Sanders Supporters: Voting for Biden Is About ‘Saving the Nation’

Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders



By Julian Emerson

August 17, 2020

Whether enough will support a centrist ticket can determine if Trump narrowly wins Wisconsin and a second term.

The Rev. John Stanley is an ardent supporter of Bernie Sanders, so much so that he went on a hunger strike in the weeks leading up to the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, where he was a Sanders delegate, to protest the fact that the U.S. Senator from Vermont was not the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee.

Stanley, chairman of the Wisconsin Progressive Caucus, said he isn’t thrilled with the presumptive choice for this year’s Democratic presidential choice, Joe Biden, or Kamala Harris, the party’s vice presidential candidate in a move announced last week.

However, despite the fact that Biden’s platform doesn’t include the Medicare for all national health plan that was a cornerstone of Sanders’ runs for the presidential nomination in 2016 and this year, despite his viewing Biden as too much of a centrist whose policies sometimes fail to address the issues of those most in need of assistance, Stanley is adamant that he and other progressives in Wisconsin and elsewhere across the country vote for Biden on Nov. 3. 

“Am I thrilled with Joe Biden? No I’m not,” Stanley said Monday, hours before Sanders will be among the featured speakers the first night of the Democratic National Convention scheduled to occur in Milwaukee but happening nearly completely on a virtual basis because of the coronavirus pandemic. “But if we’re going to move forward in this country, we’re going to have to do it with him. These past four years have taught us that certainly isn’t possible under Donald Trump.”

As the four-day convention kicks off Monday, among the questions political pundits are asking is whether Sanders supporters will back Biden by voting for him as president. 

Four years ago, after their candidate didn’t receive the Democratic nomination amid charges of an unfair nomination process in favor of eventual nominee Hillary Clinton, many Bernie backers refused to vote for her, helping Trump claim the presidency. He won Wisconsin by fewer than 23,000 votes, and the state is viewed as a pivotal battleground again this year.

Stanley and other Sanders supporters said they are frustrated that Sanders didn’t win again this year, and they’re upset that some of his policies — most notably his Medicare for all proposal — have not been included as part of the national Democrats’ platform. Many progressives said they believe Biden’s policies are too moderate and fail to address some of the nation’s biggest needs.

But another four years of Trump as president could prove disastrous, they said, and could lead to a furthering of what they described as a continued attack on democratic principles that are the underpinnings of American society.  

“It’s not a matter of whether or not you support Biden at this point,” Stanley said. “It’s a matter of saving this nation.”

Like Stanley, Eau Claire resident Jeremy Gragert said he is upset that Medicaid for all isn’t part of the national Democratic platform. However, the Biden campaign has shown a willingness to include input from Sanders and his advisors, and the platform is more progressive than in past years and includes stronger stances on such issues as climate change, said Gragert, the Sanders delegate for Wisconsin’s 3rd Congressional District. 

That cooperative attitude will not only lead to a stronger, more inclusive platform, Gragert said, but it could convince more who supported Sanders to cast votes for a Biden/Harris ticket.

Bill Hogseth, Dunn County Democratic Party chairman and a Sanders supporter in the April presidential primary, said he’s unsure whether Biden’s platform is progressive enough to entice those behind Sanders. 

“Biden is making gestures toward that wing of the party,” he said. “But to me it’s an open question of whether that will bring out enough Bernie supporters.” 

Gragert said he typically supports third-party candidates. But he said he’s leaning toward backing Biden in November, in part because he has been willing to be accepting of more progressive ideas. 

“I don’t think we can always judge where candidates were in the past, but we need to see where they’re at on issues now,” Gragert said. “I think Biden has a great opportunity to win in Wisconsin. He has shown he’s willing to listen to new ideas, and that could convince more progressives to vote for him.” 

Some who supported Sanders said they’re not willing to switch their voting allegiance to a Biden ticket. Joshua Renner of Wausau, a Sanders delegate to the 2016 DNC, said he doesn’t plan to back a Biden/Harris ticket because of their past records. Biden has been “far too moderate” during his career, Renner said, and Harris’ record in California was “far from progressive.” 

Renner said he couldn’t bring himself to vote for Clinton in 2016 after revelations the Democratic Party ensured she would be the nominee, and he was similarly frustrated by the Stop Sanders movement this year.     

“I have followed where most of the money is coming in funding their campaigns and I do not trust them to be representative of the people before being representative of their special interests,” he said. 

Hogseth said he knows other Bernie backers who said they can’t bring themselves to vote for Biden. But most who support Sanders tell Hogseth they plan to vote for Biden because they’re opposed to another four years of a Trump presidency. 

“There are a lot of Bernie supporters who have a really pragmatic understanding of this,” Hogseth said. “Biden/Harris is not their ideal ticket, but it’s good enough for them to support.”




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