WHEN JOE BIDEN OFFERED REMARKS on his primary victory sweep last night via a shaky video live stream from his Delaware home that had Globe columnist Scot Lehigh wondering if it was really Joe speaking “or the Biden hologram,” it was clear that this was no ordinary election night.
But you hardly needed the spectral spectacle of Biden in his Wilmington living room to know we are not in normal times.
Earlier this week, CommonWealth’s Shira Schoenberg chronicled the total shutdown of Boston area theaters and museums, where the time-honored adage that the “show must go on” has run headlong into the battle against global pandemic that hinges on people not congregating together in large numbers.
But when it came to yesterday’s scheduled presidential primaries in four states, the exigencies of democracy demanded that the vote go on. Or at least that democracy go three-for-four.
Ohio officials made a last-minute decision to postpone the primary there, but balloting proceeded in three other states — Arizona, Florida, and Illinois.
When it was over, Joe Biden had continued his run toward the Democratic nomination, trouncing Bernie Sanders by wide margins in all three contests. But there was no big victory party and there was hardly any sense of the usual excitement of an election night.
Which is not to say the primaries were meaningless. On the contrary, the writing is now very much on the wall. The race is essentially over. But no one knows where the next chapters of the script will take things.
The pressure will only intensify for Sanders to drop out and throw his support behind Biden and the greater cause of defeating President Trump. But Bernie’s not saying anything yet. If the math wasn’t enough to drive him out the race, the icing on the time-to-fold-’em cake should be the fact that campaigning, as we know it, has come to a virtual halt. There will no big rallies of the kind that could draw thousands of fervent Sanders backers. There will be no door-knocking missions to deploy his army of enthusiastic young volunteers.
Along with Ohio, four other states have postponed primaries that had been scheduled for the next few weeks. That will put a further damper on the nomination race, though it’s also possible it could lead Sanders to hang in there and stay in the race with a “hope for a major shift in its political fundamentals.”
After seeming to unnecessarily mix it up with Sanders during Sunday’s one-on-one debate, Biden pivoted directly to Sanders supporters his remarks last night, praising the “remarkable passion and tenacity” of the Vermont senator and his backers.
“I hear you, I know what’s at stake, I know what we have to do,” Biden said. “Our goal as a campaign, and my goal as a candidate, is to unify this party and unify this nation.”
While Biden spoke in somber tones about the public health crisis the country is facing, Democrats are gearing up for an all-out assault on Trump’s handling of the pandemic, with a straightforward string of video remarks showing the president over the last two months downplaying the crisis and offering false statements about the effort to combat it standing as Exhibit A.
But that hardly foretells a certain Democratic victory in November.
Trump is a master of rewriting the history of events and his response to them. There’s lots of time for him to try to put his initial cavalier posture well into the rearview mirror, as he’s already begun to do. And the federal government now seems likely to be cutting checks for millions of Americans, a tangible government response that could work to his benefit.
Michael Ceraso, who worked on Sanders’s 2016 campaign and served for a period as Pete Buttigieg’s New Hampshire director last year, told Politico big crises can often bolster an incumbent.
“We know we have two candidates who can pivot this generation’s largest health crisis to their policy strengths,” he said. “But history tells us that an incumbent who steers us through a challenging time, a la Bush and 9/11 and Obama and the Great Recession, are rewarded with a second term.”