Thank you for accepting! Just today, news has arrived that Senator Sanders will officially be suspending his presidential campaign. This will not make a difference in our debate, as we are arguing who would have theoretically had a better chance of winning as the nominee, not who has a better chance of winning right now. I’ve read about a thousand comments today complaining that Bernie dropping out will result in another 4 years of Trump, so this issue is certainly still being debated.
Let me begin by saying that I am not against the majority of Bernie’s policies, nor do I wish to critique them. But my views aside, the reality is that Bernie’s policies are considered radical in America, and radical left-wing politicians don’t tend to win elections here. It is true that he would not be considered radical in many European countries. But the United States is a different environment with different politics. And in the US, for the past 60 years, every Democratic candidate who won the presidency has been a “moderate”. There have been many progressive candidates who ran on populist platforms and promised radical structural change, such as George McGovern and Jesse Jackson. But in the end, voters did not want them. Bernie and those like him promote the idea that new voters can be attracted and inspired by the promise of great change, but basically all research on the subject agrees that American voters prefer pragmatic, incremental change. For example, only 54% of Americans support a national Medicare for All plan, but 85% of voters support the federal government doing more to help provide health insurance, including 72% of Republicans.  This is not to comment on the feasibility of Medicare for All, but how Americans respond to policies favored by Bernie Sanders versus Joe Biden. There’s little evidence that Americans want all the changes Bernie is promising, especially not changes considered “socialist”, which is practically a slur in US politics but has been embraced by the Sanders campaign. However, a vast majority of Americans want realistic and incremental change.
The majority of voters don’t need “exciting” policy proposals to be persuaded to show up at the polls. But there is a small set of young voters, mostly white and Latino, who are fully on board with Bernie’s bold ideas, and might consider staying home from the polls if Biden, the “unexciting” candidate, is the nominee. I don’t see this as a major loss. Young voters are already a notoriously unreliable voting bloc, and even when they do get the chance to vote for Bernie, they hardly show up at the polls. The Sanders campaign strategy depended on a historic surge in youth turnout, but it turned out to be less than the turnout in 2016.  In contrast, there was a surge of turnout for Biden, from older voters, black voters, white suburban women voters, and other groups that better represent the wide swath of the American voting public. Biden has consistently done better in head-to-head polls against Trump than Sanders . In-depth studies have been done on this matchup, and found that running a more ideologically extreme candidate increases turnout - for the other side. Yes, Trump supporters are more likely to come to the ballot box if they feel threatened with a socialist candidate.  Meanwhile, moderate voters who could have been won over to the Democratic side are alienated.
There is an elephant in the room, and that is Hillary Clinton’s loss in 2016. The most common refrain I have heard from upset Bernie supporters today is that “This will be a repeat of 2016”. To them, I say “That’s nonsense”. It is true that Bernie Sanders ran in 2016 and lost, a moderate candidate was chosen in his place, and this moderate candidate lost to Donald Trump. But it’s important to remember that this was a narrow victory for Trump, and it resulted from a perfect storm of factors. Trump benefited from a media which elevated right-wing conspiracy theories about Clinton, an American public which already hated Hillary (55% of voters had an unfavorable view of her in April 2016, while only 43% currently have an unfavorable view of Biden)  , a Democratic primary which dragged on for far too long, Republican voter suppression in red states, interference by Russia, James Comey’s October surprise, and a few split votes courtesy of Jill Stein and the Green Party. Even with all this, Trump just barely squeaked out a victory thanks to a few Midwestern swing states, still losing the popular vote by 3 million. With the tanking of the economy and the Trump administration’s bungling of the coronavirus crisis, his chances of reelection are looking slimmer by the day.
And before we blame this perfect storm of factors on moderate politicians in general, let us not forget that Democratic control of the House was restored by pragmatic moderates. The media likes to play up Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the rest of “the squad”, but progressive candidates only won a handful of seats, and only in ultra-blue districts. It was only moderates who managed to flip seats from red to blue and win back the House, not with utopian promises, but with pragmatic platforms focusing on the issues Americans care about. The same logic resulted in the victories of Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama. Perhaps there will be a day when a progressive candidate like Bernie Sanders can win the presidency. But all historical precedent points to no, and right now, with one of the most dangerous presidents of all time occupying the White House, we cannot afford to take risks.
Progressives have lately been obsessed with pointing out Biden’s flaws. Most of these I fully acknowledge. Yes, he is not a particularly inspiring speaker, and stumbles and slurs over his words a lot. Yes, he used to oppose gay marriage and busing. Yes, there are plenty of videos of him not respecting the personal space of young girls. But elections are about choosing which candidate you would rather be president, nothing more. A vote is not something to be saved for a candidate with no blemishes on their record, no flaws in their past, and a platform that completely matches up with your own ideals. Whatever albatross Biden carries around his neck, he is an average, milquetoast politician. Our current president is a disgrace, for reasons I should not have to go into, and our top priority should be winning against him. It is worth noting that if Joe Biden wins, he will be the most economically progressive president since the 60s, and the most socially progressive president in American history. There is no reason for anyone left of center to draw any kind of false equivalence between Biden and Trump.
Bernie Sanders has a cleaner and more consistent record than Joe Biden, I will admit it, but the truth is that clean and consistent does not always equal what voters want. Over 62 million people voted for Donald Trump in 2016, despite the warts on his record, which by that point already outweighed Biden’s a hundredfold. Joe has acknowledged his flaws, many of which stem from being born in a different time, and apologized for many of them. But our incumbent apologizes for nothing, shows no remorse, and as he said about our current crisis, “takes no responsibility at all”. There will always be ugliness, name-calling, and mud-slinging in politics, but when the election comes, it is my hope that supporters of Bernie Sanders will join us in taking down Trump. Just as I would have gladly voted for Bernie, despite my skepticism. There is no way to know for sure who is the most “electable”, as 2016 taught us. And while it’s tempting to think that all the rules have been thrown out the window, we are still living in the same world and must keep a clear head. When one surveys the polls, the research, and modern American political history, all the evidence points to Biden. And this is a time when I think we should listen to the experts, not radical populists on either side of the political spectrum.
That’s it for my opening round. I will now hand the floor to my opponent.