After former Vice Pres. Joe Biden’s big win in Michigan, it looks unlikely that Sen. Bernie Sanders will face Pres. Donald Trump. On Feb. 22, things looked different. Sanders had just won the Nevada caucus by more than 25 points. The centrist vote was split between Biden, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, and Mayor Pete Buttigieg. As long as these three candidates remained in the race until after Super Tuesday, things were looking good for Sanders.
That all changed one week after the Nevada caucus in South Carolina. Biden easily won the state. After gaining just 8% of the vote, Buttigieg dropped out and endorsed Biden the day after. Klobuchar did the same after performing even worse than Buttigieg. Just one day before Super Tuesday, where 14 states would be decided, the three centrist candidates that were splitting the establishment vote had now all coalesced behind Biden.
These tactics by Klobuchar and Buttigieg are just another example of the inner workings of the political machine that is the Democratic Party. Their decision was not about ideology or principles, but rather about rising through the party ranks. You can be assured that if Biden takes the White House, both former candidates will receive cabinet positions. After Sanders had won the popular vote in Iowa, and then won both New Hampshire and Nevada, the DNC knew that it had to take drastic action.
How could a party that is in bed with the private, for-profit health insurance industry possibly get behind a candidate that wants to end it? How could a party that is in bed with big pharma support a candidate that wants to lower drug prices? How could a party that is in bed with the for-profit war machine support a candidate that wants to end the wars? The answer is clear; the political machine coalesced around Biden to stop a candidate that would attempt to fundamentally change our economic and political system, a system that the party elites and this country’s corporate class benefit from.
The strategy worked as Biden won all but four of the 14 Super Tuesday states, upsetting Sanders in multiple states that he was slated to win. This momentum carried Biden to victory in Michigan, a victory that many argue was the final nail in the coffin for Sanders’ campaign. This, however, is far from true. On Sunday, March 15, Biden and Sanders participated in a one-on-one Democratic debate, the first of the cycle. Biden is horribly vulnerable for two reasons, and Sanders addressed that in the somewhat fiery debate.
First, his record is abysmal. In the 1970s, the former senator voted for legislation that loosened student loan eligibility requirements, only to then side with Republicans in 2005 and vote for legislation that made it almost impossible for these same students to declare bankruptcy on those loans. Its passing is what influenced Sen. Elizabeth Warren into politics. It gets worse. In 1994, Biden helped write the infamous crime bill that included the “three strike law,” a provision that made a profound contribution to mass incarceration. Then in the lead up to the Iraq War, Biden was one of its biggest proponents.
Second, the former vice president is suffering from severe cognitive decline. In September, when asked about the legacy of slavery, Biden said parents should make sure they “have the record player on at night.” In December, the former Senator told a story of how children used to touch his leg hair and how he “loves kids jumping on his lap.” The gaffes and clear loss of cognitive ability will not bode well in a general election against Trump.
The March 15 debate is crucial. If Sanders dominates in terms of exposing Biden’s atrocious record, and if Biden’s cognitive decline is laid bare for all to see, the race could swing back in Sanders’ favor just as quickly as it swung out of his favor. Critically, exit polls showed that most Democrats support Sanders’ agenda, even in states that Biden won. In Iowa, exit polls showed 57% of Democrats supporting a single government health insurance plan for all. That number is 62% in Mississippi, 53% in Tennessee, and 52% in Virginia. This race is not over yet.