Last year’s decision to move up this year’s presidential primary by several weeks to this Tuesday has paid off, keeping the state relevant in determining who wins enough delegates for the Democratic nomination.
True, the field of candidates since Super Tuesday a week ago has now narrowed to just two contenders: former Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont — OK, three if you count U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, who has long struggled to keep her poll numbers above 1 percent.
Still, the decision by Washington voters in the March 10 presidential primary will either add to Biden’s current delegate lead or will pull Sanders closer to the front-runner. Of the six states with contests on Tuesday, Washington offers the second-largest cache of delegates (89), behind Michigan’s 125.
Already, nearly 25 percent of Snohomish County’s 489,209 registered voters have returned their ballots, suggesting a strong turnout. For those who have yet to mark their ballots — and the box stating party preference, if you want that vote to count — The Herald Editorial Board endorses Biden as the Democrats’ best choice to face President Trump in the general election, win the White House and begin what will be a long slog to restore the office of the president to normalcy, the nation’s stature on the world stage and work with Congress to advance needed legislation.
A word about Herald endorsements: We offer all such endorsements for political office and ballot measures as recommendations for our readers to consider as they make their own choices. We expect that many will disagree and will vote as they see fit; we would have it no other way. But, as a companion to the political coverage, analysis and opinion provided elsewhere in The Herald, it is the editorial board’s intention not to guide but to inform voters’ choices.
The endorsement of Biden is based on the experience of the former senator and vice president, his policy positions and some important political considerations.
Prior to his tenure as President Obama’s vice president, Biden served as a U.S. senator from 1972 until 2009, including Democratic leadership positions beginning in the early ’80s as ranking member of the judiciary committee and involvement in international issues, including nuclear arms treaties with the Soviet Union, and later as ranking member on the foreign relations committee, experience from which he drew later as vice president as he advised Obama on both Iraq and Afghanistan and, notably now, led policy in Ukraine.
Democratic voters will find policy positions of Biden’s with which they will agree and disagree; that record — good and regrettable — is something that comes with a long career. Biden has rethought some past positions and confirmed others. But the same can be said of Sanders.
Voters will also have to decide whether Biden’s record of working across the aisle with Republicans is a plus or minus. But today’s voters should remember that cooperation among parties during Biden’s Senate tenure involved work among moderates of both parties who have since sadly dwindled in number.
Sanders has an equally impressive political resume, and will find support among this state’s voters for many — but not all — of the policies he seeks, chief among them his Medicare for All plan and his plans to provide free tuition for public colleges and universities and to cancel student debt.
The differences between Biden and Sanders on such policies are less about general outcomes and more about degree and possibility, which is where political considerations come into play.
On those issues, Biden plays to achieving the good rather than hoping for the perfect: restoring, strengthening and improving upon Obama’s Affordable Care Act; providing a debt-free community college or trade school education; and increasing the generosity of current income-based student loan repayment programs.
Even for those who prefer Sanders’ proposals, there’s significant doubt that they could be implemented in eight years, let alone four. Why? Because while we do believe that Sanders is capable of defeating President Trump, it is more likely that Biden can win the White House while also offering the best path toward a Democratic majority in the Senate and retention of control in the House.
Of five states with 2020 Senate races that are seen as the most vulnerable, four are held by Republicans. If Biden or Sanders wins in November, Democrats must win at least three of those five races. Regardless of how Washington voters view the term “democratic socialist,” it is arguably viewed less favorably among voters in Alabama, Colorado, Arizona, Maine and North Carolina. The concern is the same for many of the House seats that Democrats won in swing districts less than two years ago.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, will give even less consideration to the proposals of a Democratic president — Sanders or Biden — than he has given to the more than 275 pieces of legislation adopted by the House, at least some of which have bipartisan support, for which McConnell has refused further consideration.
Assuming a Democrat returns to the Oval Office next year, that president will have daunting tasks ahead to restore much of what President Trump has overturned in terms of protections for the environment, a resumption of efforts on climate change, considered appointments to the Supreme Court, restoration of the social safety net, promotion of trade, concerns for workers’ rights, an end to the cruelty of Trump’s border and immigration policies, reversal of unfair tax policy and much more.
Biden, we believe, has the political experience, the reputation among world and national leaders and the ability to form coalitions among diverse partners to restore neglected and abused standards for normalcy, the rule of law and the good of the nation.