These policies would appeal to progressive voters but are also generally supported enough that they wouldn’t alienate moderate voters. To mobilize voters considering sitting out this general election, Biden must adopt more leftist ideals and policies. His efforts to defeat Trump depend on it.
Sanders’ progressivism and bold calls for action earned him a loyal and spirited base. To defeat Trump in the fall, Democrats need to mobilize and unite voters, progressives and moderates alike. As the general election approaches, we must remember the pivotal issues that embolden Sanders supporters to fight for change, and we must advocate for Biden to adopt more progressive policies. Cooperation will bring unity and victory — if we resort to alienation and blame, we’ll play right into Trump’s hands.
Brammhi Balarajan (23C) is from Las Vegas.