On Wednesday, the day after losing four of six states including the crucial state of Michigan, Sen. Bernie Sanders announced he is staying in the race. Good for him, and no, I’m not a supporter.
After that day’s results and Super Tuesday the week before, Sanders is facing pressure to quit so Democrats can unite behind former Vice President Joe Biden.
But only 24 states have voted. In a race where 1,991 delegates are needed, Biden is leading Sanders, 861-710. That’s the equivalent of Biden leading, 17-14, before halftime.
Biden likely will extend his lead on Tuesday, when Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Ohio vote. At that point, the calls for Sanders to drop out will grow even louder. But 22 states and the District of Columbia still will not have voted. Is it really time to shut them out of the process? The score will still be close, and it will still be early in the third quarter.
True, Democratic officials are coalescing behind Biden because they believe he has the best chance of beating President Trump. But remember that it was only a few weeks ago that Sanders was seen as the likely nominee while Biden’s campaign was on life support. What if something happens in the next few weeks that causes voters to once again find Biden lacking, as they did in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada?
Continuing the athletic analogy, presidential campaigns are not a 100-meter sprint where the goal is to determine a winner as fast as possible. They’re a marathon meant to determine who has real staying power. The next president of the United States apparently will be either Trump, Biden or Sanders. Even if it’s not Sanders, he will serve a useful role in testing whether Biden can, first, win, and second, handle the job.
In announcing his intentions to stay in the race Thursday, Sanders vowed he would challenge Biden in their Arizona debate Sunday by specifically asking him how he would address a list of issues: about medical debt bankruptcies, high health care expenses and health care not being a “human right”; about climate change; about college and trade school availability and student loan debt; about mass incarceration; about the country’s “inhumane” immigration system; about childhood poverty and homelessness; about the concentration of wealth in the hands of a very few billionaires and the power that gives them to buy elections.
Regardless of your feelings about Sanders, these are legitimate questions to ask in an election, and I hope Sanders has the chance to ask them of Biden. Meanwhile, I hope Biden has a chance to ask some questions of Sanders, the most obvious being: How are you going to pay for all of your government solutions?
Americans can all agree that the United States these past few decades has fallen far short of the Constitution’s stated purpose of forming “a more perfect union.” We are, in many ways, becoming more imperfect.
Sanders’ solution, a lot more government, is a potential approach, and he’s articulated it more successfully than anyone else. Biden’s traditional Democratic Party approach, vaguely more government than we have, is another. Then there’s the Republican approach, which is to have vaguely less government in theory but not so much in practice. There’s also the Libertarian approach, which is to have much less government. My approach – having only the government we’re willing to pay for so we don’t indebt ourselves and future generations – never seems to get much traction.
Regardless, it’s the middle of March. There’s no reason to limit the debate to only the second approach vs. the third, to Biden vs. Trump.
So stay in the race, Bernie, until someone finishes with 1,991 delegates and wins the game. At this point, it’s only 861-710, or 17-14 before halftime.