Democrats need to unite behind their nominee, whoever he may be

Trump’s inept response to COVID-19 shows why Sanders supporters should back Biden if he becomes the Democratic nominee.

Biden Sanders Reuters
Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders do an elbow bump in place of a handshake before the start of the 11th Democratic candidates' debate in Washington, DC [File: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters]

On March 26, as President Donald Trump predicted the nation would get back to normal “pretty quickly”, the United States overtook China as the country with the highest number of COVID-19 cases. It was also revealed that a whopping 3.3 million Americans were laid off because of the pandemic.

The Trump administration’s ineptitude in dealing with this unprecedented crisis demonstrates why every single Democrat and progressive in the US now needs to focus on pushing for a leadership that has the ability and will to protect the health and economic security of the American people.

Right now, this means getting the Democratic nominee, whoever he may be, elected in the 2020 presidential election. We must not repeat the mistakes of 2016. 

As I watched Trump call the coronavirus pandemic “a hoax”, foment racist divisions by branding it the “Chinese virus”, and tell people it might just disappear, I could not help but wonder what Hillary Clinton would have done to address this crisis if she had been our president now.  

She would have been making decisions based on science and facts, and working with our nation’s international partners to try and take the pandemic under control – actions that would have saved thousands of American lives and livelihoods. 

In the 2016 democratic primary, I volunteered and voted for Bernie Sanders. But when Hilary Clinton became the nominee, I voted for her in the presidential election without much hesitation. For me, this was an easy decision – the threat a Trump presidency was going to pose to the environment and immigrants was just too severe for me to consider not voting.  

We have seen the disastrous consequences of Trump’s election in the past three years. And now, the coronavirus pandemic is further exposing the dangers of being led by an administration that cares more about profit margins than people.

It is more obvious today than ever before that a country that cares for its people is stronger, healthier and safer. 

Sanders realised this long ago and spent his entire political career trying to build a government whose first priority is to care for its people.  

In both of his presidential campaigns,  Sanders advocated for policy solutions that would have made the public health emergency and economic crisis that we are facing today more manageable – universal healthcare, paid family and medical leave, guaranteed employment and housing, cancellation of student debts, and bailouts for working families in economic recessions. 

Earlier this month, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said unemployment in the US could soar to 20 percent if strong action is not taken to tackle the coronavirus pandemic. Since then, the US Senate has approved a $2 trillion economic rescue bill to help lift the economy and address the pandemic. To really help the American people and protect them from the adverse effects of current and future crises, however, efforts need to go much further.

Sanders has the vision and policy proposals that could help protect millions of Americans who have long been hurting. He has the leadership skills, boldness and courage that is necessary to stand up for what is right and ensure Americans are never again left to fend for themselves in the face of a major crisis. 

This is why I sincerely hope that he will be the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee in the upcoming election.  

However, as much as I support Sanders, and want to see him as the 46th president of the US, I am not blind to the growing support for Joe Biden within the Democratic Party. 

And Trump’s dangerous leadership in the last three years made it very clear that Democrats who support Sanders no longer have the luxury to sit out this election if Biden becomes the Democratic nominee. 

If I get presented with a choice between Biden and Trump, I will vote for Biden. And once he is president, I will do everything I can to push his administration to deliver the short and long-term economic and social change Americans desperately need.

Any progressive who still believes that a Biden administration would be tantamount to another four years of Trump needs to look at the president’s inept and dangerous response to the coronavirus pandemic for a reality check.

Biden may not be Sanders, but he also definitely is not Trump. He believes in science and listens to experts. If he were our president now, he would not tell us the greatest healthcare crisis we have ever experienced is a hoax. He would not dismiss scientific advice. He would not fail to coordinate with our foreign partners to confront the crisis. 

Of course, while trying to avoid repeating the mistakes of 2016, we should also not repeat the mistakes of 2008, when in the face of another unprecedented crisis Wall Street was bailed out and common Americans were left to fend for themselves. 

We cannot convince Trump to prioritise common Americans over billionaires and corporations. But progressives can prevent this from happening in the case of a Biden presidency. 

While there is no pushing a Trump administration to act, we progressives can move a Biden administration. We can build the coalition necessary to pressure Biden to act boldly. We can push him to not only make small changes around the margins, but lead with the full weight and clarity necessary to meet the moment. We can make a Biden administration deliver, at least partially, the economic policy agenda of Sanders.  

What we cannot have is any Democrat saying “I won’t vote for” the Democratic nominee, whether it be Biden or Sanders. We have no time for that. Fight it out in the primary for your candidate, but when it comes to the general election we cannot mess around; if the current COVID-19 situation has made anything clear it is that  millions of lives are literally on the line.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.