Sanders Not Quitting Just Yet

The race is over but Bernie's still running.

Joe Biden has all-but-mathematically wrapped up the Democratic nomination. Bernie Sanders has statistically about the same chance of winning as Tulsi Gabbard.

But, as in 2016, Sanders is confusing to concede the race and is planning on debating Biden again Sunday. WaPo:

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) signaled Wednesday that he plans to stay in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination despite a widening gap in the delegate count following former vice president Joe Biden’s strong showings in another round of nominating contests.

At a news conference in Burlington, Vt., Sanders acknowledged the disappointing results but said that he looks forward to debating Biden one-on-one on Sunday and ticked off important issues he hopes they will discuss. On Tuesday, Biden prevailed in four states — Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri and Idaho — while Sanders was projected to win North Dakota. The race in Washington state has not been called.

Biden and Sanders are scheduled to debate in Arizona ahead of Tuesday primaries there and in Florida, Illinois and Ohio. Georgia holds its primary a week later. Biden has shown particular strength in Southern states.

NYT adds:

Mr. Sanders acknowledged that he was “losing the debate over electability” to Mr. Biden as voters flocked to a candidate they believed had a better chance of defeating President Trump. But in an extraordinary sequence that highlighted his ideological resolve, he addressed Mr. Biden directly and challenged him to explain to the American people how he would solve problems of health care, income inequality and other issues that make up Mr. Sanders’s liberal agenda.

“What are you going to do?” Mr. Sanders asked repeatedly as he ticked off a list of issues that also included climate change, poverty, mass incarceration and the criminal justice system.

His decision to continue casts more uncertainty over a primary race already upended by the coronavirus crisis, which has forced both candidates to curtail appearances before big crowds and to plan for a debate on Sunday without a live audience. Mr. Sanders made clear that he would persist in his efforts to win over voters, saying that “a strong majority of the American people support our progressive agenda” — even as Mr. Biden’s recent victories gave him a commanding advantage.


“Last night obviously was not a good night for our campaign from a delegate point of view,” Mr. Sanders said. But he asserted that he was “winning the generational debate,” saying that while Mr. Biden was appealing to older voters, he was drawing younger Americans, and that the party needed to build around the leaders of the future.

“While our campaign has won the ideological debate, we are losing the debate over electability,” he said, adding that many people had told him they liked his agenda but were not convinced he could prevail in the general election.

Mr. Sanders left the podium without taking questions.

It is, to say the least, ungracious to claim that you’re “winning the ideological debate” when you’re getting your ass handed to you in state after state after state. And, while he may be “winning the generational debate,” he’s winning it with the generation that doesn’t show up to vote. Biden is winning the other one.

At the end of the day, it’s really not Sanders’ call as to whether he gets to debate Biden again. The Democratic National Committee has, quite reasonably, decided not to invite Tulsi Gabbard to the event. She hasn’t conceded, either. So, if they deem Sanders just a vanity candidate at this point and/or think his continued attacks on Biden will damage the party—of which, incidentally, he’s ostentatiously not a member—they’re within their rights to call the whole thing off.

My guess is that they won’t, at least at first, because they’re hoping Sanders do the right thing on his own and that there’s a better chance of getting his supporters aboard the Biden train if he’s allowed to exit on his own timetable.

Lawfare’s Susan Hennessy defends Sanders’ move:

I know some people are reading this as sour grapes, but it actually seems like the best hand to play for a clearly losing candidate attempting to influence the nominee on policy issues.

There’s a risk that it just comes off as destructive and unproductive. But done correctly, this could be a huge opportunity for party unity. Especially if Biden decides to use the opportunity to make real concessions and say “Here’s where Bernie and his movement changed my mind.”

But that would play into Trump’s hands. It’s one thing to be conciliatory to Sanders and court his supporters—something Biden did in his speech last night—but it’s quite another to start adopting the policies that the Democratic nominating electorate has overwhelmingly rejected at the ballot box.

FILED UNDER: 2020 Election, Climate Change, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Teve says:

    Sanders raises enough money that he can stay in the race indefinitely, but the next four state primaries are Arizona, Florida, Illinois, and Ohio, and Biden is going to win those by double digit margins.

  2. Michael Reynolds says:

    Biden should cherry-pick some element of Sanders’ agenda – maybe promise to embrace free college and debt forgiveness. “Bernie, I think that’s a great idea, and with your help, and Elizabeth Warren’s help in the Senate, we can make it happen!”

    That’d give Sanders an ideological win and attract some of the Sanders base of college students as well as Warren’s base of teachers.

  3. DrDaveT says:

    There is no combination of motives and understanding that you could attribute to Bernie that would both explain this behavior and show him in a positive light.

  4. senyordave says:

    @Michael Reynolds: In principle I like your idea, I was thinking that Biden and his people and Bernie and his people could discuss Bernie’s top five ideas and see how much and what parts could be incorporated into Biden’s messaging and platform. But this assumes that Bernie and his people would even come to the table. Bernie shows no evidence of that, and many of his inner circle seem to be toxic assholes who are completely my way or nothing else.
    When Bernie tweeted out the thing about establishment Republicans and Democrats I think he tipped his hand that he really isn’t interested in anything other than Bernie.

  5. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Michael Reynolds:
    Climate change is low hanging fruit for what you’re describing.
    Biden would be silly not to.
    But Sanders is being an egotistical fuqer.

  6. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Trump is up by 2 points in FL, over Biden, in a poll that has a 2.7 point margin of error.
    Sanders needs to be pitching in…not stroking his own ego.

  7. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    But this assumes that Bernie and his people would even come to the table.

    This is why this debate might be an ideal format for this discussion to happen in. No one except true believers and political junkies is likely to watch this debate, so the message might be targeted to exactly the audience that needs to hear/cares about hearing this message. This table is already set and they’re both going to be there. Laissez les bon temps rouler.

  8. Lounsbury says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: Probably climate change. Maybe youth training – free college is mistaking Loud College Students Twittering for all youth.

    And not all youth go to expensive Unis, not a majority by far, and

    Of course youth of a profile that is on Twitter and are in the relationship circles of Journos, but that’s massively unrepresentative.

    A youth appeal that’s Blue Collar focused perhaps, end run around Bernie.

    Otherwise, playing to an old-Bolshy Trotskyite Entryist is really a losers game – the Hard Lefties will always go third party as ideological purists, the youth vote is unreliable. Better to focus on flipping disaffected ex-Repubicans (the Joyner profile) in the 35-50 range, where Biden is showing massive success. Those people vote, are important in the key electoral geographies, and attracting them also brings a solid change of punishing Congressional Republicans for their allowing Trumpism to run rampent and abdicating to Trump.

  9. Mu Yixiao says:


    Sounds like it’s not just Sanders’ crew, but his followers that are snippy about the situation. I saw this at Reason this morning:

    Salty Sanders Supporters Say They Won’t Settle For Biden

  10. Teve says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: You can get different results with the same poll numbers depending on who turns out. I think the Democratic turnout in November is going to be huge.

  11. Teve says:

    Letting former students refinance at modern rates would work for me. I graduated with only about 10,000 in student loans but at 7% interest and a terrible job market right after the financial crash, I still owe almost 6 grand.

  12. Lounsbury says:

    @Teve: Financial restructuring is actually quite a good idea. As a financial manoeuver it’s perfectly vanilla normally, and should not carry the whiff of unfairness that write off can carry.

  13. Michael Reynolds says:

    The problem is that Bernie has adopted the Green New deal which is a mess. For starters he wants no nukes and no fracking, which is to say, less natural gas. So we’re going to save the world by eliminating two relatively benign forms of energy. And Bernie’s not one to accept half measures.

  14. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Mu Yixiao:
    We may not need Sanders’s people. Unless there’s a pleasant surprise on Covid-19 the economy is going to be a mess. Schools, restaurants, movie theaters, airlines, hotels, the entirety of Las Vegas and the Disney and Universal parks, failing hospitals, public events stopped, interrupted supply chains, shoppers staying home, and yes, human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together – mass hysteria.

    The economy is not just going to shrug this off. Consider that if one third of Americans get the bug, that’s 100 million people, and if the death rate is just 2% we’re talking about two million dead Americans. Two million. Virtually everyone will know a fatality.

    And when shit goes wrong people blame the president. Even if he handles it magnificently, people blame the president. And if he botches it the wrath of God comes down.

  15. Jon says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    Posts like that always remind me of Tbogg’s wisdom back in the day, in response to a Nader voter complaining that “The Democrats don’t deserve my vote. They aren’t helping the left, why should the left help them?”

    Let me see if I can explain it this way:

    Every year in Happy Gumdrop Fairy-Tale Land all of the sprites and elves and woodland creatures gather together to pick the Rainbow Sunshine Queen. Everyone is there: the Lollipop Guild, the Star-Twinkle Toddlers, the Sparkly Unicorns, the Cookie Baking Apple-cheeked Grandmothers, the Fluffy Bunny Bund, the Rumbly-Tumbly Pupperoos, the Snowflake Princesses, the Baby Duckies All-In-A-Row, the Laughing Babies, and the Dykes on Bikes. They have a big picnic with cupcakes and gumdrops and pudding pops, stopping only to cast their votes by throwing Magic Wishing Rocks into the Well of Laughter, Comity, and Good Intentions. Afterward they spend the rest of the night dancing and singing and waving glow sticks until dawn when they tumble sleepy-eyed into beds made of the purest and whitest goose down where they dream of angels and clouds of spun sugar.

    You don’t live there.

    Grow the fuck up.


    ETA: And yes, it was originally from an even older post from him, but I can’t seem to find a working link directly to that post.

  16. charon says:

    All this speculation about how to persuade Bernie to get out is silly.

    He thinks he is getting a message out and launching a movement that will grow, a legacy, even if he has no chance to win and knows that he has no chance.

    He will not quit, period, end of report.

    Consider Bernie an opportunistic infection, something that just happens if circumstances allow, and hard to figure out how to cope with

  17. charon says:


    Thanks for the link to that, it’s a classic.

  18. Scott F. says:

    “What are you going to do?” Mr. Sanders asked repeatedly as he ticked off a list of issues that also included climate change, poverty, mass incarceration and the criminal justice system.

    What’s rich about this coming from Bernie is that you only hear from him and his supporters what they want to do about of these issues and never how they plan to do any of it.

  19. MarkedMan says:

    Feel free to discount this because I’ve been a Bernie anti-fan since he so ungraciously conceded against Hillary and proceeded to “campaign for her” by repeating his accusations that she was corrupt (but without actually mentioning her name). But that said, WTF is Bernie talking about? He is talking like the actual voters are mindless sheep who will do as they are told by the “establishment”. And he is complaining about… democracy. He is saying that Klobuchar and Harris and Buttigieg and etc “colluded” against him. No, Bernie, they think you are a disaster and an asshole on top of that and so threw their support behind someone they thought could actually get things done.

  20. charon says:

    @Scott F.:

    and never how they plan to do any of it.

    They really sincerely think that is not important, what is important is raising consciousness.

    Sanders gets good publicity, that is their concept of leadership.

    Sort of like the Trump style and supporters.

  21. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    dogs and cats living together

    According to the World Health Organization, pets cannot be infected by the SARS-Cov-2 virus and do not have to be quarantined after exposure:

    World Health Organization Mythbuster

    WHO let the dogs out.

  22. charon says:

    Some Bernie voters, by no means the bulk, but a significant number, are like Nader voters or Green Party voters: Winning matters not, what matters is making the statement. Bernie thinks so too.

    That fraction is not gettable, chasing them is a low return on investment strategy.

  23. An Interested Party says:

    Salty Sanders Supporters Say They Won’t Settle For Biden

    Something like that coming from the “Reason” website obviously has some concern trolling to it…I would never trust libertarians to present an accurate view of the world, that’s something they seem incapable of doing…I’m sure there were plenty of Bernie supporters in 2016 who helped (one way or another) Trump to win the election, but I think things will be different this time around…for every disaffected Bernie supporter we’ll see more educated people who hate Trump’s schtick and what to see him gone…and exit polls have shown that blue-collar white voters are far more amenable to Biden than they were to Hillary…I also suspect that more black voters will come to the polls in places where they didn’t in 2016…Trump is so obvious in his racism, people know what’s at stake in this election…

  24. MarkedMan says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    WHO let the dogs out.

    I’m in awe. Dad joke extraordinary.

  25. PJ says:

    I really can’t understand young people willing to drive off a cliff with a 78 year old man who knows he’ll be dead long before the bus hits the ground.

  26. Barry says:

    @PJ: “I really can’t understand young people willing to drive off a cliff with a 78 year old man who knows he’ll be dead long before the bus hits the ground.”

    He promises people Magic. He promises the Rapture (go to heaven without dying).

  27. EddieInCA says:

    Watching the news tonight, especially Fox News, I’m of a completely new mindset. I’ve been one who has been taking Covid19 seriously for several weeks. My house is stocked. I’ve been in a self imposed semi-isolation since I’m not working and have nowhere to be.

    Having said that….

    The Dems need to take advantage of this. Get people informed as much as possible, as soon as possible. First and foremost, get the word out to take it seriously to combat Fox, Rush, Levin, etc.

    Then, every single Democrat running for anything from Dog Catcher to President HAS to attack the GOP’s war on science, the GOP war on facts, the GOP war on health care, the GOP war on good governance. Every. Single. Day. You don’t even have to mention Coronavirus. You talk about health care, about science, about climate change, about gutted government departments, etc.

    This is an opportunity.

    Too soon? Too cynical? I’m torn. Help.

  28. charon says:


    What he promises is a revolution, which appeals to people who are burdened by student loans, high rents, low availability of good jobs. Throw the game board over.

    They don’t care he is 78 Y.O. with a heart attack because he is a disposable figurehead, replaceable.

  29. Lounsbury says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Yes of course. Actual details of the platform would be bad, Green New Deal is nonsense. But few but the obsessive will make a difference I think between a big climate change engagement and adoption of Green New Deal. The ideological fringe, literally nothing will please so fuck them.

  30. Barry says:

    @charon: I can see that in 2016, but when the results of the ‘revolution’ became clear,……..

    These people are doing the exact same thing again, hoping somehow that a miracle will happen. And if they were paying *any* attention, they’d know that the barriers which they were taught about in high school civics were made of tissue paper.

  31. Barry says:

    @charon: “They don’t care he is 78 Y.O. with a heart attack because he is a disposable figurehead, replaceable.”

    If he had brought in a successor in the past four years, he might have had a chance.
    Get somebody ~40 years old, charismatic………

    He regards himself as King of this movement.

  32. grumpy realist says:

    @Barry: That’s why I’m irresistibly reminded of the Corbynites in the U.K.. Same equivalent support of ranting oldie who was absolutely certain that He Had All The Answers, same insistence on totally ignoring polls, same lack of “how we get from A to Z”.

  33. DrDaveT says:


    There is no combination of motives and understanding that you could attribute to Bernie that would both explain this behavior and show him in a positive light.

    I would be delighted if one of the downvoters would prove me wrong by citing a laudable set of motives Bernie might have that would lead an intelligent person in his shoes to do what he’s doing.