I got asked in comments earlier if I thought Bernie Sanders should drop out yet. The interesting thing is I was already thinking about writing this post when the question came through, and as I’ve thought about it a bit more I’ve decided that the answer is that I think Bernie should drop out, but there is an as-yet somewhat reasonable case to be made that Bernie should not yet decide that he should drop out.
Allow me to explain.
Biden is ahead in the delegate count by 154 delegates, with another 94 pledged to candidates who have endorsed him. Democratic rules mandating proportional allocation of delegates make coming from behind more difficult than it is in the Republican primary, because you can eke out close wins in three states and then have those gains wiped out by losing badly in another state. You might remember a lot of talk about Bernie’s surprise win in Michigan in 2016, which was interesting in a “here is how polls can be wrong sometimes” sort of way but ultimately irrelevant because Hillary blew Bernie out of the water in Mississippi on the same day and her gains from Mississippi were a lot bigger than his in Michigan. He ended the day farther behind than he had when he started.
I’m not going to crunch numbers right now on what states are left and what might go for Bernie and what might go for Biden, except to note that the polls for this Tuesday’s contests look very, very bad:
What I have crunched the numbers on– I did it just now, as a matter of fact, because I was curious and I am exactly that kind of nerd– is that Bernie has gotten a lower percentage of the vote in literally every single contest than he did in 2016. Every single one. The average drop is just a hair over nineteen points, with a median just over 16, and there are five states where his vote total was less than half of what he got in 2016:
This is the clearest evidence that we’re going to get, I think: Sanders’ support has cratered since 2016, and there is no evidence at all that this will get any better. None. And he lost badly in 2016 once all the shouting was over. This will be worse. Stick a fork in him, he’s done. Time to quit. He has literally persuaded no one who he didn’t already have to come over to his campaign.
You may have heard of this Rona shit we got going around, I dunno. They’re starting to talk about it on the news a lot.
Who are Biden’s people, broadly speaking? Voters of color and older voters. Who are Bernie’s people, again broadly speaking? White folk, especially younger ones.
One group is more likely to have fewer polling places, meaning longer lines and longer waits (how long did that one dude in Texas wait on Super Tuesday? Seven hours?) and one group is also a lot more vulnerable to the novel coronavirus, meaning that they really ought to be spending as little time in possible doing things like waiting for hours in lines around shittons of other people.
One group is more likely to consider themselves basically invincible and not be as concerned about waiting in those same long lines, and that group is also (again, broadly speaking; college students have been screwed in this respect in some places) going to have easier access to a quick ballot casting than the other.
It is, in other words, entirely possible that the coronavirus is going to work out in Bernie’s favor. Will it be enough to make a difference, given the fairly large margins currently showing in the polling? I have not the slightest idea. Especially since, again, he needs blowouts right now, and shaving a 44-point ass-beating in Florida down to 20 or even a narrow victory is not really going to do him a whole lot of good. But it might provide a slim thread of hope to hang onto, and a reason to stay in the election.
Do I want him to do that? No; in fact, I think the more responsible thing to do would be to drop out precisely to drive down the number of people who want to go out and vote, because I don’t think he can win at this point. Which seems odd to say, but it’s true. And I should make something clear: I’m not mad at Bernie about this, and I don’t think he’s off in Vermont cackling and gleefully rubbing his hands together at the idea that Biden’s supporters might be proportionally less likely to vote because of a global pandemic than his are or anything like that. But I think it’s a real difference between the two populations.
Again: do I think it’ll make a difference?
No fucking idea. Like I said, I don’t know anything about politics.