Bernie Sanders Should Not ‘Press On’ with His Presidential Campaign

Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks during a rally in St Louis, Mo., March 9, 2020. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

This morning, Politico reports that, while Bernie Sanders has not made an official statement about the state of his presidential campaign, the Vermont senator has “given every indication he’s pressing forward — and perhaps remaining in the presidential race for months to come.”

For all intents and purposes, the Democratic presidential primary is over, Biden won, and even the general election is on hiatus as everyone focuses on more pressing life-and-death matters and economic collapse. Because of various states’ postponing their presidential primaries, no one is counting any ballots until Alaska, Hawaii, and Wyoming do on April 4. Getting voters together at polling places undermines the effort at “social distancing” that the CDC recommends. Sanders’s desire to continue a doomed effort is putting other Americans at risk.

Over on Ricochet, apparently some Three Martini Lunch listeners think I want Sanders to officially quit because it will help Joe Biden and make it more likely he will beat Trump in November. Apparently, the true principled conservative position is to wish Sanders every possible success right up until November 3.

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I like seeing socialists defeated, and I prefer seeing socialists defeated sooner rather than later. I largely concur with Ramesh’s assessment that, even if Sanders would have lost the general election, if he had won his party’s nomination, it would have strengthened the cause of socialism and made it a more mainstream idea in the Democratic Party — it would have moved the Overton Window to the left considerably, if you prefer that metaphor. And I didn’t think Trump was a shoo-in for reelection before the coronavirus.

As a presidential candidate, Sanders has some unique strengths and weaknesses. The cause of socialism could well return on the national scene with a primary advocate who is younger, slicker, from a more populous state, and who doesn’t remind people of Larry David shouting about a botched order of soup. (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will be old enough to run for president in 2028.) A sweeping defeat of socialism now in a Democratic primary — against a rival as flawed as Biden — makes it less likely it will return with a vengeance in future cycles.

Yes, it is better for the Biden campaign if Sanders calls it quits, but at this point Biden could lose every remaining contest by about 10 points and still win the nomination. This primary is effectively over. Sanders is not likely to be a major factor in the general election, short of, say, declaring an independent bid. Right now, the 2020 presidential election is likely to be a referendum on the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus. If the country feels like it dodged a bullet, Trump will get reelected. If the country feels like Trump made a bad situation worse, the country is likely to elect Joe Biden (or whomever the Democrats nominate).

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