Late Monday morning I get an email titled “Anybody but Bernie Sanders” that tautly announces, “The Political Establishment has made their choice… That is fine. We always knew it. You’ve always known it. Now it just happens to be clear for everyone to see.”
I have no recorded evidence but believe, based on observation, that Bernie Sanders, temporarily the Democratic frontrunner and forever a proud socialist, has for a day or two been privately erupting, “See. Look at them. The billionaires are lining up their Joe Biden stooges – Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar – and offering them cabinet positions in Biden’s presumed presidency if they’ll get out of the race and support the former vice president. They gather in Dallas on the eve of Super Tuesday to pronounce Biden a savior and me a divider. Until a few days ago, despite three campaigns and numerous primaries over three decades, Biden had never won a single primary. Now that he’s taken South Carolina he’s suddenly a combination Jack Kennedy and Barack Obama.
“This isn’t about Bernie Sanders. This is about the wealthiest one percent preventing you from having affordable medical insurance and polluting the environment and starting unnecessary wars for profit and power while they suck in more money because of low taxes handed to them by the above mentioned stooges and Donald Trump. We’re not going to let them stop us. We’ve got the support of the people. Together we’ll stop the oligarchs from oppressing us.”
Okay, Bernie, I think I better drive downtown to your Bakersfield headquarters and talk to some of your people. I tried a couple days earlier but was told no one could be interviewed without permission of Anna Bahr, Sanders’ media consultant in Los Angeles. She quickly responded to my email and said I could talk to any of the volunteers but staff members would have to be cleared by her. No problem. I figure people donating time are motivated and well-informed.
I introduce myself to a young lady and ask, “Are you worried that Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar dropped out and endorsed Joe Biden?”
“No, I’m not worried, but a lot of us are hurt,” says Riddhi. “Beto O’Rourke also joined them on stage in Texas, but that’s only three people. We have millions who’ve come together from bottom to top to fight for civil rights and labor rights and LGBTQ. It’s amazing how dedicated we are. We don’t care about Bernie because of what type of grandpa he may be but because of his policies, free Medicare and free college for all.”
I dare not ask Riddhi her age lest she ask mine but she volunteers she’s twenty-four. People so young generally haven’t focused much on health care. Spiraling costs changed that.
“How’d you get involved in the Sanders campaign?” I ask.
“I studied neuroscience at St. Louis University and began to realize that the American Medical Associations and other organizations let people slide through the cracks. Doctors hate billing and all the paperwork. They’re frustrated and depressed. They want to concentrate on keeping people healthy. After college I worked one year at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. We spent hours on the phone trying to get approval from insurance companies. And this was for kids with cerebral palsy.
“We need Medicare for All. Joe Biden doesn’t support that. The way things are, people often spend hundreds of thousands of dollars a year and go bankrupt. Sixty million people are uninsured or underinsured. Biden wants to continue and improve the Affordable Care Act. The system isn’t working. I know someone who’s diabetic and can’t get insulin. And I have a reproductive disorder and need regular obstetrics and gynecology treatments. I’m lucky to have Blue Cross through my parents, for the time being, but special care is really expensive. I’m paying five hundred to eight hundred dollars twice a month. That’s a lot for most people.”
“I had great health insurance for years as a teacher,” I say. “Many people don’t want to give up the health care they have.”
“And lots of people are stuck in jobs just for the health insurance. What Bernie wants isn’t radical. He reminds critics that he stood in the front lines for the ACA. We need something better now.”
I thank the lady for her time and, after talking to a couple more people, head back to my home office to follow the returns. No realistic person expects Bernie Sanders to conquer the south but as evening arrives the reality of Biden’s strength with African Americans and Sanders’ weakness becomes clear as, moving east to west, Obama’s vice president takes Virginia, North Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Oklahoma, creating an electoral blockade that Sanders will struggle to penetrate in subsequent primaries in the South. In a little while Biden adds big Texas to his great southern wall. He also takes Massachusetts, routing native daughter Elizabeth Warren, who should withdraw from the primaries forthwith and join Buttigieg and Klobuchar in Democratic harmony. The latter’s backing helps Biden win in Minnesota. He also takes Maine by a whisker to cap his stunning turnaround. At least Bernie wins his adopted state of Vermont as well as Colorado and Utah and later as expected earns California.
I know the Bernie brigade must be hurting so I drive back downtown. About thirty volunteers and staffers may feel morose but they’re chatting with each other and checking their cellphones while munching pizza and sipping sodas. Siddhi, still battling, orders taken down the sad CNN election returns projected huge on the wall, and writes a link on an adjacent marker board.
“Call L.A. and tell people they can vote until ten p.m.,” she says. “Everything helps. If Biden gets less than fifteen percent of the vote he doesn’t get any delegates.”
The gods, as well as the Democratic establishment and a majority of the electorate to date, are against Bernie, and the computer link doesn’t work.
A staffer announces, “Hey, we’re up in all Central Valley regions. But we’ll have to wait until tomorrow to see the percentages and who gets how many delegates.”
The legions cheer. Bernie will fight on for a while and ensure people think about health care being a human right that should offer affordable rates and convenient paperwork along with excellent medical service. Many Americans don’t want that yet. A nation of warriors can’t emulate those effete social democrats of northern Europe, not yet.
Notes: Joe Biden won ten of the fourteen states on Super Tuesday and leads Bernie Sanders in delegates five hundred sixty-six to five hundred one. Elizabeth Warren lags with sixty-one delegates and no longer has a valid place on the electoral stage. She should step aside and support the most like-minded candidate, Bernie Sanders, if she’s been sincere about her health care proposals.
Big bucks Michael Bloomberg dropped about six hundred million bucks the last two months and captured American Samoa and its five delegates. Wednesday morning he withdrew from the race and endorsed Joe Biden and will likely gear up to beat Donald Trump who tweets “Mini Mike” is a failure, albeit one who has about a hundred times more money than the prevaricator still cowering behind unreleased tax returns.