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Biden versus Sanders: Eclipsed by Corona

Updated on March 16, 2020

Politicizing the Pandemic

From the beginning, the debate between former Vice-President Joe Biden and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders was shadowed by the reality of the corona virus pandemic that literally has taken over the world. In addition to a change in venue, the debate took place without a live audience. The presence of the pandemic was clear from the beginning of the debate, when Biden and Sanders bumped elbows instead of shaking hands,

When questioned as to how he would handle the crisis, Biden emphasized that he would make sure that tthose who had been exposed to the virus would be tested and taken care of. He expanded upon this by saying that he would make sure that every state had drive-through testing and hospital beds available. He added that he also would have a plan in place to deal with the economic fallout of the virus (e.g., mortgage payments, lost wages, etc.). and explained that when a national emergency is declared, the money comes out of the treasury. Biden emphasized the fact that we need to “get rid of Donald Trump,” who “has exacerbated” everything and actually had refused testing kits that were offered by the World Health Organization (WHO).

In his characteristically blunt fashion, Bernie agreed, stating that we need to “ shut this president up“ because his “unfactual (sic) information“ is harming the people of the United States. Sanders went on to say that if it were up to him, people would be assured that if they got sick, they would not have to worry about paying for anything. He added that he would make sure that hospitals have ventilators and Intensive care units. Never one to miss an opportunity to promote his “healthcare for all ‘“ platform, Sanders noted that the coronavirus has made the weaknesses in our healthcare system more apparent. “We need a simple system that exists in countries all over the world,” he stated.

Biden contended that The coronavirus scare has nothing to do with Sanders’ battle for universal healthcare. “In a war you do whatever is needed to be done to take care of your people.” He noted that the United States should ”lead the world,” and in order to accomplish that goal, we need someone who knows how to “bring the world together” as its President.


The contenders eventually moved on to other issues, which in light of the current pandemic seemed to be something of an afterthought. In respect to immigration, Biden said, “ We should be embracing bringing them in. Xenophobia is a disease.” Sanders seemed to be in agreement when he noted that we need to “ end this demonization ( I.e., of immigrants) coming from the Trump administration.” He added, “ We need to deal with people seeking asylum because of international war,” and insisted, “Stop grabbing babies from the arms of their mothers.” He continued, “Nobody is talking about open borders,” but “good people” are “living in terror. “ He punctuated his immigration stance by pointing out the fact that his father was a Polish immigrant.

Biden noted that Sanders had voted against the immigration bill and promised that “ No one will be deported at all“ during the first 100 days of his (I.e. Biden’s) presidency and that the only immigrants who would be expected to leave at any time would be felons.

The one issue on which both candidates seemed to agree was climate change. As Sanders put it, “ We are fighting for the future of this planet.” Both Sanders and Biden stated that they are absolutely against fracking. Biden noted that he supports high speed rail travel, “taking millions of automobiles off the roads.“ Sanders claimed that he would “put millions of people to work making our buildings efficient“ and emphasized his support of the “Green New Deal.”

When questioned as to why he should expect Cubans to support him, Sanders answered, “I have opposed authoritarianism in Cuba or any place else” and noted that he certainly favors a “move toward democracy and human rights.” When reminded of the fact that in 2016, President Obama praised Cuba for educating young people, Biden replied, “He was trying to change Cuba’s policy.” (I must admit that I found that comment somewhat nebulous.)

When questioned as to where he stands in reference to abortion, Sanders replied, “I have consistently believed that it is a woman’s right to control her own body,” adding that unlike himself, Biden had not always supported a woman’s right to decide whether or not she should have an abortion. In another of his no-holds-barred moments, Sanders contended that women are “under assault” by President Trump.

What probably was the defining moment of this debate, however, occurred when Biden stated, “I would pick a woman to be my vice president.” When asked how he felt about that, Sanders managed, “My very strong tendency is to move in that direction.”

And the winner is?

Considering the fact that Biden and Sanders were- thanks to the corona pandemic- forced into a somewhat surreal situation (a change of venue, the absence of a live audience, a focus on the corona virus), each of them answered the questions that were posed and then some. Perhaps because of these factors, in addition to the fact that the field had been weaned to two candidates, this debate was far less contentious than the others had been. What happens from here on remains to be seen. This time, though, it was clear that the elephant in the room had been replaced by the corona virus.


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