Primaries in Michigan, Washington, Missouri, Mississippi, Idaho, and North Dakota seemed to deliver the turnout that Bernie Sanders has been promising. But these citizens voted in enormous numbers for Joe Biden instead. Michiganders, journalist Heidi Pryzbyla told anchor Brian Williams, are “scared as hell by the Trump presidency.”
Pryzbyla pointed out that farmers in the Upper Peninsula, many of whom voted for Bernie Sanders in 2016 and then for Donald Trump, are now going bankrupt because of Trump’s immigration policies. The cherries for which they are so famous rotted in the fields last summer.
But Sanders’s socialism scared them too – so does the White House’s fumbling of the growing COVID-19 pandemic. This ongoing public health fail might also be a factor in Washington State’s rush to the polls. Despite being the epicenter of the coronavirus, which should have depressed turnout, an hour before the polls closed, voting was up 40% over 2016.
Democrats seem to be getting serious about electing a president, and everybody’s jumping on board. Andrew Yang, who is said to be considering a run for Mayor of New York, chose last night to endorse Biden, joining two other contestants voted off the island, Amy Klobuchar, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, and Pete Buttigieg, who has also endorsed the former Vice President.
Senator Elizabeth Warren has still endorsed no one, even as organizations that backed her and 35 campaign alumni endorsed Sanders. We chose this moment to bring together a group of political writers to evaluate the meaning of Warren’s campaign — and the possible future for candidates like her.
Co-executive editor Claire Potter leads us off by predicting that Warren voters will coalesce around Joe Biden rather than Bernie Sanders. Contrary to Twitter wisdom, this isn’t about hurt feelings or insufficiently progressive politics: it’s about following the African-American and working-class vote that is also breaking to Biden. Party politics are, she argues, about the art of compromise – particularly in defeat.
Next, David Perlmutter asks: why can’t we have a professor as president? If Warren’s gender hampered her bid for the White House, what may have hurt her, even more, is that no one wants to have a beer with a professor. Miranda Yaver (like the rest of us, a college professor) mourns the loss of Warren’s policy expertise. But, she argues, the detailed plans Warren brought ideas to the table, have changed the conversation in the primary contests all the same. Lara Putnam digs into the vital question of why the many, mostly female, anti-Trump resistance groups did not ultimately coalesce around Warren’s presidential bid. Finally, Sidney Tarrow asks disappointed feminists to take heart. Even though the presidential glass ceiling remains, more women are running, more women are winning, and Elizabeth Warren herself may also be back in 2024.
Next, in our Literature section, we try to give you hope that there is life beyond politics (we promise there is!) We begin with a virus, not the coronavirus, but the virus that caused AIDS. In an excerpt from his new book, 13th Balloon, poet Mark Bibbins asks how children born into the Cold War grew up to fight a war with the disease. And in an excellent long read, Jon Baskin explores a paradox of literary criticism: why the love of literature seems to generate a particular form of hatred. The generation of scholars who were his teachers, Baskin observes, “had convinced themselves that to justify the `study’ of literature it was necessary to immunize themselves against this love, and within the profession, the highest status went to those for whom admiration and attachment had most fully morphed into their opposites.”
Finally, in our History section, we feature a second reflection on viruses. In an excerpt from a new book about the history of soap operas, Elana Levine explains that when interest in “the soaps” flagged in the 1990s, creators embraced issues of the day not generally seen on television – including AIDS. And Anna Robinson-Sweet, an archivist at The New School, looks at a forgotten university president – and his surprising disdain for the radical politics of the institution he chose to lead.
As we put this issue to bed, we look forward to a time when we won’t be up on Tuesday night, waiting for the polls to close. But in the near term, we look forward to what you think of this week’s issue: you can join us in the comments section of each article. If you can’t get enough of Public Seminar, sign up for our Substack, and have commentary, links, and articles delivered to your desktop three days a week.
Last night may have been Senator Sanders’s last night in the 2020 race. If it is, we congratulate him. If not, then we applaud you. Your campaign has been — is — well fought, Bernie. You have changed everything.
Claire Potter is co-executive editor of Public Seminar and Professor of History at The New School for Social Research. You can tweet with her @TenuredRadical. Subscribe to her Substack, Political Junkie, here.