With Buttigieg’s exit, the Democratic establishment rallies against Bernie Sanders like in 2016

Joe Biden’s South Carolina win changed the Democratic primaries, which were threatening to become a Bernie Sanders show. But Pete Buttigieg’s sudden withdrawal invokes memories of 2016, when the DNC conspired to undermine Sanders.

Welcome to the silly season of American presidential politics. On the eve of the South Carolina primary, which was held on February 29, the mainstream media was preparing itself for a possible narrow victory by Biden in a contest which, following Biden’s lackluster performances in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada, many believed he needed to win, and win big.

And win big he did, grabbing just under 50 percent of the vote. Bernie Sanders came in a distant second, garnering just under 20 percent, with the other candidates all failing to make the 15 percent threshold of viability, below which no delegates are apportioned. For the remainder of the field, it was anticipated that they would hang on through the Super Tuesday primaries scheduled for March 3, at which point, lacking any unexpected electoral miracle, most if not all would drop out.

One of these potential Super Tuesday holdouts was the former mayor from South Bend, Indiana, Pete Buttigieg. After achieving a surprising virtual tie with Sanders in Iowa (losing the popular vote, but winning the delegate count), and a strong showing in New Hampshire, Mayor Pete (as he is popularly known) dropped to a disappointing 3rd-place finish in Nevada, garnering less than 15 percent of the vote. Buttigieg’s 8.25 percent showing in South Carolina underscored the lack of draw he had among the critical black constituency, without which no Democratic candidate can hope to win their party’s nomination.

But rather than hold on until Super Tuesday, Mayor Pete made the surprising decision to suspend his campaign. While not outright endorsing Joe Biden, he encouraged his followers to pick a candidate who could not only beat President Donald Trump in November, but also assist on the critical ‘down ballot’ congressional races, to ensure that the Democrats hold on to the House of Representatives, and possibly regain control over the Senate. In his earlier debate performances, Buttigieg used this very line of argument in attacking the candidacy of Bernie Sanders.

The timing of Pete Buttigieg’s decision to suspend his campaign appears to be more than simply a personal decision driven by electoral reality. Earlier in the day, Mayor Pete had met with former President Jimmy Carter. This meeting, combined with other conversations the Buttigieg campaign was having with the Democratic National Committee (DNC), seemed to be the driving force behind his surprise announcement.

Despite the breathless reaction of the mainstream American media over Joe Biden’s South Carolina victory, the reality is that Biden faces an uphill struggle just to be able to remain in the Democratic race, let alone prevail. The key is Super Tuesday. Despite his poor performances in Nevada and South Carolina, Pete Buttigieg remained popular enough to garner between 10-15 percent of the vote on Super Tuesday—not enough to defeat Bernie Sanders, but more than enough to split the moderate vote Joe Biden needs to remain viable. The key for Biden is not to win, but simply to stay alive. To do this he must reach the 15-percent viability threshold, something a Buttigieg candidacy threatened.

By suspending his campaign on the eve of Super Tuesday, Pete Buttigieg is hoping that his moderate supporters will cross over to Joe Biden and, in doing so, enable him to win enough delegates to prevent Bernie Sanders from achieving a majority during the first round of balloting at the Democratic National Convention in July. If Sanders arrives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with anything less than an outright majority of delegates, then the rules of the convention mandate a second ballot, at which time 764 so-called ‘superdelegates’ (elite Democratic Party members) will be allowed to weigh in.

The Democratic Party establishment has long viewed Bernie Sanders as an Independent usurper whose candidacy represents more of a populist insurgency than the real values of the party. The DNC conspired with the campaign of Hillary Clinton to undermine Sanders in 2016. By throwing its weight behind Joe Biden, and collaborating with Pete Buttigieg to orchestrate his well-timed withdrawal from the Democratic nominating process, it appears that the DNC is taking a similar tack against Sanders in 2020.


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