Earlier this week, Vermont Senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders appeared on The View to discuss the ongoing fight against the coronavirus, or COVID-19, but he was repeatedly asked by the hosts, namely Whoopi Goldberg, why he was still in the presidential race:
During the exchange, Goldberg implied that Sanders’ campaign against Hillary Clinton in 2016, and the fact that he waited until after the primaries were over to endorse her, contributed to her loss to Donald Trump in the general election. Bernie Sanders disagreed with that characterization of history, and he was right: Clinton was a terrible candidate who failed to resonate with voters, alienated progressives and millennials, and did not campaign aggressively enough in key battleground states. Combine these variables with the fact that Clinton, the establishment candidate, was going up against a seemingly authentic faux-populist who promised to “drain the swamp”, and you had a recipe for disaster.
This clip from The View, a show that epitomizes mainstream, corporate-friendly elitism, though, is just one of the multitude of cases where media pundits and non-progressive liberal Democrats are attempting to pressure Sanders to exit the race, ignoring the fact that only half of the states have even voted yet, because a protracted Bernie campaign could, in the eyes of the establishment, weaken Joe Biden against Trump in the upcoming general election.
Apart from the argument that Biden, himself, is a terribly weak candidate that suffers from much of the same faults as Clinton did only four years prior, we should remember that the establishment loathes Bernie Sanders. They view him as an existential threat to their power and influence, and the mere thought that they’d lose their stature in society scares them more than our current global pandemic, and with equitable shares in both the Democratic and Republican Parties, they would rather have Biden or Trump in the White House than the authentic progressive.
Nevertheless, what the American people have experienced as a result of the global pandemic shows exactly why we need Bernie Sanders now more than ever, despite the onslaught of establishment pressure for the Vermont senator to go away.
While every country in the world is struggling to combat COVID-19, the United States, relative to the rest of the industrialized world, was woefully unprepared for such a catastrophe. On top of the fact that 40 percent of Americans lacked enough savings to handle a surprise $400 bill before the pandemic hit, the American people are forced to rely on employer-provided health insurance in order to afford medical bills.
This for-profit insurance model, used almost exclusively by the United States, is simply not working. Many of us could not afford to go to the doctor, even with insurance, because deductibles are too high, and many others are unable to even obtain insurance, let alone utilize their insurance, because premiums are through the roof.
And now, as we’ve witnessed 10 million Americans file for unemployment benefits over the last few weeks, a sizable chunk of our country is grappling with the reality that, with no job, they will also lose their health insurance. At best, they’ll be able to get expensive short-term insurance through COBRA, or be fortunate enough to live in a state that decided to re-open their insurance exchanges, but without a job or savings, millions of Americans will be without health insurance as the global pandemic only continues to get worse, precisely the time when access to healthcare is needed the most.
The American people are only as protected as the least insured individual, and while most other industrialized countries realize that healthcare ought to be a basic human right, the United States is still far behind the times, thanks to the corporate establishment.
The health insurance industry has a stranglehold on both the Democratic and Republican Parties, so much so that hardly any politicians are willing to fight for a universal healthcare system that ensures healthcare as a human right without a private third-party whose only purpose is to find reasons to refuse healthcare access. This is evident when we see campaign contributions from the health insurance industry fueling both major parties, and we see this in the rhetoric of establishment politicians.
Look no further than Joe Biden, a candidate who has long sought cuts to Social Security, Medicaid, and other social safety net programs. When asked if the coronavirus has changed his position on universal healthcare, Biden said that his view still remains intact, arguing that the program would not have helped us against the virus:
Of course, this is far from the truth: many Americans are unable to receive the healthcare they need because of high insurance costs, and we even saw a young person die from COVID-19 recently after being denied care due to a lack of health insurance. Whereas the rest of the industrialized world can provide healthcare to their constituents, millions of Americans simply cannot afford essential clinical or hospital visits. This, at least in part, explains why the United States has surpassed even China, a country far larger than ours, in terms of official coronavirus deaths.
Several weeks prior, moreover, Biden was asked whether or not he would sign a Medicare-for-All bill into law if it arrived to his desk. Despite the bill theoretically getting through Congress to land on his lap, he strongly implied that he would veto the bill over it’s cost.
Beyond the fact that the United States pays far more than the rest of the industrialized world for the same healthcare due to our lack of a universal healthcare system (while also experiencing worse healthcare outcomes), and despite the fact that our astronomically-large premiums may go up by 40 percent due to private insurance price gouging, our recent multi-trillion dollar bailout for large corporations clearly demonstrates the fact that our country is able to afford a universal healthcare system that would not only save us all money in the long-term, but would also keep people safe, secure, and healthy.
Don’t expect Biden to change. He is controlled by the large special interests, as are most other Democrats and Republicans.
Instead, we need to elevate Bernie Sanders, who has demonstrated remarkable leadership during the coronavirus pandemic, to the White House, as his coronavirus response has shown.
Sanders has a long history of fighting for true universal healthcare, and his recent leadership in successfully advocating for expanded unemployment benefits, using his campaign apparatus to raise over $2 million to fight the coronavirus, and spending most of his time inside and outside of Washington combating the pandemic demonstrates remarkable aptitude to tackle not just this current health crisis, but also the multitude of systemic issues that plague our country, such as rising income inequality, the student debt crisis, and the looming threat of climate change.
Indeed, Sanders has been showcasing his leadership while Biden remained silent for much of the pandemic, claiming that his campaign needed almost a week to set-up his home studio. Couple this with Biden’s inability to string multiple legible strings of sentences together, his obvious signs of cognitive decline, his lack of temperament when challenged ever so slightly by constituents, and the new credible sexual assault allegations raised against him, and you find yourself in a position where the frontrunner has half the enthusiasm from supporters relative to Republican enthusiasm for Trump’s reelection. Why? Because while Bernie Sanders is actually acting like a leader, and while Trump appears to be playing a leader when he gives his press conferences, Biden is constantly making a fool of himself on national television and failing to demonstrate any sort of leadership chops to the American people.
Now, more than ever, is the time to elect Bernie Sanders, and while his nomination does not currently seem likely, the surge in support for universal healthcare during the pandemic, coupled with Biden’s clear inadequacies, opposition to universal healthcare, and the aforementioned allegation, may convince enough Democratic voters in the remaining primary states to vote for the progressive independent over the choice thrust upon us by the establishment.
If the coronavirus has taught us one thing, it is that we need Bernie Sanders, not just because of the fact that special interests can’t control him, or because he’d fight for programs that benefit all Americans, such as universal healthcare, but because we need a leader who is willing to tirelessly work to ensure that the power dynamics that favor the wealthy shift back to the American people, a prospect that would, quite literally, save lives as COVID-19 continues to spread.
Any honest political observer who compares Biden to Sanders knows that the former vice president is not up to the task, but hopefully enough voters in the remaining primary states see that true change can only happen if we elect Bernie Sanders.
If there was ever a time, it is now.
This article originally appeared on my Medium blog, found here.