With all of our attention being paid to the COVID 19 crisis, the Democratic primaries have become an afterthought for many people. Joe Biden has been winning more delegates and he’ll probably get the nomination to be the Democratic candidate for President. Unless Bernie Sanders is able to win over a significant portion of the African American vote in the next few weeks, I don’t think Sanders will win the nomination. Even with that said, though, I still want Bernie Sanders to stay in the primaries until the Democratic convention.
The reason that I want Bernie Sanders to stay in the race is simple: if there’s ever been a perfect time to have a national dialogue on such progressive ideas as universal health care, universal child care, paid sick leave, housing for the poor and the homeless, this COVID 19 crisis is that time. This Coronavirus crisis has shown in stark relief the importance of access to health care, childcare, and housing for the poor and the middle class. Ever since Ted Kennedy died in 2009, there has been no more prominent voice for progressive causes than Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, Sander from the more radical Left and Warren from the more traditional liberal Democratic side. Joe Biden’s only message to voters is that he is the candidate able to defeat Trump. As long as Sanders is in the race, he can keep progressive issues like universal health care, housing and universal childcare in the national dialogue.
There are many progressive friends who probably think I have a defeatist attitude towards Sanders. My first choice for a candidate was Warren, not Sanders, so I don’t have as much emotionally invested in Sanders. But I don’t necessarily think a progressive candidate has to win in order for progressive ideas to win. If a progressive candidate can push the political center of the U.S. to the Left, that will push moderates to the Left.
Look at how past progressive candidacies have influenced the general public to accept progressive ideas. The Bernie Sanders campaign of 2016. Jesse Jackson’s 1988 and 1984 campaigns. Ted Kennedy’s 1980 campaign. George McGovern’s 1972 campaign. Robert F. Kennedy’s and Eugene McCarthy’s campaigns in 1968. Henry Wallace’s 1948 campaign. Teddy Roosevelt’s and Eugene Debs 1912 campaigns.
Even though these progressive candidates did not win, they were able to persuade the general public to accept progressive ideas that had once been considered radical. The 8 hour work day. Ending child labor. Women’s suffrage. Social Security and Medicare for the elderly. Civil rights for African Americans and for all minorities. Dismantling segregation laws in the South. Opposing unjust wars. The direct election of Senators. Campaign finance laws. LGBTQ equality. Equal pay for equal work for women. Equal opportunties for those with disabilities. Workplace safety laws. The right to collective bargaining.
Here is Vox video essay arguing for the necessity of paid sick leave.
In most developed countries, workers have the right to a certain number of paid sick days. It’s a policy that isn’t rooted in just generosity — during pandemics like the novel coronavirus, it can literally save lives.
When workers have to choose between earning a living and staying home sick, it incentivizes them to come to work when they’re ill, and potentially infect their colleagues and anyone else they come into contact with. That’s why public health officials are concerned that millions of American workers don’t have access to paid sick days. And a disproportionate share of those workers are concentrated in occupations like food service and hospitality, where there’s potential to infect the hundreds of customers many of them interact with every day.
In January 8, 2016 Bernie Sanders gives an in-depth discussion of instituting paid family and medical leave for all Americans. He supported 2016 legislation by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand to expand paid family and medical leave.