Democratic leaders line up behind Biden; Sanders criticizes N.Y. primary cancellation
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Rep. Pramila Jayapal, and former Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton lined up to give former Vice President Joe Biden triple endorsements in the fight against President Donald Trump. | AP photos

Top Democratic Party leaders—House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair Pramila Jayapal, and 2016 presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, in that order—fell into line behind presumptive 2020 nominee Joe Biden from April 26-28.

The endorsements are a further indication that unlike in 2016, the party leadership and its allies are united and ready for an all-out campaign—subject to the limits imposed by the coronavirus pandemic—to oust GOP President Donald Trump.

The three endorsements leave a few big voices left to be heard from: among them, the AFL-CIO and former President Bill Clinton. Sen. Bernie Sanders, Ind-Vt., the last challenger to Biden, enthusiastically backed him the week before, as did Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Biden’s old boss, former President Barack Obama.

Major unions, including the Teachers and the Fire Fighters, publicly backed Biden, too. So have notable unionists in elected office: Reps. Stephen Horsford, D-Nev. (Unite Here), Donald Norcross, D-N.J. (IBEW), Progressive Caucus co-chair Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., and New Jersey State Senate President Steve Sweeney, the state’s #2 official, an Ironworker.

Jayapal’s endorsement is especially significant. Many progressives, including her, backed Sanders, saying Biden, Obama’s vice president, was more moderate and less progressive than the Vermonter.

Their big beef: Sanders, Jayapal, other progressives, progressive unions, and a majority of Democratic voters back Sanders’s signature issue—government-run single-payer Medicare For All.

Biden doesn’t. He favors expanding and improving the Obama-era Affordable Care Act (ACA) by broadening eligibility for its federal and state-run exchanges, and making more people eligible for Medicare and Medicaid.

Trump, like most Republican voters—and all congressional Republicans—wants to abolish the ACA without replacing it, leaving tens of millions of people at the mercy, or lack of it, of the voracious and vicious health insurers and their high co-pays, deductibles, and denial of care.

Jayapal, who represents Seattle in the U.S. House, sang a somewhat different tune when she backed Biden. She said she’s ready to work with Biden to implement progressive, pro-worker ideas.

“While I have not always agreed with Vice President Biden on matters of policy, I am ready to work with him to craft and then implement the most progressive agenda of any candidate in history,” she said in a tweet.

“Our progressive movement of people organizing in the streets and in the halls of Congress has only grown bigger and more diverse, and we have made enormous strides towards racial, gender, and economic justice,” she added in a formal statement.

“We are ready for a president who will encourage us to be as big as we can be, with compassion and bold leadership. That president must be Joe Biden, and I will do everything I can to help him win back the White House, take back the Senate, and preserve our House majority,” she said.

Pelosi emphasized Biden’s personal qualities and his cool hand in a crisis, particularly relevant as the coronavirus pandemic continues sweeping the U.S. She noted Biden, working under Obama, dealt successfully with the last big crisis the U.S. faced, the 2008 financier-caused Great Recession. Closures due to the coronavirus, however, have plunged the U.S. into a depression.

“Joe has been a voice of reason and resilience with a clear path to lead us out of this crisis. For these and other reasons, I am proud to endorse Joe Biden for president, a leader who is the personification of hope and courage, values authenticity and integrity,” Pelosi said in a pre-recorded three-minute video. She had stayed neutral during the primaries when 24 hopefuls initially vied for the party nod to take on Trump.

“Now more than ever, we need a forward-looking, battle-tested leader who will fight for the people. A president with the values, experience, and the strategic thinking to bring our nation together and build a better, fair world for our children,” she added.

In her endorsement, Hillary Clinton emphasized Biden’s strong support of reproductive choice, which the Trump administration and the GOP have repeatedly attacked, all the way up to pending cases at the U.S. Supreme Court, which now has a five-man right-wing GOP-named majority.

Both spoke via video at a Biden town hall on the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on women.

But in an indication that not all was sweetness and light all the way to November, the Sanders campaign justifiably blew up at New York state for canceling the presidential preference primary there, without also junking party primaries for other offices.

Though his personal race is suspended—and for all practical purposes, over—Sanders stayed on the ballot in New York, and in other coming primary states, to help garner the 25% of Democratic convention delegates needed to influence the party platform this year.

His campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, hit that point in criticizing the state Board of Elections decision. He called it “an outrage” and “a blow to American democracy.”

He also demanded the Democratic National Committee—which did not seek the cancellation—overturn it, order a vote by mail, or deprive New York of its convention delegates. Biden didn’t seek the state’s decision, either, Weaver said.

“Just last week, Vice President Biden warned…Trump could use the current (coronavirus) crisis as an excuse to postpone the November election,” Weaver said. “Well, now he has a precedent, thanks to New York state.”

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Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C. that he has headed since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jervis bureau chief for the Middletown, NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.