Bernie Sanders ends presidential bid: Where does this leave American progressives?
Senator Bernie Sanders suspended his presidential campaign Wednesday, leaving Former Vice President Joe Biden as the presumptive adversary against President Donald Trump in the November polls.
Sanders delivered the news of his campaign’s suspension during a livestream conference on his Youtube channel. While stating that the decision was “very difficult and painful,” he acknowledged that his position as distant second to Biden stripped his campaign of its ability to feasibly continue. The suspension of rallies and primary elections in many states due to the growing COVID-19 pandemic also contributed to his stagnation.
“I wish I could give you better news, but I think you know the truth,” Sanders said during his livestream. “We are now some 300 delegates behind [Former] Vice President Biden, and the path toward victory is virtually impossible.”
The decision comes as a surprising reversal for the Sanders campaign, after kicking off election season as the Democratic frontrunner, then suffering over a month of devastating defeats to Biden.
Since his campaign-saving win in the South Carolina primary late February, Biden has steamrolled his competition until his final running mate, Sanders, suspended his bid for the presidency. His crushing success in South Carolina and again on Super Tuesday thinned the Democratic field from seven contenders to two, with Biden earning the endorsements of most of his former adversaries, as well as consolidating their supporters.
Sanders’ losses in Florida, Arizona and Illinois on Mar. 17 contributed to the progressive’s unfavorable trajectory that began to form following Super Tuesday.
Biden has now swept a majority of southern states, including Florida and Texas, and large regions of the North with the results of the most recent primary in Wisconsin yet to be revealed.
With Biden now the apparent Democratic nominee, Sanders announced his endorsement of Biden during the conclusion of his live stream.
“Today I congratulate Joe Biden, a very decent man,” Sanders said.
Sanders also used his airtime to reiterate the social causes and issues that compose his grassroots campaign, speaking on the importance of his perceived “radical” policies of universal healthcare and free tuition for higher education institutions.
“Focusing on that new vision for American is what this campaign has been about,” Sanders said.
Though many Sanders supporters are concerned that the progressive ideology Sanders embodies has been scratched off the ballot along with his presidential bid, there may be no call for concern.
While Biden’s moderate standpoint inevitably causes a level of discrepancy, Sanders' perpetual advocacy for the social and economic issues of importance to his supporters has raised the political platform standard for current and incoming nominees. Issues that had never before exceeded the grassroots level are now talking points in today’s Democratic debates amongst moderate candidates, rather than just Sanders. This is most evident with Sanders’ education plan.
Although former President Barack Obama first proposed making community colleges free of charge five years ago, Sanders was the first to bring the proposal of free tuition at all colleges and universities to the Democratic primaries in 2015.
Today, Biden has expanded his education plan to include free tuition at all colleges and universities for those whose yearly incomes are less than $125,000.
Both candidates also take competitive stances on climate change and gun control, such as the banning of assault rifles.
While Sanders may not have made it to the November polls, it’s safe to say some of his policies will, even if Biden is the candidate facilitating them. Biden’s appropriation of Sanders’ policies to a “moderate” extent no longer allows Sanders’ ideology to be called “too radical” or fringe.
In fact, in order to consolidate the votes of the youthful progressives with more conservative Democrats and expand their cumulative outreach, candidates, like Biden, will be forced to adopt progressive policies into their platforms.
Once the progressive voter pool begins to outnumber that of moderates and conservatives, a mildly progressive platform will no longer be competitive, forcing policies to become more “radical” as the environmental and economic climate change.
For now, a vote for Biden is the feasible way for liberal independents and Democrats to begin executing the American “vision” Sanders attempted to create.
By Haley Hartner