March 11, 2020

FOX | Play Nice Until This Is Over

Print More

As we receive news this week that our university, along with many others across the country, will be shuttering its classes in a bid to slow the rise of a global pandemic with danger not seen in over 100 years, we are reminded of the need for stable leadership.

For a minute there, we progressives thought we’d had it. Bernie Sanders won the most votes in the first three primary and caucus states, a feat unique in the history of major party competitive primaries. Support for progressive policy was on the rise. The ascendent left seemed poised to at last take our place at the forefront of national government. But as it stands, we are losing the fair fight of the Democratic primary and moving into an election that will be anything but fair. Cries that this process was rigged against Sanders by an establishment elite are foolish, and likely demonstrate a racial blindspot. Joe Biden is surging to the nomination on the overwhelming support of Black Americans exercising a right to choose the nation’s leader, in the face of rampant voter suppression. For the good of the exhausted country and the warming world, Sanders’ and Biden’s campaigns and supporters must drop all attacks and go easy each other.

First, Biden. The former vice president has been pretty good at running a positive campaign thus far. He has strongly stood by the principle of challenging ideas not people, and has always tried to focus his messaging on the end goal of staving off the existential threat of a loss in November. His challenge to the central plank in Sanders’ platform, Medicare for All, has been the old-school critique of its extraordinary cost. I disagree with this concern, as even right-wing think tanks have discovered that said extraordinary cost falls significantly below what our private system currently devotes to health care, but it is by no means disingenuous. Biden’s proposal, after all, would guarantee universal coverage through the creation of a public option.

Biden’s team runs afoul when his surrogates play into the hostilities of the primary. Hillary Clinton’s attacks on Sanders — who at the time was the frontrunner — were both uncalled for and extremely dangerous. Had Sanders carried on to secure the nomination, Clinton’s attacks would be efficiently converted into ammunition for the ruthless political right in battle for victory.

The Sanders operation has long worked in a similar fashion to Biden’s. On stage — whether debate or interview — the Vermont senator precedes every criticism of his top competitor with phrases close to “I like Joe” or “Joe is a good friend of mine.” When criticising his opponents’ policy prescriptions, his rhetoric has leaned heavily on not good enough, embracing the spirit of the plans while insisting that his were the ones to most effectively relay that spirit. But as his fortunes took a turn for the worse, Sanders’ rhetoric has devolved into a negativity that harms the Democrats moving forward.

The latest ads coming out of the Sanders corner seek to highlight the differences between the two top contenders regarding their history with trade and social programs. It may seem that he is trying to move voters away from a candidate he feels has worse odds in the general election. His supporters flooding the internet with posts and memes shredding the former vice president might believe they are doing the same. But FiveThirtyEight, which once predicted Sanders entering the Democratic convention with the greatest number of delegates, now predicts, with over 99% certainty, Joe Biden doing the same. As it stands, attacking the front runner who will likely lead the party, or a popular runner-up whose supporters we need, is a far greater service to the Republican Party than it is to one’s candidate of choice. Voters from different flanks of the party must begin building goodwill with one another. Joe Biden may not be our favorite, but he’s likely the one we’ve got and it’s past time to stop the attacks against him.

As sea levels continue to rise, we are reminded of the need to bring a respect for science back into the Whitehouse. As our nation teeters on the brink of recession just as we are about to enter the workforce, we are reminded that Republicans hamstrung the government’s ability to fight recession by driving the deficit to a trillion dollars for the sole purpose of putting more money in the hands of the already wealthy.

As the 2016 election loomed, President Barack Obama called Democratic running mate Tim Kaine to deliver a stark message: “Tim, remember, this is no time to be a purist. You’ve got to keep a fascist out of the White House.” But it is not the pragmatic Virginia senator who needs to hear this message, it is the activists and voters of America.

The left have already won the ideological fight. If nominated, Biden will run the most progressive platform of any presidential candidate in a generation, if not history.

To help welcome Sanders supporters into the fold, Democrats must stop all attacks against him. To avoid damaging the presumptive Democratic nominee, Sanders supporters must rely on positive campaigning.

Progressives, Biden will be a one-term president. Let’s put our champion at the top of the ticket in four years. But for now, catastrophe looms on all fronts. We have no choice but end the intra-party conflict, restore democracy to America and to win.

 

Elijah Fox is a junior in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. He can be reached at efox@cornellsun.com. What Does the Fox Say? runs every other Thursday this semester.