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Op-eds, Opinions

Veluvali ’20: Establishment entitlement will cost the Dems the presidency

Op-Ed Contributor
Wednesday, April 15, 2020

On April 8, Bernie Sanders suspended his campaign for the presidency. This had been coming for a while. Though Sanders started as the Democratic frontrunner, his campaign was dealt repeated blows as his moderate opponents consolidated around Joseph R. Biden, Jr., who is now the presumptive nominee.

This is fine. The primary elections were held, (mostly) fair and square, and the voters of the Democratic Party spoke in Biden’s favor. Within an election timeline, this is usually a moment of magnanimousness from the party victor’s camp: Biden and his supporters would extend to Sanders’ supporters — as they had done with supporters of Amy Klobuchar, Pete Buttigieg, Beto O’ Rourke and more — an olive branch, welcoming them into the fold.

That is not what has happened.

Instead, the hashtag #BernieBros began trending on Twitter, blasting Sanders’ supporters for being “entitled” and “obnoxious.” This reductive “Bernie Bros” narrative — that his supporters are mostly whiny man-children and internet trolls — had plagued Sanders throughout his campaign, despite the fact that his broad-ranging coalition included scores of women and minorities. And, even though Sanders has bowed out of the race, this narrative shows no sign of slowing down.

The present situation echoes the 2016 presidential campaign, in which Hillary Clinton defeated Sanders for the Democratic nomination. Clinton was a titan, armed with an extensive list of qualifications, a $150 million war chest, and a dedicated and passionate base. How, then, did Clinton fumble the election to a reality television star caught on camera bragging about sexual assault? In her 2017 memoir, What Happened, Hillary Clinton laid some of the blame at Sanders’ feet: “…his attacks caused lasting damage, making it harder to unify progressives in the general election and paving the way for Trump’s ‘Crooked Hillary’ campaign.” Clinton twisted the knife further in a 2019 interview with Howard Stern, in which she claimed that Sanders’ slowness in endorsing her “hurt (her), there’s no doubt about it.”

To be clear, my own position is that Sanders’ supporters should grit their teeth and vote for Joe Biden in November. Of course, what is and what ought to be are often very different things — a sentiment that seems lost on the Democratic National Committee. Just as they did in 2016, centrist Democrats feel entitled to progressives’ votes. And, just as in 2016, that remains a dangerous position to take.

Democrats do not take conservatives’ votes for granted. That’s why they make continual concessions to Republicans. In fact, Biden’s 2020 campaign platform seems to be one of conciliation: He has vowed to veto Medicare For All should it cross the Resolute desk, and he opposes marijuana legalization, for example. Moderate Democrats live at the center of the political spectrum; if they are willing to make compromises to the right, they should be willing to do so to the left.

Indeed, the progressive wing of the Democratic party shares many of the same concerns as Donald Trump’s base. They will not tolerate the same neoliberal policies that gutted regional economies in the Rust Belt and in Appalachia, policies which always seem to expand under centrist presidents (NAFTA under Bill Clinton; TPP under Barack Obama). Sanders promised fundamental change channelled toward helping Americans to free themselves from the whims of corporate overlords; his goals (to name just a few) included free public college, healthcare decoupled from employment and a transition away from fossil fuels. Donald Trump, in contrast, promises a return to the nationalistic boom years of the past, but his approach, like Sanders’, at least acknowledges his voters’ pain. If Biden cannot (or, more likely, will not) speak to this constituency’s concerns, what makes him a more compelling candidate?

The Democratic establishment is already gearing up to blame Sanders supporters should Biden lose in 2020. But if the progressive coalition is powerful enough to determine an election, the Democratic party must begin treating its concerns with the gravity they deserve — or keep losing.

Arvind Veluvali ’20 can be reached at Please send responses to this opinion to and op-eds to

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  1. 1. If Biden loses, Trump gets more SCOTUS nominations.

    2. Trump SCOTUS nominees = no more progressive policies.

    3. Therefore, Biden will be the most progressive president in history.

  2. I kinda doubt Biden will be to the left of Trump on SCOTUS nominations. Biden is responsible for pushing through Clarence Thomas, who is actually to the right of Kavanaugh.

  3. Have progressives really so easily lost sight of all the damage their causes have suffered under this president?
    The damage to the environment, health care and education, to LGBTQ rights, the corruption he’s brought to the office, and on and on?
    Bernie Sanders justifiably calls Trump the most dangerous president in modern history. Biden is now the one hope to prevent irreparable harm to everything progressives hold dear, the one hope to move progressive goals forward.
    All the protests and all the activism progressives have done in the past 3 years, none of it makes a fraction of an impact compared with casting a vote for Biden in November.
    The question for progressives isn’t what does Biden needs to do for them, it’s what can they/we must do for him.

  4. “ The question for progressives isn’t what does Biden needs to do for them, it’s what can they/we must do for him.”

    Establishment entitlement, indeed…

    • “Establishment entitlement, indeed…”

      Someone missed the point entirely. Supporting Biden isn’t about the establishment or entitlement, it is the _only_ way to advance progressive goals.

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