Vote Blue No Matter Who?: Evanston residents weigh in on the current state of the 2020 Democratic race


Illustration by Isabelle Sarraf

The 2020 Democratic race began with the most diverse group of candidates in the nation’s history. As the field narrowed, the absence of racial diversity was as evident as that of policy proposals.

Isabelle Sarraf, Development and Recruitment Editor

In February, the Democratic Party of Evanston announced the group would not endorse any presidential candidate ahead of the primary. Members of DPOE failed to reach a consensus, the group had said. Now, the most diverse group of candidates in the field has shrunk to one presumptive nominee — a 77-year-old white man.

On March 17, about 58 percent of Cook County voters cast their ballots in the Illinois primary for former vice president Joe Biden, while 38 percent voted for U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Turnout this year was down 25 percent from the 2016 primary, following pressure on state officials to postpone the election due to COVID-19 social distancing measures.

The Super Tuesday domino effect

Debra Shore, an Skokie resident and commissioner of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, had previously endorsed Pete Buttigieg, former mayor of South Bend, Ind., and vouched for his candidacy at DPOE’s February endorsement meeting. Though Buttigieg dropped out of the race two days before Super Tuesday, Shore said his overall performance in the race spoke to his talent and the salience of his message. Had the former mayor been declared the clear winner of the Iowa caucuses, she said, he might have gained more traction in the weeks ahead of Super Tuesday.

Buttigieg announced his support for Biden on the eve of Super Tuesday, a move that Shore said she respected because it consolidated support around the leading moderate candidate. The only drawback to the rest of the candidates — including U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg — dropping out of the race and endorsing Biden, she said, was that it took the excitement and competition out of the presidential race.

As coronavirus concerns led organizers to postpone the Democratic National Convention to August, Shore said the pandemic has shifted media attention and momentum away from both Biden’s candidacy and the presidential election in November.

“It also could be that Biden would announce his choice for a vice-presidential candidate in August. That will get him some attention,” Shore said. “He might even name some prospective cabinet members. There are different ways to grab the mic, and we’ll just have to see.”

The case for Joe Biden

Jill Wine-Banks, an Evanston resident and Biden delegate for the 2020 Democratic National Convention, said she believes the primaries are “basically over.” Though Sanders said, upon the suspension of his campaign, that he would keep his name on the ballot for the remaining primary contests, Wine-Banks said there is no technical way any candidate can receive enough delegates to oust Biden as the nominee.

When deciding her vote early on in the race, Wine-Banks said she chose Biden because she believes he can beat Donald Trump. Biden’s strong appeal toward the middle of the party, independents, swing voters and Republicans who are “disgusted” by the current administration are crucial for securing a win in November, she said.

“I liked a lot of the candidates — I think we had a plethora of qualified, good people — but I felt like Biden was the one who could win the electoral college,” Wine-Banks said. “That’s what it really comes down to.”

Policy over party alignment

Meg Welch, an Evanston resident and Sanders delegate for the 2020 Democratic National Convention, said she and many Sanders supporters were “dismayed” by his endorsement of Biden, which came days after Sanders suspended his campaign. She said it didn’t seem like Biden made many concessions to support any of Sanders’ flagship policies, such as Medicare For All.

“It’s not about Bernie,” Welch said. “People are despondent because the implementation of policies that he was fighting for literally means life or death for some people.”

In the wake of COVID-19, Welch cited a piece in The New Yorker titled “Reality Has Endorsed Bernie Sanders” to express her sentiment. She said it is now clear, through the principle of community spread, that one person’s health can directly affect the health of everyone that person contacts. With employers not granting workers enough sick days, low-income people working while sick and healthcare access tied to employment — in a time of increasing unemployment — Welch said the lack of universal healthcare in America poses a public health disaster.

As a Sanders delegate, Welch said it was important that Sanders announced he would remain on the ballot because the move allowed his progressive agenda to keep its seat at the national Democratic table.

Even though Sanders endorsed Biden, Welch said she believes many Sanders supporters will not vote for Biden in the primary, because many of them feel disenfranchised by the Democratic party. She said some Sanders supporters intended on voting for Sanders not because he ran under the Democratic ticket, but exclusively in response to his progressive policies.

Welch added that differences between the candidates matter, and that coalescing Democratic candidates under Biden’s wing erases the efforts the progressive movement made over the course of this election cycle.

“‘Vote Blue No Matter Who’ doesn’t work. It’s not effective,” Welch said. “What is going to be effective is real negotiation and concession on policies that materially benefit ordinary people.”

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Twitter: @isabellesarraf

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