“I will stay on the ballot in all remaining states and continue to gather delegates”, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders told his supporters on Wednesday, when announcing the suspension of his presidential campaign.
The usage of this particular terminology, implying that Sanders is merely “suspending” his campaign rather than ending it completely is not unusual, says James Melcher, a political scientist at the University of Marine Farmington, as it tends to hint to the fact that the senator would still be able to restart his campaign any time in case anything happens to the now-Democratic-nominee Joe Biden.
Sanders himself argued that he needs to continue collecting national votes in the upcoming primaries in order to “assemble as many delegates as possible at the Democratic Convention” in August and be able to influence the party’s agenda. The more delegates the senator collects now, the bigger number of his supporters will end up in the DNC’s standing committees that codify the rules and determine the party’s agenda, and according to Melcher, the ability to exercise influence on the Democratic platform remains the senator’s “chief goal”.
“Sanders has always been a candidate that cares more about issues and building an ideological movement than most candidates do. There are many issues on which Biden has already moved in his direction, and he would like more of them”, the political scientist notes.
Biden Needs Sanders’ Supporters, and Sanders Needs Biden’s Influence to Push His Agenda
Professor Emeritus of Bowling Green State University Oliver Boyd-Barrett argues that by leaving his name on the ballot, Sanders “is keeping his promise to his supporters that we would stay in the game for as long as possible”. The move helps the ex-nominee to strengthen his “negotiating hand” in relation to the Democratic Party elite and Biden’s campaign in particular.
The professor notes that while in 2016 around 12% of Democratic voters turned to Donald Trump, it is now vital for Joe Biden to accommodate Sander’s supporters as much as possible, which could play in the Vermont senator’s favour in the end as he would get a chance to push forward many of his progressive ideas. He remains skeptical though that Biden would actually implement any of Sanders’ proposals in relation to public health care or educational reforms should he achieve power.
Melcher agrees that the agendas of the two presidential hopefuls are too different, especially in relation to healthcare, but argues that Sanders can still “push Biden to at least make health care a higher priority”.
“I think they will need to work harder than Hillary Clinton did to offer a positive vision and not just attack Trump to get those people”, he concludes, noting the degree to which Sanders will try to motivate his followers to support Biden is still questionable. That said, it does seem that the senator still has something to win by remaining in the game.