No audience, no shaking hands: The coronavirus dictated the first debate held solely between Vice President Biden and Bernie Sanders.
Bernie’s Slide to Second Place
Only three weeks ago, Sanders had still been the front runner of the Democratic candidate field, while Biden seemed destined to end his campaign soon due to continued failures and lack of success in the early primaries.
Everything turned out differently. After a series of landslide victories, Biden has not only become the new front runner but has quasi-ended the race in his favor already, and with it turned Sanders from being the chosen one into a candidate with only theoretical chances. The starting position of the candidates was thus evident: Biden needed to manage the debate and appear as the right choice, Sanders had to win across the board.
However, Sanders being Sanders, he did not offer any new ideas nor angles. Instead, he produced exactly the same visions and allegations that brought down his campaign in the first place.
What Were the Candidates’ Positions on Responding to Coronavirus?
Naturally, the topic of the coronavirus could not have been avoided during the debate. Biden and Sanders were standing next to each other, and instead of the debate taking place in Phoenix, in front of an audience, Sanders and Biden found themselves in Washington D.C. — in splendid isolation.
Once the coronavirus was addressed as a topic, Sanders stated the crisis was a valid argument in favor of his Medicare for All plan. Under his plan, everyone would be treated during a pandemic.
Joe Biden did not concur. He also plans for all Americans to be insured, but ultimately under an expansion of the Affordable Care Act, colloquially known as Obamacare. As Biden stated correctly, people want results and help now. Both cannot be delivered via a Sanders revolution.
Biden’s Plans are Realistic, Bernie’s Aren’t
Moreover, Biden’s plans are feasible as he — unlike Sanders — has had a history of obtaining majorities in Congress. It was crucial to ensure that people received their salary during the crisis, that they received medical care, that they did not suffer under the economic crisis associated with the virus. The message is clear: Biden would be able to help immediately, Sanders would not. Revolutions take time.
Biden’s performance at this stage is presidential, and it insinuates precisely what he aimed for: appearing as a crisis manager. Sanders, on the other hand, utilizes the coronavirus as an opportunity to promote his socialist revolutionary ideas and appeared overly ideological.
Biden Showed He is Willing to Bring the Different Elements of the Democratic Party Together
For Biden’s presidential approach, it is also fitting that he has made offers to the progressives within his party. Just before the debate, Biden stated he was willing to adopt parts of Elizabeth Warren’s program that seeks to make it easier for citizens to apply for personal bankruptcy.
Moreover, Biden seeks to ensure that students from families with an annual income of less than $125,000 do not have to pay tuition fees at public universities – not quite as extreme as Sanders’ plan but far from a moderate position. It once again displays that Biden is not an ideologue, but a pragmatist.
When CNN moderator Jake Tapper steered away from the current situation, Sanders and Biden quickly returned to the old habits of attacking each other’s previous voting records. Sanders accused Biden of having repeatedly called for social security cuts during his congressional career, which Biden denied. Biden, in turn, criticized Sanders for his earlier positions on gun law.
Despite all Sanders’ attacks, both still maintain respect for each other. The promise not to run the election campaign below the belt-line is still being kept, and both reiterated on their promise to support the respective winner — after all, the main agenda continues to be to beat President Trump.
During the debate, Biden also made it clear that he would make a woman his running mate and thus vice president. Already in August 2019, InsideOver commented that Biden was well served to pick Kamala Harris, who remains the most plausible choice. Sanders, meanwhile, did not want to commit himself yet.
Finally, it has to be attested that, as expected, Sanders could not bring about a change in the debate. Biden, meanwhile, offered a first impression of how he would conduct himself as Commander-in-Chief.