The coronavirus pandemic has created a new reality in the United States, as it has all over the world. And coming as it has during a presidential election, it has completely upended the political map.
Just a month ago, Bernie Sanders was the leading Democratic candidate and polls showed him defeating Donald Trump in November. Joe Biden’s campaign was sputtering along, as he polled poorly in early primary and caucus states.
But on 29 February, Biden won the South Carolina primary as expected. Biden’s campaign roared back to life. Three days later, on “Super Tuesday”, though Bernie Sanders won the biggest prize (California), the headline news story was just how well Joe Biden did elsewhere. Soon afterwards, all the other defeated Democratic candidates with the exception of Elizabeth Warren quit the race and endorsed the former Vice President.
Bernie Sanders, declared all the pundits, was finished. It was time to pack up and go back to Vermont. According to the mainstream media, Biden had momentum and Sanders did not.
Biden was nearly 800 delegates short of the majority he needed, and Sanders was 300 delegates behind Biden.
That was where we stood in the beginning of March. But everything has now changed – again. Biden has largely disappeared, self-isolating and producing insipid videos from his basement that no one pays attention to, while Trump has the full attention of the nation.
For several days, the hashtag #WhereIsJoe was trending on Twitter. And Trump, despite an endless string of mistakes in his handling of the crisis, is soaring in the polls, never more popular than he is right now.
Democrats have become so worried about the likelihood of a Trump victory that all kinds of ideas, including a movement to draft New York governor Andrew Cuomo, have been floated.
And remember that Biden “momentum”? It’s completely evaporated as states push their primary dates further back in the calendar. As a result, a space is opening for other candidates to challenge Biden, or even to persuade him to drop out of the race.
Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders been busy in Washington, helping to craft the compromise relief bill that just passed both houses of Congress. Sanders has been taking a leading role in the fight to ensure that – as much as possible – the federal government’s response to the pandemic is a fair and just one. And he’s put forward the most comprehensive progressive response to the crisis.
Does this mean that Sanders still has a shot at winning the nomination?
If Democrats are serious about their desire to take back the White House from the corrupt gang of criminals currently in charge, they need to re-think whether Joe Biden has what it takes to defeat Trump. Many now accept that he doesn’t.
Maybe it’s time for another look at that socialist from Vermont, who may very well turn out to be their only chance of victory in November.
• Eric Lee is the convenor of "London for Bernie", writing here in a personal capacity. For Eric's other columns, and more Sanders coverage, see bit.ly/el-bs. For Bernie Sanders and "The Squad" on the Covid-19 epidemic, see bit.ly/bs-squad-cv