Global Affairs Opinion

Is coronavirus increasing support for Bernie Sanders?

Bernie Sanders is the current US state Senator from Vermont and was a candidate for US presidential election in both 2016 and now in 2020. He famously runs on a democratic-socialist platform, having his campaign platform situated as very left leaning on the US political spectrum. Sanders, at his core, has created a ‘political revolution’ movement which stands for the following policies, among many others: Medicare for All and increasing the federal minimum wage.

On 8th April 2020, Sanders announced to his supporters that he would be ‘dropping out’ of the US presidential race. Given the polls were increasingly stacking against him and aligning with his competitor, Joe Biden, Sanders explained that “[He] cannot in good conscience continue to mount a campaign that cannot win and which would interfere with the important work required of all of us in this difficult hour.” Therefore, he announced that while he would bring all campaign work to a halt, he would continue to remain on the ballot for the primary elections, hoping that gaining even a small minority of votes would give him power to influence the whole of the Democratic party platform for the 2020 election. Sanders has always stressed to his supporters that the revolution is greater than just him, and he therefore said “while this campaign is coming to an end, our movement is not.”

Since Sanders ending his campaign efforts however, the coronavirus pandemic has continued to spread both the disease and the negative impacts on society as a whole. To meet increased needs and demands, the US government, despite currently being in the power of the GOP, has passed many measures which are not only leftist, but align directly with Bernie Sanders’ democratic-socialism. Therefore, many are wondering: Is the coronavirus pandemic increasing support for Bernie Sanders? Are citizens who were perhaps more moderate or right leaning previously now in support of democratic-socialist policies now that they have observed the dire need that some of these issues pose to the most vulnerable?

In the past two months, COVID-19 has spread exponentially over not only the United States but in most countries worldwide. Only initially inflicted countries such as China appear to have contained the spread of the virus and are looking to return to life as usual, but in the United States, the rate is still rising. As of today, the US has had an estimated 1.42 million cases of coronavirus, and there have been nearly 85 thousand deaths, making the US perhaps the most impacted country globally. The economy has also taken a massive hit with companies laying off workers at every level, and upwards of 30 million Americans filing for unemployment, an unprecedented number in the nation’s history. Production at every level is being affected and is spilling out into the whole of the national supply chain.

With its pervasive effect into virtually every sector of society, the US federal government has had to rapidly roll-out a response to address the two biggest parts of the problem: health risk and economic downturn. Most of the legislation in response, however, is fundamentally socialist.

COVID-19 at the most basic level poses a grave health risk if contracted and therefore, in conjunction with the CDC and research teams at leading universities, the US federal government has invested millions of dollars in creating and mass-producing coronavirus test kits which could be used in hospitals nationwide to meet the need as demand for testing increased. Because being able to treat and contain coronavirus is a bipartisan concern, the testing is currently free of charge, and therefore, anyone, including those without health insurance, are able to get tested and treated if they have contracted the disease. This policy, however, poses a striking resemblance to Sanders’ medicare-for-all proposition. Given the utilitarian benefits this system poses, some are wondering whether there may perhaps be merit in Sanders’ revolutionist policies.

However, coravirus’s contributions to the looming recession are perhaps more threatening. Some scientists have estimated that the pandemic and social distance measures may take anywhere from 3 to 18 months, using different spread models and accounting for the likely development of a vaccine. Economists, however, predict, that the economic downturn will take far longer than that to resolve. Some even estimate that networks will never return to what they were previously. Despite the negative sentiment, the government has been making efforts to resolve the crisis. The United States passed a 2 trillion dollar stimulus package a few weeks ago, with the largest part of this budget going towards $1200 checks for everyday Americans who are unemployed. There has been increasing talk of introducing another stimulus check this month to meet increased pressure by citizens, especially those who live from paycheck to paycheck. These policies, however, look very similar to Sanders’ proposed unemployment benefit packages as part of his campaign which would provide workers who lost their jobs basic dignity and a means to live. Perhaps having such provisions in place, as Sanders has suggested, would be better for the whole of the country and therefore gives his platform a level of credibility.

With polls in 16 states postponed, and cancelled altogether in New York, the exact amount of favourability Bernie Sanders is getting over Joe Biden is unable to be determined. Nonetheless, the advent of these new socialist policies marks a turning point in the 2020 Presidential election. Whereas the Democrats and the DNC had previously made efforts to appear as more moderate, the coronavirus pandemic poses a unique opportunity to brand themselves as more liberal in order to win everyday Americans, especially those that are being severely impacted. Only in August will we learn what the party platform is and how much sway Bernie Sanders provided amidst COVID-19. Until then, we can only look at the precedent which coronavirus has created for the implementation of socialist policies.

Anvee Bhutani

Anvee Bhutani is Senior Media Editor of The Oxford Blue and was formerly both News Editor and Events Director. She is a penultimate year student at Magdalen College reading Human Sciences and is originally from San Francisco, California.