Sanders supporters weigh in on campaign suspension, Biden endorsement


Illustration by Isabelle Sarraf

Sanders’ campaign suspension left his progressive voter base conflicted about voting for a moderate candidate. With former Vice President Joe Biden as the presumptive Democratic nominee, many supporters have mixed feelings.

Tal Schatsky, Reporter

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) suspended his campaign for president in early April, endorsing former Vice President Joe Biden less than a week later.

Sanders’ campaign suspension left his progressive voter base conflicted about voting for Biden, a moderate candidate. Many discussions about what the move meant for both the future of the progressive movement and Biden’s candidacy ensued, both on campus and around the country.

Weinberg sophomore Vanessa Obi, who campaigned for Sanders through NU4Bernie, said she still plans on voting for Biden, but “very apprehensively.”

In the weeks since Sanders dropped out, allegations that Biden sexually assaulted former Senate staffer Tara Reade in 1993 have reached national news outlets.

“I feel very cognizant of the fact that Biden has a lot of sexual assault allegations, that he supported a lot of segregationist policies, and he supported a lot of tough on crime policies, and he supported the war,” Obi said.

Maryarita Kobotis, a Weinberg freshman and the director of communications and public relations for Northwestern College Democrats, is also planning to vote for Biden, but echoed Obi’s apprehension.

Biden’s inconsistent history with traditionally progressive issues like the Hyde Amendment — a legislative provision restricting the use of Medicaid dollars on abortion, which he supported in the 1970s and publicly reversed his position on in June 2019 — contributes to her hesitancy, Kobotis said.

“It’s not a vote for him, it’s a vote for a Democratic administration,” Kobotis said.

Sanders has more of a reputation for consistency, Obi said, adding that he is “very staunch” in his political views. These views include supporting Medicare for All and raising the minimum wage, policies she said she felt especially impacted her as a low-income person of color.

Beyond Biden, Weinberg freshman and member of NU4Bernie Buddy McQuillan said the Democratic National Committee coalesces around moderate candidates, making progressive voters feel powerless.

“A lot of people don’t want to vote for Biden because he’s a typical Democratic establishment candidate,” McQuillan said.

Political science Prof. Laurel Harbridge-Yong said the Democratic Party, compared to the Republican Party, has more superdelegates; therefore, party insiders have more say in the primary process. The party can also coordinate voters through endorsements, she said.

The DNC’s activity could show a preference for traditionally moderate politics, Harbridge-Yong said, but it could also be a strategy for moderate and progressive Democrats alike if the goal is to prevent the reelection of President Donald Trump.

“We don’t know for sure what would happen in the general election, but we have many reasons to believe that Biden would have a better chance in the general election than Sanders,” Harbridge-Yong said, referencing a Feb. 25 Vox analysis.

The analysis found that arguments surrounding Sanders’ electability against Trump relied on “remarkable assumptions” about youth turnout that past elections suggest are questionable.

Still, Obi said the combination of less progressive plans with electoral politics that take power away from the progressive voter base leaves Sanders supporters frustrated. She said Sanders supporters who don’t usually turn out to vote were planning to vote in this election, so it was “disheartening” to see that motivation die down once Biden became the presumptive nominee.

Upon his campaign suspension, Sanders said he plans to stay on the ballot for the remaining Democratic primaries, which could help him sway the Democratic Party platform to consider adopting progressive policies at the DNC in August.

“He has announced that he wants his supporters to support Biden in the general election,” Harbridge-Yong said. “But his vote share and delegate count could be used as bargaining leverage in the leadup to the Democratic National Convention, and the negotiations overriding a platform and pushing for more progressive tenets.”

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Twitter: @BinahSchatsky

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