And Then There Were Four*

The once-promising campaigns of Tom Steyer, Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar didn’t make it to Super Tuesday. What happens now?

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U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar speaking with attendees at the Moving America Forward Forum hosted by United for Infrastructure at the Student Union at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in Las Vegas, Nevada. February 18, 2020. (photo: Gage Skidmore)

In the past few days, in the aftermath of Biden’s big win in South Carolina and the surge of Sen. Bernie Sanders, billionaire Tom Steyer and former Mayor Pete Buttigieg have both announced the end of their respective campaigns.

Today, Sen. Amy Klobuchar has joined them, announcing the end of her efforts to secure the Democratic nomination and her subsequent endorsement of Joe Biden.

Andrew Yang. Sen. Kamala Harris. Sen. Cory Booker. Beto O’Rourke. Julian Castro. Michael Bennett. Marianne Williamson.

The list of Democrats running for president in 2020 was always longer than it ought to have been. It is still much longer than it ought to be, according to certain Democrats who think other Democrats should drop out of the race, if only to stop Bernie Sanders.

It is even longer than four, in fact. Though no one is much counting Rep. Tulsi Gabbard* anymore.

That former vice president Joe Biden, the presumptive front-runner at the outset of the race, has been seen as a relatively weak candidate from the beginning is partially responsible. Smart, ambitious people like Pete Buttigieg and Michael Bennett, and rich people like Tom Steyer and Michael Bloomberg, wouldn’t have considered a run without a clear path to the nomination.

But seeing no such path, Democrats have dropped out of the race one by one. Sometimes, the news has been greeted with relief; other times with disappointment.

At no point in the race has it looked like a runaway for anyone. Not even now even as the forward surge of the Bernie Sanders campaign has establishment Democrats in an absolute panic.

After all, the Buttigieg campaign looked good after a- mostly- win in Iowa. Week before last, Buttigieg was amassing a respectable collection of delegates and was even leading for a time.

This week, support from minority voting communities failed to materialize for Buttigieg. And now he is out.

This race has always seemed like anyone’s race, various candidates have surged on a a good debate performance or strong fundraising quarter only to wane again over some policy point or old skeleton.

Though whether this race has ever really been anyone’s race, is debatable.

Bernie Sanders fans have been seething since 2016. Since probably before 2016, but we’ll focus on the fallout from the last disastrous election.

Democrats who wanted Sanders as the nominee in 2016 were absolutely furious after Sanders was denied the nomination in favor of Hillary Clinton. And there certainly was a great deal of favoritism for Clinton in the Democratic Party, a fact that still rankles Bernie Sanders and his bros to this very day.

After Sanders lost the nomination to Clinton, most Sanders Democrats did as the party instructed them. They dutifully, though not happily, cast their vote for Hillary Clinton with the understanding that she was electable whereas Bernie Sanders was not.

We all know how that turned out.

In the run-up to the 2020 election, it’s been clear from the outset that supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders did not plan to go quietly this time; if indeed they planned to go at all. They didn’t plan on doing anything quietly this time around.

Sanders supporters have been on a hair-trigger for going on a year now, as the Democratic Party powers that be have grumbled mutinously over making Sanders the nominee and mainstream media networks have mistreated their champion.

Now, Democrats find themselves sitting on a powder keg, placed between a rock and a hard place; ready to explode at the slightest provocation and almost certain to get it.

A provocation like the Democratic Party selecting the nominee through a complicated brokered convention, or through a series of heavily-weighted superdelegate votes: Using a process that, while not exactly clear, is clearly not designed to help a candidate like Sanders.

To deny Sanders the nomination would be a disaster for the Democratic Party, according to some party authorities. Worse, they fear it would be a disaster on par with giving Sanders the nomination and losing to Donald Trump- again.

With the specter of Sanders as the Democratic nominee, party leaders fear more than just a second-term Donald Trump. A polarizing figurehead like Sanders, and one who has openly embraced socialism and communism for decades, could cost Democrats down the ballot as well.

Many elected Democrats fear a Sanders-topped Democratic ticket would mean losing seats in moderate, purple, and swing districts. Most believe a Sanders nomination could cost Nancy Pelosi her House Speakership, hand delivering the House Majority to Republicans and the speaker’s gavel to Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

These aren’t completely unfounded fears either.

Sen. Bernie Sanders and his army of young supporters and cool musicians keep promising a massive turnout for Bernie. Yet this wave of previously unregistered, first-time voters has not materialized.

Or rather, it has materialized. There are in fact a great many people who have never voted before in any election who are being registered to vote in droves and will be turned out in droves on election day in November.

Unfortunately, they are very eager to vote for Donald Trump.

The answer to all these problems could, of course, be one of the other Democratic candidates.

If Joe Biden, Mike Bloomberg or even Sen. Elizabeth Warren could suddenly and organically surge into victory, that would certainly soothe many frazzled Democratic nerves. It would also eliminate the need for the sorts of primary chicanery that will be necessary to subvert the will of Democratic voters, should they choose Sanders.

Problem is, each of the remaining Democratic candidates remains weak in their own ways. It is far from certain whether any of the remaining candidates could beat Sanders, even if all the other contenders were to drop-out tomorrow.

Depending on what happens on Super Tuesday, it could still be Joe Biden’s race for the winning.

(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)

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