On March 10, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders faced off in the first head-to-head battle for the Democratic nomination.
Biden emerged victorious, winning Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri and Idaho. Sanders won North Dakota. At the time of writing, Washington is too close to call, with Sanders holding a slim lead over Biden.
Biden’s victories on Tuesday extended his delegate lead to 150.
Sanders didn’t make a speech on Tuesday night, and his campaign appears to be out of excuses. Last week, they could argue that Elizabeth Warren’s share of the votes cost him wins in Minnesota and Maine.
But Michigan’s outcome undermines the heart of Sanders’ campaign, which is his electability argument with white, working-class voters. He’s been unable to widen his base, and Biden has profited greatly from the support of nearly every former Democratic candidate.
Sanders won Michigan in 2016, and his loss there proves that he was unable to expand his coalition for this election.
Sanders won Washington by more than 40 percentage points in 2016. This year’s results demonstrate that electability is the key factor for voters, who are scared to vote for a socialist candidate who is seen as being too far left. Beating Trump is the number one thing on primary voters’ minds.
Sanders losing the nomination is a tough pill to swallow. His policies would improve the quality of life for nearly every American. He would fight for universal healthcare, universal tuition-free college and raise the minimum wage.
But the same could be said for Elizabeth Warren. Our two progressive candidates were fighting an uphill battle from the start. Though their losses are heartbreaking to millions of Americans, they were able to pull all Democratic candidates a little more to the left.
Sanders’ and Warren’s losses demonstrate a frustrating reality for progressives: young voters are not showing up. Biden has huge success with older voters, and Sanders was relying on Millennials to propel his campaign to a victory.
People aged 39 and younger make up more than a third of eligible voters and are more diverse and liberal than older generations. But, youth turnout has been an average of 19% in primary states.
One reason for the low turnout is that young generations have grown disillusioned with politics. Beyond structural barriers, including gerrymandering and absentee ballots, only 16% of youth voters feel that elected officials care about them.
Without the youth vote, it’s nearly certain that Biden will win the Democratic nomination. Now is not the time for in-fighting. It’s important to remember that Biden would be the most progressive president ever nominated – certainly more progressive than Barack Obama.
He would abolish capital punishment. He would cap carbon emissions. He would expand mass transit, increase taxation on the wealthy, subsidize renewable energy and advocate for student loan forgiveness. He supports decriminalizing cannabis on the national level and would reduce military spending.
Supporting Sanders’ campaign and then refusing to vote for another nominee is entirely unhelpful. We deserve more progressive policies, but the reality is that either Biden or Trump will be elected president. I wish we could expand past a two-party system, too, but we haven’t yet. Don’t let frustration over progressive defeat be the reason Trump is re-elected.
Sanders’ path to victory isn’t impossible – just very unlikely. He needs to win 55% of the remaining delegates. He will likely lose big in Florida and Georgia.
Because Sanders’ defeat seems inevitable, an early coronation for Biden might be the best thing for the Democratic party. Trump has been running virtually uncontested; he’s had months to begin campaigning for the national election in November. Democrats are currently divided and desperate for a Trump defeat. We must rally behind our nominee, whoever it may be.
Once Biden is president, we can get to work fighting for a living wage, universal healthcare and tuition-free colleges. But, all three of those fronts are lost with another Trump term.
Democrats will need to confront the generational divide in our party on health care, foreign policy, climate change and more. However, those fighting for progressive change need to take a win where we can get one. Biden is a win, however minor it may feel. He will move this country in the right direction, one small step at a time.