Johnson: Coronavirus exacerbated the strengths of the Democratic candidates


Caitlin Yamada/ Iowa State Daily

Columnist Zach Johnson believes Joe Biden is more likely to win the nomination than Bernie Sanders because of Biden’s electability.

Zachary Johnson

With coronavirus drastically changing the way most Americans live, the view of our candidates and their strengths have been plainly displayed.

Joe Biden appeared in last Sunday’s debate as someone who was putting on a successful act of portraying a president. A president, not in the sense of policy, but as an even-tempered person who could take the reins of the country and steer us in the right direction in these tumultuous times.

Bernie Sanders, in juxtaposition, appeared to be policy-oriented and contextualized the crisis in such a way as to highlight the need for socialized healthcare, using this crisis as proof that a stronger government would have mitigated the poor performance that is present via our current healthcare.

It is clear that both candidates think there needs to be more done to mitigate the individual hardship of having to social distance, but these separate ways of framing the crisis are emblematic of the way that these two candidates have presented their arguments for the nomination.

This is shown in exit polls conducted by The New York Times in the wake of elections in states like Washington, Texas, Michigan and across the board. When asked what is more important, voters who have voted for Biden are consistently looking for someone who is able to beat Trump as opposed to someone who agrees with them on policy. The exact opposite is true for Sanders.

This sort of nicely summarizes the characterization of both of the candidates’ appeal, and the conclusion that could be made anecdotally is that those who support Biden want a leader in these trying times while those supporting Sanders think his policies are the right thing for the country. You could characterize the opposition to Sanders from Biden supporters being that Sanders is not electable enough despite having progressive policy ideas. On the other side, the opposition to Biden from Sanders supporters is that he is not progressive enough policy-wise (this still holds, despite Biden’s attempts to appeal more to that progressive wing of the party.)

It is clear, however, based on the results of these primaries, that there is much more of an appetite for someone who can defeat Trump and be a leader in these trying times. This has been made even more clear and apparent by the spread of the novel coronavirus. Trump’s polling on his handling of the pandemic have roughly followed his approval numbers overall, and this can largely be characterized in the same way, meaning a high floor and a low ceiling. At this point, democrats have rallied around a candidate that will bring them back to the status quo that is so badly sought for after the tumultuous nature of the Trump presidency, and it is only a matter of time before this becomes a reality as Sanders is pressured to drop out.