EDITORIAL:

To protect voters from outbreak, Sanders should halt his doomed campaign

Image

Paul Sancya / AP

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., visits outside a polling location at Warren E. Bow Elementary School in Detroit, Tuesday, March 10, 2020.

In another time, Bernie Sanders might have a very slim argument for continuing his bid for the presidency. But not now. Not at this very dangerous moment.

By staying in the race, Sanders is forcing Democrats to the polls and elevating their risk of exposure to the coronavirus. That’s unconscionable, given that the results of Tuesday’s round of primary voting left him with virtually no chance of winning the nomination.

It’s imperative for Sanders to bow out. This is no longer a matter of delegate counts and turnout numbers — it’s a public health matter.

With Hawaii congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard doing the right thing Thursday and bowing out, Sanders’ withdrawal would eliminate the need for Democratic presidential voting and allow the remaining primary states to make their own decision on scheduling for down ballot races and initiatives. In some cases, such as initiatives, these could be delayed for several weeks or even moved to the general election. For Senate and House races, options include holding a scaled-down primary or even putting all candidates on the general election ballot.

Everyone involved, including Sanders’ famously passionate base of supporters, would face one less chance of becoming infected.

It would also reduce complications that threaten to disrupt the overall electoral process, like the cancellation of Ohio’s primary this week.

And let’s be perfectly clear, Sanders is done. He would need a whopping 63% of the remaining delegates to win, which is nearly impossible considering the huge margins by which Biden has won most states since finishing No. 2 in Nevada last month.

In fact, Sanders’ campaign was already dead in the water after the so-called Super Tuesday II primaries March 10, when voters coalesced firmly around Biden. At that point, pundits speculated that Sanders was staying in the race only to take a Hail Mary shot at embarrassing Biden in this past Sunday’s debate and winning over the former vice president’s supporters in the process.

That didn’t happen. Biden performed solidly, gaining a stronger grip on the nomination.

After Tuesday brought yet another shellacking for Sanders, it’s the height of irresponsibility and megalomania for him to keep up his campaign.

Are voters’ lives worth his doomed run? Is it worth the risk of making untold numbers of people sick?

Of course not.

Unfortunately, some of Sanders’ supporters don’t see it that way. Even recognizing that Sanders can’t win, they’re urging him to stay in the race and continue to lead the “revolution” that the senator has long promised but has failed to bring about.

As poll after poll have shown, Sanders’ support among younger voters who are hungry for sweeping changes hasn’t translated into large numbers of them turning out. In addition, Sanders has lost support in some states where he performed well in 2016, ostensibly because voters who opposed Hillary Clinton saw him as an acceptable protest candidate.

Sanders, who has already said he would support the eventual nominee, needs to show true leadership and urge his supporters to unite behind Biden. In a year when the vast majority of Democrats see the top priority as defeating President Donald Trump, Sanders has a chance to rally the party in that direction. It’s admirable that Sanders has been able to attract such a devoted group of followers who believe in him and his goals; now it’s time for him to make their health and safety his primary goal.

Unfortunately, though, he reacted dismissively and angrily Wednesday when asked about his campaign.

“Stop with this,” he said. “Right now I’m trying to do my best to make sure that we don’t have an economic meltdown and people don’t die.”

When pressed, he lost his cool. “I’m dealing with a (expletive) global crisis,” he said.

True, Senator. So are all Americans.

So here’s our message to you. Start showing that you truly care about protecting people, and get out of the race this instant.