Sanders Suspends Presidential Campaign, Progressive Groups Now Look to Biden on Climate Leadership

Image: Tom Brenner/Reuters

by Miro Korenha

Yesterday, Senator Bernie Sanders suspended his presidential campaign thus making former VP Joe Biden the presumptive Democratic nominee. For many progressives and especially progressive youth voters who overwhelmingly supported Sanders, the decision was disappointing.

In response, a coalition of progressive youth groups sent Joe Biden a letter outlining a list of commitments they insist he makes before they would be willing to support his candidacy. Support for policies like Medicare for All, a Green New Deal (which Biden already supports), as well as $10 trillion in spending on green stimulus and infrastructure investments were part of the requirements.

Olive Branching Out: In a statement commending Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden had the following to say about how he would approach the fight for the progressive issues Sanders supporters prioritize:

“Senator Sanders and his supporters have changed the dialogue in America. Issues which had been given little attention — or little hope of ever passing — are now at the center of the political debate. Income inequality, universal health care, climate change, free college, relieving students from the crushing debt of student loans. These are just a few of the issues Bernie and his supporters have given life to. And while Bernie and I may not agree on how we might get there, we agree on the ultimate goal for these issues and many more.”

Path to Victory: There’s evidence that on the issue of climate change, some Trump voters might be persuaded to vote for a Democrat. As the Independent reported,

Eleven percent of 2016 Trump voters “take a liberal position on at least four out of five climate-related issues”, according to the study by Data For Progress, and more than half are considering voting Democratic in 2020.”

Interestingly enough, in the letter progressive youth groups sent Biden, they did not insist that he commit to a ban on fracking. Perhaps this is a nod to the white, working-class voters that Biden will need to win over in order to secure natural gas-producing states like Pennsylvania. As the Daily podcast called fracking: it’s a swing issue that could win a swing state.

Additionally, a new study shows that Biden can unite swing voters and progressives behind the issue of climate change. 

Biden Coalition: As The Guardian explained, last month, Biden stitched together a wide range of support from African Americans, suburbanites and working-class white voters to rack up wins across the country and amass an almost indomitable lead over Sanders. To beat Trump, young voters will have to commit to voting for Biden, there’s no way around it. Staying home or opting for a third-party candidate is a strategy to get Trump reelected.

Bottom Line: Joe Biden is nowhere near Donald Trump on climate issues. So when hashtags like #NeverBidenNeverTrump trend on Twitter it creates a dangerous equivalency that somehow these two men would approach the climate emergency in similar ways. It can be argued that Joe Biden can make his climate policy more robust (and now he has a plethora of former candidate plans to borrow from) but let’s not forget that Donald Trump found the time during a global pandemic to roll back President Obama’s fuel efficiency standards that saved billions of tons of pollution from being emitted.

Why This Matters: The youth vote certainly matters, as it’s our future on the line. However, throughout the primary election, young people failed to turn out to vote for Bernie Sanders even as older voter turnout skyrocketed. Ensuring that Donald Trump is a one-term president is the best thing we can do for our planet, but that’s going to take some commitments on our part too.

My plea as a Millennial to my peers is that we should absolutely fight for bold action on climate change but at the same time, we must do better when it comes to voting. My generation won’t be taken seriously by lawmakers until we become a consistent, vast, block of voters. We can demand whatever we want, but if we don’t vote then our voices won’t be prioritized. That should be our #1 goal this election, turn out every eligible young voter. No excuses.



There is an expression in Spanish: “God always forgives, we forgive sometimes, but nature never forgives.” We did not respond to the partial catastrophes. Who now speaks of the fires in Australia, or remembers that 18 months ago a boat could cross the North Pole because the glaciers had all melted? Who speaks now of the floods? I don’t know if these are the revenge of nature, but they are certainly nature’s responses.

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