OSWEGO — The March 5 Super Tuesday election left local Democrats with all of two options for its presidential nominee: Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden.
Biden has surged to the top of the race, by way of his performance in the last two weeks of primaries but Sanders isn’t quitting yet. On April 28, New York will decide between Sanders, the progressive, uncompromising, self-proclaimed democratic socialist and Biden, a key figure in the administration of President Barack Obama and a long-time member of the party vanguard.
Former Port City mayor John Sullivan was running as a delegate for South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, but is endorsing Biden now that “Mayor Pete” has dropped out. Sullivan believes the main goal of the party should be to unseat Donald Trump and that if Sanders were to pull off the upset and win the nomination, he would support him.
“I think (Sanders’) chances of getting elected are less than Biden’s,” Sullivan told The Palladium-Times. “I think he could still get elected but it would be harder.”
Sullivan learned an important lesson in 1972 when he was a delegate for Senator and Democratic Party nominee George McGovern — who lost every state except for Massachusetts to President Richard Nixon. Sullivan said the loss showed him that America is “grounded in the middle,” and he doesn’t believe Sanders will appeal to the moderate liberal voter.
Tuesday’s Michigan primary was another major win for Biden in what was seen as a Midwestern bell-weather state. Biden received 71 of Michigan’s 125 delegates.
Some of the policy ideas that invigorate Sanders’ young base are “a pipe dream,” Sullivan said, such as his promise to cancel all student debt and make college free or at least more affordable. Sullivan also said that Medicare for all is “a great overall policy goal but we’re far away from that in terms of cost.”
Oswego’s Jonathan Ashline, a campaigner for Sanders, sees his goals as America simply rising to the standard already in place around the globe.
“It’s a matter of catching up to other countries like Finland, Denmark and Belgium. Many of them provide education free of cost,” Ashline said. “In the kind of society we live in, we should all be taking care of each other.”
Ashline attributes Sanders’ recent performance in Super Tuesday primaries and caucuses to “the old electability argument,” which he said is the main driving force behind Biden’s campaign.
Sanders’ campaign and surrogates have proudly embraced his label as a “democratic socialist” but Ashline thinks negative connotations of that moniker are relics of the Cold War.
Although reluctant, Ashline will support the former vice president if he is the Democratic Party nominee.
“I am not a huge fan of Joe Biden, but ultimately he is better than Donald Trump,” Ashline said.
One consensus point among the comments from Sullivan and Ashline was clear: Democrats must put aside ideological differences to defeat the president at all cost.
County legislator and Oswego City Democratic Committee Chair Tom Drumm, D-Oswego, is endorsing Biden as well. Drumm first interacted with Biden and his staff in 2014 when Biden came to Syracuse to endorse Congressman Dan Maffei.
“I saw firsthand how the (vice president) and his staff treated people, his genuineness made me a lifelong fan. I think he is the man for this moment and has a legitimate track record of getting things done in D.C.,” Drumm said in a recent interview. “Additionally, he has a brain, which is a considerable upgrade from the current occupant of the White House.”
In 2016, Sanders won Oswego County’s presidential primary with 55 percent of the vote against eventual nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton. In the general election, however, Trump was dominant with 57 percent of the countywide vote.
Fred Beardsley, chairman of the Oswego County Republican Committee, said it doesn’t matter who the Democrats nominate, he believes neither Sanders nor Biden can defeat Trump.
“If it ain’t broken don’t fix it,” Beardsley said, pointing to what he sees as Trump’s business-friendly agenda creating a strong economy.
Beardsley also said he’s baffled by the amount of people willing to vote for Sanders, who he described as “a guy who has never had a real job in his whole life.”
“It does bother me that after all we’ve gone through over the centuries that we still have a number of people willing to vote for socialism,” Beardsley said.
The presidential primary is April 28.