Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) suspended his presidential campaign yesterday, leaving us to wonder whether the foundations of democracy are as strong as we once believed — or, at least, hoped.
We are not endorsing Sanders nor penning an indictment against him and his campaign. But the way the Vermont senator was treated by the government and the Democratic party must force us to examine how pure our elections and democratic process truly is.
James Madison, one of America’s founding fathers, wrote of the importance of representative government.
“We may define a republic to be … a government which derives all its powers directly or indirectly from the great body of the people, and is administered by persons holding their offices during pleasure for a limited period, or during good behavior,” said Madison.
The ideals of the framers of the Constitution rest upon the presumption that the government is provided its power by the “great body” of the people. That is, popular opinion.
The cogs of our democratic process were upended through use of hard and soft power against Sanders. A clear example of the usage of hard power was the Supreme Court’s ruling that the Wisconsin Primary, amid a pandemic that has shut down the country — a pandemic which has instilled a societal fear of congregation — must go on as planned.
Linda Greenhouse, who wrote an opinion piece for The New York Times, explained why that decision was problematic for voters.
“There are quite a few things that should not ordinarily be happening these days. People shouldn’t ordinarily be afraid of catching a deadly virus when exercising their right to vote. Half the poll-worker shifts in the city of Madison are not ordinarily vacant, abandoned by a workforce composed mostly of people at high risk (due to) their age,” she said.
But the Wisconsin Primary occurred after the Democratic Primary was, essentially, already decided. Other side steps of democracy predicated it and they had more of an impact on Sanders’s campaign — and voter perception.
For instance, approximately a month ago (if anyone can remember that far back given recent events) several moderate Democrats dropped out of the race in succession, only to subsequently endorse Sanders’s main opponent — and the now presumptive Democratic nominee — former Vice President Joe Biden.
As far back as Feb. 27, Democratic Party officials were prepared to unleash a political assault on Sanders and his campaign at the July Democratic convention, should it have come to that (we now know that it will not).
“Dozens of interviews with Democratic establishment leaders this week show that they are not just worried about Mr. Sanders’s candidacy, but are also willing to risk intraparty damage to stop his nomination at the national convention in July if they get the chance,” according to The New York Times.
As noble as political parties make themselves out to be, they are still large coalitions of powerful people with their own interests at heart. By conspiring to take down Sanders, the Democratic Party curtailed the will of the populace. It instead opted to install the candidate of its choice rather than the people’s. In that sense, the Democratic Party does not live up to its namesake and should perhaps consider a title change of the “undemocratic party.”
Both major parties — the Republican Party being the other — run their primaries in a staggered manner, with the Iowa Caucus generally kicking things off and New Hampshire following shortly after.
One issue with this is that Iowa and New Hampshire are not representative of America as a whole in any measure. No one state is. But the real problem with a staggered primary is the influence it has on voters. If a voter sees that their candidate is not performing well in other states, they may choose not to vote for them, believing that if they do, they are simply contributing to a losing cause.
That is the basis of the problem here: Any system that persuades voters to choose against their candidate of choice is inherently anti-Democratic and that exact system is what forced Sanders out of the race. This is not an endorsement of Sanders, but an indictment of the system that ended his campaign.
A “primary day” on which all primaries are held should be instituted by both parties and government action — though it will likely not happen any time soon — to limit the power of political parties themselves must be taken.
Any reform that promotes voting will also aid democracy, such as assuring the presence of plentiful polling locations and the institution of a highly secured mail-in voting system.
Until then, any candidate that has views outside of the establishment’s will be censored and disregarded — and that, if anything, goes against our democracy.
The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 152nd editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.