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Biden Needs Bernie, Who Needs Biden: The Democrat's New Campaign Strategy

It feels like just yesterday that the ‘Bernie Bros’ were raging against the establishment, distancing themselves from Biden, and committing themselves to Sanders on Election Day. Now, unity within the Democratic Party against President Trump is forming and Biden is building a coalition strong enough to take on the current administration. After dropping out of the Democratic Primary, Sanders quickly endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden in an at-home live chat for everyone on social media to absorb. By doing so, Sanders may have just heightened Biden’s probability of success by essentially allowing his supporters to vote for Joe. However, he may have simultaneously sold out the movement that he has been building his entire career.

Whether or not you agree with Sanders’ endorsement of Biden, we all understand why this symbolic act of unity was necessary for the success of the Democratic Party. Sanders, without a doubt, has ruffled a lot of feathers within the party. In modern history, the Democratic Party has enjoyed unity on issues of national concern and the means to solving these problems. Sanders, who is an Independent that ran for the Democratic nomination, leans more left than many establishment Democrats on most issues.

In fact, it was only up until 2016, after Barack Obama served two consecutive terms, that the Party appeared to agree on every single issue. During the 2015-2016 Democratic Primary, Sanders illuminated differences within the Democratic Party that were strong enough to disrupt the perfect harmony that they were gliding on during the past two election cycles. He proposed, on the national stage, that the government was capable of doing more to combat the issues that our country is facing today, and has the constitutional authority to do more. Prior to Sanders, Democratic voters appeared to believe that the government was currently doing everything that they could to fight our homeland battles. Socialism was not unheard of, but it certainly did not have the national spotlight that it enjoys today.

By disrupting the unity of the Democratic Party, the Sanders campaign unintentionally created factions within the party. Factions in parties are dangerous to the establishment because they spread support among various candidates instead of focusing all support behind one. Factions are more common in the Republican Party. There are Libertarians, Christian Conservatives, Fiscal Conservatives, Tea-Party Republicans, and other interests within the party that spread out support amongst candidates. This makes it difficult for a Republican candidate to motivate voters on Election Day.

The establishment has feared the Sanders movement since its formation in mid-2015. It was obvious from Sanders’ initial announcement that he was going to gain supporters and motivate people to vote who otherwise would opt out. What was not obvious, however, was whether the establishment could motivate these newly registered voters to get behind their selected candidate. I would argue that Sanders put up more of a fight against Hillary Clinton in 2016 than he did Joe Biden during this election cycle.

As we saw in 2016, a divided Democratic Party is a recipe for disaster. What they assumed was going to be a sure-thing for Clinton resulted in the historical nomination of President Donald Trump. Democratic voters, who would otherwise vote blue no matter who, stayed home on Election Day because they disagreed with the Democrat that the Party selected to represent them for the next four years. This was unheard of to the Democratic Party, who previously united in perfect harmony. They had hardly prepared for failure on Election Day because their models predicted success assuming that traditional party voters were going to show up.

This time around, the Party was prepared for the divide that Sanders brings to the campaign. They stacked the primary field with like-minded candidates, mostly fresh faces that could never have possibly gained the national attention necessary to become the President of the United States, who worked together to reduce Sanders’ arguments down to absurdity. All of these candidates, who were obviously going to endorse Biden once suspending their campaigns, lined up on debate stages as one party against Trump. Unbeknownst to Sanders, they also lined up on the stage as one party against him.

As soon as Sanders was gaining headway in the polls, the Party unified against him. One by one, each candidate dropped out of the race and committed their full support behind Biden. Candidates who had previously dropped out due to failed campaigns also began publicly endorsing Joe Biden. In what could probably be argued as one of the biggest plot twists in political history, Sanders went from the presumed nominee to the candidate that overstayed his welcome at the party.

Sanders fought the good fight and stayed in the ring for more rounds than expected. His supporters can at least be grateful that they invested in a candidate that did everything in his power to offer a return. However, once his campaign was suspended and officially ended, he did what every Bernie Bro feared he would: He endorsed Biden. As quickly as day turns into night, Sanders joined Biden on a quarantine conference call that concluded with his full support. Sanders pushed the Biden campaign in the direction of free public college tuition for most people expanding Medicare by decreasing the qualifying age from 65 to 60 years old. Though this is still far from Sanders proposed free college tuition for all, absolute student loan forgiveness, and Medicare for all, he was able to assert key objectives from his platform directly into a Presidential campaign.

Joe needs Bernie if he hopes to defeat Donald in November. He cannot risk falling victim to the Democratic divide; he needs to appeal to Sanders’ supporters by appeasing Sanders. This is a unique move, however. Traditionally, candidates move more center in terms of ideology during a General Election. This is in hopes of gaining supporters across the aisle, furthering their chances of success. Biden, on the other hand, was forced to move parts of his platform further left to center.

This is certainly going to turn off any voters on the right who were considering voting across party lines. The Biden campaign seems to have calculated their options and concluded that motivating the Bernie Bro base to get out and vote in November is far more beneficial than appealing to uncommitted voters on the right. This suggests that the Sanders movement has gained so much traction that it has shifted the way Democratic candidates campaign in the General Election. Instead of moving more to the center, as Barack Obama did in 2008 and Clinton did in 2016, Biden is taking a different approach. This approach may be what wins him the Presidency.

Bernie’s supporters are angry, as would be expected by the sudden change in tone. Biden is exactly the establishment candidate that Sanders warned against. His swift endorsement of Biden appears more dishonest than genuine, more like political theatre than party unity. Did Sanders sell out by endorsing Biden? I think you could argue this point either way. Sanders certainly never showed intention of supporting Biden’s campaign, but that’s because he never indicated that his campaign was coming to an end. He continued to promise to take his campaign until the very end, which would be the Democratic National Convention. Obviously, he ended his campaign much sooner than promised. His supporters were already highly skeptical of Biden. Major influencers on the left pledged to never vote for Biden, even if Sanders doesn’t win the nomination.

It could be argued that Sanders’ supporters should appreciate everything that Bernie has done right up to the very end. He could have continued his campaign. He would have continued to lose primaries to Biden and waste political donations that could be spent more wisely. Instead, he endorsed Biden in return for Biden’s support on a number of issues. He inserted his platform into Biden’s campaign. They now both have mutual value to each other. If Biden wins, Sanders has made progress in his movement. Sanders now has incentive to make Biden the 46th President of the United States.

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