The October Democratic debate was noteworthy because all of the candidates did a good job. Some were, of course, better than others, but no one tripped up, and for the most part all stayed on script and advanced the message of the party.
Bernie Sanders was deemed one of the “winners” by CNN, one of the two sponsors of the debate (along with the New York Times): “the winner of the night was older than the two youngest candidates on stage — [Tulsi] Gabbard, 38, and Mayor Pete Buttigieg, 37 — combined.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, 78, returned to the campaign trail after recovering from a heart attack to deliver his strongest debate performance of the campaign. He was lively, funny and persuasive. At one, a point he even seemed to convince billionaire Tom Steyer that billionaires shouldn’t exist.”
If you were watching the debate to see how Sanders fared in the wake of his recent heart attack, well, he was the same old Bernie: Irascible, impatient, sneaky funny and entirely unapologetic about his liberal solutions to the problems facing the country. In a moment indicative of Sanders’ night, he was asked a question about his health, muttered something like “I’m fine” and then pivoted to talk policy. Also, it doesn’t hurt that the news that New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez would be endorsing him broke during the debate.
“The endorsement could be a blow for Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who, like Sanders, is running on a platform of sweeping liberal change and who has emphasized her role as a female pioneer. Ocasio-Cortez had worked as a volunteer organizer for Sanders’s 2016 presidential bid; she was recruited to run for Congress in 2018 by Justice Democrats, a group that grew out of the Sanders campaign.
Her backing was a sought-after prize in the Democratic primary, and it was widely assumed that she would endorse either Sanders or Warren, the most liberal figures in the contest.” But which one?
AOC’s backing came at a moment in the campaign where Warren was being considered the front runner and Bernie was losing ground against her. AOC’s endorsement has been actively sought by the candidates for months.
Back in May, Politico rated her eventual endorsement as one of “the most important endorsements in America right now . . . Landing Ocasio-Cortez’s endorsement would be a coup for Warren; even getting her to hold off on formally backing Sanders might be considered a win. For Sanders, an endorsement from her would symbolize that he was consolidating his grip on the left-wing of the party even with Warren, a fellow progressive populist, in the race.”
AOC has become such an important figure since her election at the end of 2018 that she might well have been a top contender for selection as the vice-presidential candidate were it not for the fact that she is five years too young to qualify for the position. She could well be a top choice for a cabinet position in a Democratic presidency. She and Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts released the Green New Deal, one of the most important Democratic Party proposals for 2020.
So, let’s look at how AOC’s endorsement fits into the arc of Bernie’s campaign. He started at the top at the beginning of 2019. Joe Biden came in to challenge him, as did Elizabeth Warren. The media did everything it could to ignore him. He became the leading money-raiser and then suddenly had a heart attack. Some commentators said he should withdraw. Biden continued to slip and Warren became the leading contender. And, then, despite the heart attack, Bernie kept up his campaign. He drew applause even from the other Democratic candidates when he entered the October debate stage. And at the very end of the debate, AOC’s intent to endorse him was revealed.
Bernie shall rise again.