Extremely online socialists are taking a beating online these days. Since Bernie Sanders dropped out of the Democratic primary, mainstream media outlets and pundits have been piling on the pro-Bernie crowd for its reticence to support Joe Biden. Even Sanders himself chimed in, throwing his full-weight behind the former VP and saying he hopes all his supporters vote for Biden.
And after nearly two months of Biden inaction, Sanders is changing his tune.
During a segment on MSNBC live, Sanders said that Biden has an “excellent chance” of beating Donald Trump in November. “But in order to do that,” Sanders said, “[Biden] is going to have to reach out to working class people and young people in a way that he has not done up to now.”
Sanders’ latest comments are far from scathing, but they represent a clear shift in the way he’s talked about Biden since dropping out. The former Vice President has done little to appeal to the left since gaining the nomination and Sanders knows it. The unity task forces and negligible policy concessions—lowering the Medicare age to 55, for example—haven’t wooed Sanders’ most ardent supporters. Their lack of Biden enthusiasm is palpable online and off. Plus, consistent lambasting from pundits yelling at them to vote for the lesser of two evils isn’t helping either.
Biden is an extremely flawed candidate. His conservative liberalism has fingerprints all over America’s racialized criminal justice system and imperialist foreign policy. He appears to be experiencing some form of mental decline and recently faced credible sexual assault allegations.
Sanders understands Biden’s weaknesses as well as anyone, which is why he was willing to hang on until COVID-19 made his campaign unviable. But Biden’s flaws combined with America’s new pandemic reality have made Biden, not Sanders, seem like the unviable one. The latter had a formidable digital campaign funded by small donors and energized by grassroots support; the former took two weeks off to set up a virtual broadcasting operation in his basement, and his campaign is still trotting out cringe slogans and dated, inhumane policies that doomed Hillary Clinton four years ago.
Bernie’s not going to suddenly stop supporting Biden, and there’s no chance he’ll replace him as the Democratic nominee. But perhaps his comments on MSNBC mark a renewed interest in holding Biden’s feet to the fire and helping him really appeal to the voters he’s eagerly ignored.