That was Nate Silver's judgement on the night, as Biden captured Florida, Illinois and Arizona (and would undoubtedly have taken Ohio as well if they had voted. I think it would be appropriate and highly desirable for Sanders just to drop out at this point. Going on serves no useful purpose; he has raised his issues and bashing Biden more at this point just serves Trump's interests.
John Judis, a Sanders supporter both in 2016 and this year, agrees. But he helpfully puts Sanders role in a broader context, with which I agree. Biden, if he wins, will be a transitional figure in a transitional era. So a Biden victory will be of the highest importance but just a beginning.
"He could prove to be a heroic figure if the country doesn’t descend into chaos. We – and I’d include at least Western Europe — are at a transitional moment in our history, going from a period of market fundamentalism and unfettered globalization to a period where government is going to have to play a very large role in the economy. The Great Recession was the first warning sign that capitalism wasn’t working; now we have the coronavirus, for which we have proven to be unprepared – and not just because of Trump’s incompetence, self-dealing and ignorance. It’s also because we have allowed the market imperatives of private drug companies, medical equipment makers, insurance companies and hospitals too much influence over health care policy.
I would expect two broad alternatives to emerge over the decade, although I would not expect either in pure form to predominate; first, a Republican approach along the lines laid out recently by Senators Marco Rubio and Josh Hawley. They have promoted an industrial policy aimed at reviving American industry, which would also help revive the mid-sized and small towns that were once centers of American prosperous and are now plagued by opioid addiction. They openly attack market fundamentalism. You can read about their approaches in American Affairs and also National Review.
Where they might differ with Democrats is on the urgency of addressing climate change, unions, business regulations, and the generosity of social welfare policy. But this version of Republicanism would be preferable to the laissez-faire policies (except when it comes to subsidies for big business and the rich) promoted by Mitch McConnell and the House Freedom Caucus. Boris Johnson seems to have taken this Rubio-Hawley path in Great Britain.
The other alternative would be what Sanders, Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown and, to some extent, Warren have advocated. They would also promote American industry and try to rein in footloose multinationals. They would invest heavily in infrastructure and education. But they would also try to revive the labor movement and adopt measures that would give workers and, in some cases, representatives from local communities influence over what businesses do. They would stress economic democracy, changing the balance of power in private and public decision-making, which is tilted way over on the side of business and the wealthy. They would try to remove healthcare and education from market control. In 2016 and 2020, Sanders pointed the way toward this kind of democratic approach to industrial and social reconstruction. If the U.S. moves in that direction in the future, he will be remembered fondly....
If Biden wins, he will prevent the disaster of a second Trump term: the sheer violence it could unleash in the country, the bilious incompetence of the man, the damage he can do to the courts, the government, the air we breathe. But I suspect Biden will primarily be a placeholder for the future. He’ll put his finger in the dike for four years.
The next generation of Democrats will have to figure out how to build a majority party. They will have to figure out how to make capitalism serve the national interest, and if that meets resistance, as it seems to have done in parts of the healthcare industry, replace private with public ownership and control. If they get a chance to do that, they can thank Biden for getting rid of Trump. But they can also thank Bernie Sanders for pointing the way forward."
That seems like a fair judgement. Sanders would have made a terrible candidate against Trump in my view. But, in a longer view, we may indeed have much to thank him for.