Bernie Sanders suspended his presidential campaign on April 8. It’s easy to forget, preoccupied as we all are now with the coronavirus and protests across the nation against police violence, what a precipitous fall this was. For a brief period after his smashing victory in the Nevada caucus on February 22, it was almost universally assumed that he would be the Democratic nominee. “Bernie Twitter” was ecstatic. Folks I know in the moderate wing of the party were beginning to make peace with the idea and preparing to support the independent Vermont senator’s bid for the White House.
Then on February 29, exactly one week after Nevada, Joe Biden crushed Sanders in South Carolina. Three days later, in the March 3 Super Tuesday primaries, Biden won ten out of fourteen contests, many by quite large margins. And that was that. I’ve been writing about Democratic primaries since the 1988 race, and I don’t recall a single one in which the apparent end result flipped so emphatically and suddenly.
It’s hard for any politician to make the mental admissions to oneself required to end a presidential campaign; for a candidate like Sanders, who called for political revolution and seemed to have victory so near that he was surely daydreaming about the list of speakers at his convention, I imagine it was particularly hard. The struggle to accept defeat extends to supporters—perhaps doubly so with some of Sanders’s strongest supporters, who vocally detest the Democratic Party, people who call themselves liberals, Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Barack Obama, and basically anyone who isn’t Sanders (or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez).
But even as some of his supporters were digging in their heels, scrambling to knock Biden out, Sanders himself was suing for peace. Faiz Shakir, Sanders’s well-regarded campaign manager, told me that, as the senator ended his campaign, he made clear that cooperation would be the order of the day. “Senator Sanders asked me and [longtime adviser Jeff] Weaver to reach out to our Biden friends and see what would be available if we were to bring these worlds together,” Shakir said.
The friends in question were Ron Klain and Anita Dunn, two establishment Democrats. There are actually two lefts within the Sanders orbit. One I would call the “outside left,” the hard-shell “Bernie-or-bust” contingent referred to above: younger, more New York–centered, strident, and absolutist. The “inside left,” which includes people like Shakir, who has a Washington pedigree—he has worked for Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid—sees value in urging the moderate (and elected) figures left. This group does have respect for people like Klain, a frequent and fierce critic of Donald Trump on MSNBC who, as Obama’s Ebola response coordinator, showed the world a few short years ago that the United States of America actually knew how to contain a virus.
In fact, the lines of communication between the campaigns predated Sanders’s dropping out. As the virus descended in the first half of March, the two camps negotiated the mutual canceling of events; they agreed before the last pre-lockdown debate, on March 15, to replace a handshake with an elbow bump. Through late March, as the toll of illness rose, they generally kept each other apprised of their actions. After Sanders withdrew, the discussions between the two turned more toward substance—and the extent to which Biden would be willing to adopt pieces of the Sanders agenda. Thus were formed the six task forces that the Biden campaign unveiled on May 13. These eight-member groups cover the economy, health care, immigration, criminal justice, climate, and education, and each is co-chaired by one Biden supporter and one Sanders supporter.
The left-wing presence on many of them is remarkable. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez co-chairs the climate panel with John Kerry. Representative Pramila Jayapal of Seattle, a major Sanders backer, co-chairs the health care task force with Obama surgeon general Vivek Murthy. The economist Stephanie Kelton, a top Sanders adviser and proponent of Modern Monetary Theory, which holds that the government should pay for major new investments like the Green New Deal by printing more money, is on the economic task force. The task forces, I’m told, have a threefold mission: to publicly recommend the policy positions that Biden should run on, to guide the writing of the party platform, and to inform the transition, should Biden win the election (assuming there is an election, or an uncorrupted one). It stands to reason that some of the members of these task forces might also fill important slots in a Biden administration. READ MORE VIA LINK…