Why Bernie's still running

As John pointed out last month, nothing much has changed in the Democratic primary race since the last round of primary battles, particularly when it comes to Bernie Sanders’ position. Bernie has continued to insist that he’s in it to win it, despite every available indicator suggesting that he has no viable path to victory. The big question is why he’s hanging around. That was brought up yet again this weekend and both Sanders and his campaign representatives continued to insist that such a path does indeed exist. But they’ve yet to offer any details as to how it could happen. (Politico)

Bernie Sanders insists he has a “narrow path” to the nomination. But he and his aides refuse to say what it is.

A majority of the states and territories yet to vote rejected him in 2016. The national polls don’t offer much hope either — since Joe Biden defeated him in Arizona, Florida and Illinois on March 17, Sanders has trailed him by double-digits in every single national survey…

Sanders’ campaign manager, Faiz Shakir, and senior adviser, Jeff Weaver, have likewise declined to answer questions from POLITICO about what his path looks like. While it’s not yet mathematically impossible for him to win, Sanders would need to amass more than 60 percent of the remaining delegates to clinch the nomination — a mark he’s only hit in two states this year, Nevada and his home state of Vermont.

I don’t think it’s all that tough to figure out what’s really going on in Bernie’s brain. There are two explanations available, one being the line that’s safe for public consumption and the other being the theory that Bernie doesn’t dare speak aloud.

The public-facing explanation comes in two parts, both of which are looking increasingly absurd. First, there’s the hope that Sanders could rally and put together a string of convincing victories in upcoming primaries, assuming enough states are still willing to hold those primaries under the current conditions. There isn’t a single poll out there that suggests a renewed Bernie revolution is on the way, but it’s still mathematically possible, so Bernie will keep saying it.

The second half of that equation, also being repeated by some Sanders surrogates, is that even if he loses, Bernie could collect enough delegates to significantly influence the party platform at the convention. (Again… assuming there even is a convention.) That’s only slightly less likely than a straight-up Sanders victory, but it’s a useful talking point when people badger the ancient socialist about why he’s not dropping out.

Now we come to what I suspect is the real reason that Bernie is hanging around. He still thinks it’s possible that Biden is simply going to collapse, either physically or politically, between now and August and he’ll remain as the last (straight, white, elderly) man standing. This could happen in any number of ways. Joe Biden is every bit as much in the high-risk category for COVID-19 as Sanders is. Or he could run into some other serious health issue, either mental or physical, that would force him to drop out. We don’t want to mention the possibility of Uncle Joe actually expiring, particularly when he’s not the one who already had a heart attack during this campaign, but everything is probably on the table in Bernie World.

Alternately, Bernie may be holding out hope that even if Joe Biden doesn’t bow out of the race of his own accord, the party might remove him. That could, in theory, happen at the convention or even afterward if the DNC goes into enough of a panic over Biden’s continued bouts of forgetfulness and other issues. While it still seems unlikely in the extreme, such a removal would leave Sanders with at least something of a viable claim as the heir apparent. In reality, the DNC would probably still squash him like a bug and pick someone younger and less radical, but it’s probably enough for Bernie to cling to over the course of the summer.