The US was wholly unprepared for the coronavirus pandemic.
Senator Bernie Sanders warned us about the inadequacy of our healthcare system for years; he warned us what would happen if disaster struck and it has. But we didn’t listen and now the Democratic candidate that appears almost guaranteed to take the Party’s presidential nomination this summer is former VP Joe Biden, someone who still thinks radical reform isn’t what the American people need.
So, what kind of president would Biden be if he went on to beat Trump at the polls in November? Just compare what both men have been doing since the coronavirus panic began in the US, in March.
#WheresJoe and #WheresJoeBiden have been trending on Twitter, uniting both Trump supporters and supporters of Bernie Sanders. Those using the hashtags have been asking why Biden disappeared for an entire week in the middle of the pandemic. Like many Americans, the former VP decided to hunker down during the crisis to avoid exposure and even built a recording studio in his basement so he could broadcast his speeches without risking his health. But he also also urged voters to show up at the polls in last Tuesday's primaries in Arizona, Ohio, Florida and Illinois in order to make sure he clenched the Party’s nomination. While Biden’s campaign did warn people not to vote if they have symptoms, it is now common knowledge that people with the virus can be asymptomatic for up to 12 days — or even for the entire time they have the virus — while at the same time spreading it to everyone around them.
Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders has been front and center, fundraising $2m for working class Americans hit hardest by the crisis, while also fighting for a relief bill in the Senate that would help people and businesses weather the crisis. At 80, Sanders is three years older than Biden, and he has risked exposure to the virus in order to continue to serve his constituents and the American people. Sanders has also called for at least $2,000-a-month payments to families until the economy begins to improve. His actions inspired the hashtag #WeDeserveBernie, which has also been trending on Twitter the past week.
In the face of an economic downturn the likes the world has never seen before, I wonder how radical Sanders’s ideas seem now? A $15 an hour minimum wage, Medicare for All, expanding social security, housing for everyone who needs it – that sounds just like what we need. It sounds like relief packages being brought in by other countries’ governments across the world.
Unfortunately, it’s probably too late to take it all back. All the primaries that Biden so easily won and all the warnings about “socialism” made by his Democratic and Republican rivals seem so unfortunate today when we are looking at so many small businesses closing, thousands of Americans unable to pay their rent or electricity bills, and record numbers of infections overwhelming a private healthcare system which isn’t fit for purpose.
Bernie’s ideas will become mainstream after we emerge from this nightmare and the man who fought so long and so hard for economic security and access to quality healthcare for all Americans will be left in the dust. Like the saying goes, “first person out the door gets shot”. We don’t deserve Bernie Sanders after the way we’ve ignored his calls for economic and health reform – a heavy price that working-class Americans will have to shoulder while the rich emerge unscathed from their beach houses and bunkers with recording studios.
Biden will go on to win the Democratic nomination this summer and he will likely beat Trump because over half of America is utterly disgusted with their president. But Biden is no Franklin D Roosevelt; there will be no New Deal. He is an overly touchy gaffe machine who represents an uninspiring, antiquated version of politics many young Americans can no longer stomach. Yes, the Biden presidency will be bumbling but otherwise unremarkable during a remarkable time in world history – a time that demands solid, visionary leadership that he simply hasn’t shown.
If we can’t have Bernie, then can we please just bring back Obama?