Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders went into the third round of “Super Tuesdays” with little more than a scant hope for a miracle. Already down more than 150 delegates to Joe Biden and staring down an unfavorable map for the rest of the primary season, Sanders’ chances of winning the nomination looked grim indeed. But with heavy losses on Tuesday in Florida, Illinois, and Arizona, the democratic socialist attracted a wave of Democrat criticism; party insiders and pundits are now calling on the senator to give it up, pack it in, and let Biden take the nomination.
“After tonight, with no path to secure the nomination, @BernieSanders should drop out,” former South Carolina state lawmaker Bakari Sellers tweeted. “We should proceed to the mission at hand, beating Trump.”
“Against the uncertainties of staying in the race are several likely, salutary effects of dropping out: less likelihood of chaotic election irregularities, more time for the presumptive nominee to focus on beating Trump, more money with which to do it, and fewer Sanders volunteers putting themselves at risk or squandering precious time and effort on behalf of a lost contest,” wrote The Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf, referencing the coronavirus epidemic.
“Sanders has, of course, built a passionate movement associated with well-defined ideas,” noted Jonathan Chait of NYMag. “It’s not clear what he has to gain by devoting that movement and its resources to the cause of losing a long series of primaries. Deepening the association of Bernie-ism with a failure to accept political reality and disinterest in the Democratic Party’s greater good seems counterproductive to its long-term goals. What possible reason does he have to continue?”
On MSNBC, former Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill said: “I think the conversation is going to quickly turn to how and when does Bernie Sanders unite the Democratic Party. I do think the pressure is going to mount, especially at this time of crisis in this country, for the Democrats to unite behind clearly the voters’ preference.”
The Democrats are scared, of course, that a prolonged primary campaign will only draw more scrutiny on their (virtually) presumptive nominee, who is the last guy in the country who wants that kind of spotlight.
The plan, presumably, would be for Biden to act as a kind of “shadow president” going forward, play-acting the role on television and YouTube so he can convince people that he would be better at handling the coronavirus epidemic than Trump. That could backfire in myriad ways, not least because there’s a world of difference between acting “like” the president and actually being the president; the public is smart enough to know the difference.
The biggest thing Biden could do right now if he really wants to prove himself? Get 100% behind President Trump, offer support in any way possible to the administration, and put any serious campaigning on hold for now. That would actually prove that he’s got the best interests of the country at heart.
What can we say, other than: Don’t hold your breath.