By Robert Reich
The coronavirus outbreak has officially been labeled a pandemic by the World Health Organization, potentially grinding the global economy to a halt. Yet every step of the way, the Trump administration’s response has been to deny, blame, obfuscate, and generally cover up.
Trump and his enablers are focused only on mitigating the economic consequences of the outbreak, especially before the election – mulling proposals like corporate tax cuts and bailouts for airlines and the hotel industry, but resisting the needs of average Americans and our broken healthcare system.
The outbreak has also revealed the utter weakness of our social safety nets: workers may be forced to choose between a missed paycheck and risking their health because too many employers have no paid sick leave, schools are weighing whether or not to shut down because hundreds of thousands of poor children rely on them for hot meals, and our cruel for-profit healthcare system is preventing people from getting tested for the virus for fear of a hefty bill.
And, remember, 80 percent of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. Coupled with Trump’s incompetence and narcissism, it’s a recipe for total disaster.
Meanwhile, the Democratic electorate is in the midst of a primary to unseat this sociopath. After Tuesday, Biden has kept his delegate lead with wins in Idaho, Michigan, Missouri, and Mississippi. And while the race isn’t over yet, it’s wise to start making contingency plans.
Biden’s biggest weakness is his failure to attract progressives and young voters. In a CNN exit poll for Michigan, Bernie won a whopping 82 percent of voters age 18-29. Without these voters, if Biden is the nominee, Democrats will not be able to get the votes needed to defeat Trump.
So what are Biden’s options for getting out the vote of this crucial portion of the Party? He must select a true progressive for Vice President, like Elizabeth Warren or even Bernie Sanders, who can push bold progressive ideas like a wealth tax, Medicare for All, tuition-free college, cancelling student debt, and a Green New Deal.
These progressive policies are also winners with the electorate – a majority of voters even in Mississippi and other southern states supported replacing the current healthcare system with a single-payer system, and polling continues to reflect this appetite for transformative change. Even if Bernie isn’t getting the support he counted on, his ideas are.
And don’t count Bernie out just yet. A debate is coming up this weekend that could boost his campaign enough to help him secure wins in later key states like Ohio and Pennsylvania.
But if he fails to get traction, he needs to do whatever he can to help reunite the party, and most importantly, keep working to shift the party in a progressive direction. Behind the scenes he needs to negotiate with Biden a pathway to gain progressive support.
Meanwhile, Biden needs to take up the issues of concern to young people, who are the future of the party and who Democrats can’t win without. This might seem like a pipe dream, but Biden has no choice. This is not 2016. The nation cannot afford another 4 years of Trump. If you’re angry – and rightfully so – use that anger to keep pushing the movement.