Biden beat Bernie. But so did the pandemic.

In this story, the Biden consolidation will be a subplot in the drama of contagion, the story of an America slowly awakening to the scale and scope of the coronavirus threat, and his swift victory will be placed in the same category as universities canceling classes and sending students home, or airports and tourist attractions emptying — all of them examples of a flight to safety, the surrender of grand plans and big ambitions in favor of a desire to just survive. Michigan voted for Biden overwhelmingly for the same reason that both Biden and Sanders canceled rallies just before the vote — because this is now the coronavirus election, against whose stark existential stakes all normal political battles must give way.

In this telling Sanders has less agency: There might have been more he could have done to reassure Democratic voters ideologically, but there was no way — even with Biden’s age and verbal stumbles — for a consummate outsider like the Vermont senator to portray himself as the most plausible choice to deal with such a mortal threat. Biden’s link to Barack Obama, in particular, gave him an insuperable advantage as the candidate of putting People Democrats Trust back in charge, and no clever socialist argument that Medicare for All would make it easier to take care of coronavirus patients was going to overcome the former vice president’s safe-choice status.

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