Penn Democrats, one of the University's largest political groups, endorsed Joe Biden for president on Saturday morning.
“Without a doubt, Joe Biden will be the most progressive president in our history,” the group announced in an editorial on The Daily Pennsylvanian website.
Despite the official endorsement, some of the club's members said they would still vote for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in the primary. The announcement from Penn Dems drew a strong reaction from Penn for Bernie, which defiantly announced on Twitter that the organization would never support Biden.
Penn Dems lauded Biden's promises to choose a woman for his vice president and nominate a Black woman to the Supreme Court and said his "diverse coalition of support" will lead him to success in November's general election.
The endorsement also argued that the former Penn Presidential Professor of Practice will continue his decades–long record of public service by advocating for gun safety, climate change, and civil rights.
Penn Dems credited much of Biden’s progressive platform to the work of his Democratic rivals and said the group remains “inspired” by the policies, supporters, and campaigns of Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).
But despite their endorsement, which was decided by the group's Executive Board, some Penn Dems members will still vote for Biden's rival in the primary.
Penn Dems Communications Director and College first–year Emma Wennberg said she will vote for Sanders in the primary, although she will support Biden if he ends up as the nominee.
"Do I think Joe Biden will bring the dawning of a new era of progressive change? Of course not,” she said. “But we just need to support the Democratic nominee if we want to stop doing irrevocable damage to our planet, which will far outlive the Biden administration.”
Wennberg said the Penn Dems' endorsement reflected the group’s desire to unite young voters for Biden, who lags far behind Sanders in youth support, as well as the need to remove the current president from office.
“This move in throwing our support behind him is about harm reduction because he is the presumptive nominee," Wenberg said.
Penn Dems Secretary and College first–year Emilia Onuonga, who is also a Bernie supporter, said although she would not endorse Biden personally, she does plan to vote for him in the general election if he becomes the Democratic nominee.
“Even though Biden wasn’t the first choice of many Penn Dems members, it was just more pragmatic to go with Biden in the sense that the Democratic Party is leaning towards him and we as a party need to unite,” Onuonga said.
Although the official Sanders campaign has committed to supporting Biden if he becomes the Democratic nominee, Penn for Bernie vowed that the group would not support the former vice president.
“We will never endorse, nor support Joe Biden,” Penn for Bernie tweeted in response to Penn Dems' endorsement.
“Our club as a whole is unlikely to endorse Joe Biden simply because we don’t think that his values run parallel to ours and the members of our club,” Penn for Bernie Co-director and College sophomore Jack Cahill said.
Cahill said members of the group are split on whether or not they will personally vote for Biden in November if he becomes the nominee.
Cahill himself is not sure if he will vote in the general election if Biden is the Democratic nominee. Cahill said the former vice president's policies do not sufficiently advocate for issues that are salient to young people, such as student debt, health care, and climate change.
“I genuinely hope that’s not the view of every Bernie supporter," Penn Dems Membership Director and College sophomore Cassy Ingersoll said in response to Penn for Bernie’s tweet.
Ingersoll feels it is urgent that all Democrats unite to boot 1968 Wharton graduate Donald Trump out of office.
"I really think it’s important we coalesce behind the inevitable nominee, which is really looking to be Joe Biden,” Ingersoll said. “I would just really hope that in the end, we can all set aside our differences and come together to defeat Donald Trump in 2020, because that’s what this is all about.”
Though many Sanders supporters at the University have been active on Twitter to decry Penn Dems' endorsement, Wennberg hopes many will vote for Biden if he becomes the Democratic nominee.
“I think that Twitter is just an inherently reductive platform, so I’m not at all surprised to see people are expressing their outrage that way," she said. "I’m glad that people are getting it out now, hopefully so that we can put this behind us and all work together in November.”
When students arrive back on campus after the Democratic National Convention and the University’s shift to online classes during the coronavirus pandemic, Penn for Biden and Penn Dems will likely combine as one group.
“Hopefully, all of my friends who support Sanders in Penn Dems and elsewhere can realize now, that it’s coming to a point where [Sanders'] candidacy is slowly becoming more and more mathematically impossible and it’s time to coalesce around the vice president,” Penn for Biden Co-founder and Wharton senior Dylan Milligan said.
Biden, who emerged as the Democratic presidential primary frontrunner after Super Tuesday, currently has 1,201 pledged delegates and needs 790 more to gain the 1,991 need for the nomination. Sanders currently has 896, and would need 1,095.
County elections officials in Pennsylvania are pushing to postpone the April 28 primary due to in–person voting complications caused by the coronavirus, but the national Democratic Party has asked states not to delay their elections.
In 2016, Penn Dems endorsed Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in 2008.