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Sanders exit comes with health irony

By WILLIAM HENNELLY in New York | CHINA DAILY/REUTERS | Updated: 2020-04-10 08:58

Democratic US presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speaks about coronavirus in Burlington, Vermont, US, March 12, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]

Champion of free cover concedes to Biden, deemed a safer Democrat pick

The withdrawal of Bernie Sanders from the Democratic presidential primary campaign came, ironically, amid a medical crisis in the United States.

Sanders, 78, a US senator from Vermont, is a staunch advocate of free health care for everyone in the country, known as Medicare for All.

But even as the coronavirus pandemic courses through the country, most severely in his native state of New York, Sanders realized he was unable to overcome the pragmatism of Democratic voters and their reluctance to nominate a self-proclaimed democratic socialist.

Voters balked at moving as far to the left as the exchanges at the numerous Democratic debates would suggest and ultimately decided that Joe Biden was best suited to meet their overriding objective in a general election: defeating President Donald Trump.

That means that Biden, 77, former vice-president during the two-term administration of Barack Obama, will face Trump in November. That is, provided the election takes place as planned with COVID-19 sending all parts of the economy asunder, including the states' primary election schedules. Already there has been political bickering over whether voting will take place in person or via mail.

The primaries are mostly irrelevant now, as Biden will head uncontested into the Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which has been rescheduled from mid-July to Aug 17-20 due to the outbreak.

Biden, who has routinely emphasized his ties to Obama, is banking on that nostalgia for the nation's first African-American president, who has yet to endorse him. Biden also managed to avert disaster despite subpar showings in the first few primaries and caucuses, as he made frequent verbal blunders.

For Sanders, it was the second time in four years he had to concede to the eventual nominee after a spirited campaign. In 2016, Sanders stayed late at the party before eventually losing to Hillary Clinton, who had more influential backers and institutional support.

"I cannot in good conscience continue to mount a campaign that cannot win, and which would interfere with the important work required of all of us in this difficult hour," Sanders said in a livestreamed speech on Wednesday to supporters from his hometown of Burlington, Vermont.

Sanders called it a "difficult and painful decision" but said he would stay on the ballot in future primaries and continue to gather delegates in order to push the Democratic platform toward his populist anti-corporate agenda, including a government-run health care system and tax hikes for the rich.

The New York Times, citing three sources, reported that the Biden campaign was expected to announce some policy agreements with Sanders on health care and other issues, possibly on student loans, beginning on Thursday.

The Democratic Party of 2020 also has been clamoring for more representation from women and people of color. Biden has said he would choose a woman as his running mate.

Ready for election fight

On Wednesday, Biden signaled that he was ready for a bruising general election fight and the challenge he faces in trying to unite the party's liberal and moderate wings.

Trump, who has courted Sanders' supporters and said the senator was treated unfairly by the Democratic Party establishment, reacted quickly on Twitter.

"This ended just like the Democrats & the DNC wanted, same as the Crooked Hillary fiasco. The Bernie people should come to the Republican Party, TRADE!" Trump wrote.

Both Biden and Trump already have clashed on the approach to addressing the coronavirus pandemic, which will naturally become a major issue, possibly the only issue, in the fall campaign. Earlier this week, however, both men reportedly had a "warm" conversation on the issue.

Trump had been banking on the strength of the job market, the stock market and the overall economy for his re-election campaign. While the pandemic has led to massive job losses with the economy mostly at a standstill, the stock market is gradually climbing back.

Reuters contributed to this story.

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