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Dahleen Glanton: The last thing Donald Trump wants is for Bernie Sanders to endorse Joe Biden. That's why it needs to happen

Dahleen Glanton, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Op Eds

There will be no President Bernie Sanders.

The democratic socialist was the last roadblock to a showdown in November between Joe Biden and Donald Trump. Americans are anxiously waiting for the moment to cast their votes and have their voices heard.

In dropping out of the race on Wednesday, Sanders said he realized that he could not win the Democratic nomination. What was missing, though, was an endorsement of Biden.

That's what America needs most at this moment. And it's the last thing Trump wants to hear. Democrats rallying around a single candidate six months before the election is Trump's scariest nightmare.

Even before the coronavirus pandemic struck, most Democratic voters had signaled to Sanders that they didn't want him as president. Since the South Carolina primary in February, they had formed a united front behind Biden.

On Wednesday, Sanders indicated that he had gotten the message.

"We are now some 300 delegates behind Vice President Biden, and the path toward victory is virtually impossible," he said in a livestream video to his supporters.

Having pursued the White House before, Sanders is not a candidate known for bowing out of a presidential race gracefully. Something much stronger than the realization that he could not win compelled him to step aside.

It was Trump himself.

"As I see the crisis gripping the nation, exacerbated by a president unwilling or unable to provide any kind of credible leadership and the work that needs to be done to protect people in this most desperate hour, I cannot in good conscience continue to mount a campaign that I cannot win and which would interfere with the important work required of all of us in this difficult hour," Sanders said.

Sanders likely watched Trump bungle the coronavirus response and decided that the American people deserved better. Maybe he chose to remove himself from the equation after watching Trump's daily campaign events disguised as press briefings.

Perhaps he saw the long lines of people in Wisconsin on Tuesday braving the rain and risking exposure to the deadly virus to cast their vote in the Democratic primary and realized that enough is enough.

Whatever his reason, Democrats should be grateful. But his withdrawal from the race is not enough.

Sanders acknowledged that some of his supporters would disagree with his decision. Some want to see him continue fighting until the last ballot is cast at the Democratic convention, he said.

Those are the people Trump is depending on.

As long as Sanders appears ambivalent about Biden as the party's nominee, Trump has an opening to try and convince Sanders' supporters that Biden and the entire Democratic Party are their enemies. Sanders has the power to shut down Trump's divisive message before it does irreparable harm, if he wants to.

While Sanders conceded that Biden is the nominee, he plans to remain on the ballot in states that have yet to hold primaries and continue to collect delegates. The move would give him a stronger voice in setting the Democratic platform, but it also allows him to hold the party hostage until he gets what he wants.

A diversity of ideas is important in establishing how the party will move forward. But if Sanders really wants to make sure that Trump doesn't get another four years in the White House, he needs to urge his supporters to go to the polls in droves to vote for Biden.

 

Nothing short of an early, all-out endorsement would suffice -- and it still might not work.

Sanders' supporters are the type of people who march to their own drummer. They aren't easily persuaded to throw their support behind whoever wins the Democratic nomination, just because everyone wants them to.

And they shouldn't. Candidates have to earn the votes of every American.

Biden is experienced enough to know that it will be tough to recruit these essential voters. He has to somehow convince them that he's willing fight for some of the things they think are crucial, even though he might not entirely believe in them.

But he cannot do it unless Sanders' supporters are willing to listen.

The biggest threat to his campaign right now is those Sanders supporters who would rather see Trump in the White House another four years than vote for Biden. He is helpless in gaining the support of anyone who refuses to vote for him out of spite. He cannot convince sore losers that they should take one for the team.

In 2016, 1 in 10 people who voted for Sanders in the primaries against Hillary Clinton voted for Trump in the general election, according to an analysis of exit polls by Tufts University's Cooperative Congressional Election Study.

That amounted to about 1.5 million votes, including about 216,000 in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, formerly Democratic states that went for Trump, the study found.

While the Democratic Party did a poor job of welcoming Sanders' supporters to the fold four years ago, some of the dissension was directly related to Sanders' actions.

He stayed in the race too long, though it was obvious he could not win. By the time he came around and endorsed Clinton, many of his supporters were too angry and disappointed to care.

The good news for Democrats is that 80% of Sanders' supporters said they would vote for Biden over Trump, according to an ABC News poll taken nearly two weeks ago. The bad news is that 15% said they would support Trump, in addition to those voters who might decide to sit the election out.

Nothing short of canceling the election altogether would make Trump happier.

About The Writer

Dahleen Glanton is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune.

(c)2020 Chicago Tribune

Visit the Chicago Tribune at www.chicagotribune.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

 

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