On Tuesday March 10, former Vice President Joe Biden won primaries in the states of Idaho, Michigan, Missouri, Montana and Washington. His opponent, Senator Bernie Sanders, won in North Dakota. Despite recent losses, Sanders announced Wednesday that he would stay in the race.
Sanders faced a blow to his campaign that only two weeks ago seemed unstoppable, after gaining significant momentum from the Nevada caucus win. By Wednesday morning, the consensus among many New Yorkers on their midday strolls, was confusion as to why the Vermont senator had not dropped out of the race, or whether he even should. Some argued he ought to stop his campaign so the Democratic Party could mount a more effective campaign against Donald Trump in the fall.
“He should just drop out, there’s no point he’s only going to be disruptive instead of unifying and being for the party,” said Fran Smith, 78, an Upper West Side resident waiting for the bus. To Smith, Biden is solid because of his experience.
Sanders had a response for New Yorkers like Smith and Americans alike.
“Last night, obviously, was not a good night for our campaign from a delegate point of view,” Sanders said at a press conference in Burlington, Vermont on Wednesday. Sanders acknowledged his campaign’s struggle, but he stressed that he was winning the progressive and generational debate among voters and could defeat Trump because of it. Polling reports, however, do not indicate that youth-voter turnout backs up his claim. “The American people will have the opportunity to see which candidate is best positioned to accomplish that goal,” Sanders said.
To get a sense of how New Yorkers reacted to Sanders’ decision, NYCity Lens asked some New Yorkers on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, randomly stopped on the sidewalk. Many indicated that remaining in the race would not be the way for Sanders to help get rid of Donald Trump. Other New Yorkers see the former vice president as the only viable option.
“I have the question of electability with Sanders,” said Michael Lange, 66, a New Yorker retired from the music business industry, “but if he can keep pushing the agenda left, that’s great. It’s all he can do if he has any leverage left.”
Lange added that he never loved any of the Democratic candidates and that it amazes him that Sanders’ agenda is considered radical in the U.S., but in Europe it’d be moderate. “I question if he can get half of [what he says] done,” Lange said. He hopes Biden will be able to push Trump out of the White House. He clearly wasn’t the only one who thought that way.
“I’m sticking to Biden,” said Ira Gallen, 69, a director, film toy collector and historian, who originally wanted Michael Bloomberg to take the nomination. But he noted that the former mayor “just sucks when he has to speak because he never had to do that before.” After Bloomberg’s short run, Gallen decided to follow the former mayor’s endorsement and support the former vice president. “I want Biden to come in and just get the whole country together, but from there it’s up to young people,” Gallen said.
Others also had national and party unification on their minds. “Bernie will be more of a dissension,” said Lauren Williams, 61, who says she now supports Biden. “I really like him, but he’s been trying to do the same thing for 30 years and it hasn’t gotten anywhere.”
Williams said that her family would be appalled if they knew she was now supporting Biden. “People are complicated, and you can’t just throw them away for having different opinions,” Williams said.
Some voters, like Jackie Myer, 60, a coordinator at the Asia Society, appreciated Sanders’ energy despite her political differences with the progressive candidate. “I give Bernie all the credit,” said Myer, who considers herself one of few Republicans in New York City, “He gets people going. I like that.”
Myer said she thinks that Sanders is most equipped to take on the Presidential incumbent but admired Biden’s campaign for restoring the nation’s dignity and respect. Myer doesn’t always appreciate the rhetoric currently coming from the White House. “If I had young children I wouldn’t want them seeing a president talking like this on TV,” Myer said. “We’re all in this together, wanting the best for our country.” But she does find the job of the president less than ideal. “I mean who would want that job?” she asked.