Why now? Bernie Sanders hasn’t had a legitimate path to the nomination in a month. He might have scored better in Wisconsin’s primary yesterday than previously projected simply on the basis of the weirdness of the circumstances. Those results won’t be known for another week, thanks to the preponderance of mail-in voting and a bar on releasing results until those are counted.
Still, Bernie decided to call it quits today, leaving Joe Biden as the last man standing:
Bernie Sanders is ending his presidential campaign, he announced on Wednesday.
The Vermont independent senator’s 2020 bid started off strong. He narrowly missed first place in Iowa before picking up wins in New Hampshire and Nevada. All the while, his campaign continued to rake in millions in small-dollar donations and pack rallies full of supporters as he ascended to national front-runner status amid a crowded Democratic field. …
His campaign officially stalled in South Carolina. Fueled by a crucial endorsement from Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., Biden won the Palmetto State decisively. The moderate wing of the party then consolidated around him — Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg both dropped out of the race and endorsed him — and Biden won 10 of 14 states on Super Tuesday.
That took place five weeks ago. Why not quit then? Sanders insisted that he needed more time to test Biden and to push his agenda. Since then, Biden has hardly established any more confidence in his ability to compete against Donald Trump. Biden’s podcasts have been a disaster, while even his interviews with friendly media have produced gaffes and incoherence. Biden’s COVID-19 arguments have become entirely self-contradictory and have drawn unpleasant attention from fact-checkers over the last few weeks.
This seems like a perfect time for a Democrat to challenge Biden’s capacity and coherence, well before he earns enough delegates to win on a first ballot. Instead, Sanders is picking this point to let Biden alone and to let him challenge Trump on behalf of Democrats, at the very moment when it’s becoming clear that Biden’s not rising to that challenge. Huh?
Perhaps this is just a belated recognition that Sanders wouldn’t get the nomination under any circumstances except a first-ballot victory. The DNC is not about to allow an old socialist crank to torpedo all their down-ballot races by making him the face of the party, not even if Biden starts drooling on his podcasts. Sanders really isn’t serving any further purpose in this primary race, and with the pandemic taking over most of the attention from the public, Sanders has become more or less irrelevant — as is Biden, to a certain extent.
Did the DNC put pressure on Sanders to leave the race, and if so, what did they offer him? Under normal circumstances, they’d promise a prime-time slot at the convention as an inducement, but it’s getting more and more likely that there won’t be any conventions this year. Sanders isn’t exactly a team player anyway, and that kind of offer might have benefited the DNC more than it did Sanders, who won’t be making another credible run for the presidency after this. Even if Democrats do hold a convention, the only benefit that would come from a Sanders speech would be to hold his voters inside the Democrats’ coalition.
Maybe the answer to “why now?” is simpler than that. Sanders could have just tired of his Sisyphus act. Fighting the power is a tough long-term slog for a 78-year-old Soviet/Castro apologist, after all.
Addendum: Donald Trump issued a call for Bernie’s voters to line up behind him as the real anti-establishmentarian:
Bernie Sanders is OUT! Thank you to Elizabeth Warren. If not for her, Bernie would have won almost every state on Super Tuesday! This ended just like the Democrats & the DNC wanted, same as the Crooked Hillary fiasco. The Bernie people should come to the Republican Party, TRADE!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 8, 2020
Update: Politico noted Sanders’ failure to bring new voters into the primaries, as promised:
After proclaiming all year that he would win by increasing voter turnout, Sanders failed to expand his coalition, neither making significant inroads with black voters nor turning out young voters in sufficient numbers to defeat Biden https://t.co/wzAyxtobll
— POLITICO (@politico) April 8, 2020
Update: Sanders claims victory for moving the public from seeing his agenda as “radical and fringe” to the mainstream:
Bernie Sanders says ideas he supported that were once considered "radical and fringe" are now mainstream and being implemented in cities and states across the country https://t.co/9GZS7qcBFb pic.twitter.com/v2HpoeXivy
— CBS News (@CBSNews) April 8, 2020
— ABC News (@ABC) April 8, 2020
If that were the case, though, the party wouldn’t have nominated Biden.