“While we are winning the ideological battle, and while we are winning the support of so many young people and working people throughout the country, I have concluded that this battle for the Democratic nomination will not be successful,” Sanders stated during a livestream Wednesday afternoon.
“I know there may be some in our movement who disagree with this decision, who would like us to fight on until the last ballot is cast at the Democratic Convention,” Sanders continued. “But as I see the crisis gripping the nation, exacerbated by a president unwilling or unable to provide any kind of credible leadership, and the work that needs to be done to protect people in this most desperate hour, I cannot in good conscience continue to mount a campaign I cannot win.”
Former Vice President Joe Biden is now the presumptive Democratic nominee and will compete against President Trump in the 2020 Presidential election.
“I want to commend Bernie for being a powerful voice for a fairer and more just America,” Biden said in a statement Wednesday. “It’s voices like Bernie’s that refuse to allow us to just accept what is—that refuse to accept we can’t change what’s wrong in our nation—that refuse to accept the health and well-being of our fellow citizens and our planet isn’t our responsibility too.”
The Sanders campaign was defined by a rollercoaster of ups and downs that saw the self-described Democratic Socialist rise from dark horse to frontrunner, as he gained popularity in national and statewide polls in January and February. Sanders won the popular vote in the early primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada, the latter of which leveraged arguments that Sanders’s appeal is not exclusive to lily-white states, but also to diverse states with large non-white populations.
But his frontrunner status and momentum fizzled out after Biden received the endorsement of South Carolina Congressman Jim Clyburn, and subsequently won the South Carolina primary in a landslide. Days later, Super Tuesday results spelled more trouble for the Sanders campaign: Despite winning in California, the crown jewel of the night, the Sanders campaign lost the south to Biden, including Texas—a state where Sanders campaigned heavily—by four percent. Biden’s popularity among older black voters and suburban white voters aided his sweep, which proved especially successful in the Michigan primary the following week. Despite Sanders’ Michigan win in the 2016 primary against Hillary Clinton, the coalition of Democratic politicians around Biden, as well as his momentum with voters, helped Biden win the elusive electability argument among Michiganders; he bested Sanders in every county in the state. The rest of the night’s results were equally grim for Sanders, and have been ever since.
Despite his popularity, Sanders is a controversial figure among Democratic voters. Many still unfairly hold Sanders accountable for Clinton’s defeat in 2016, and his tendency to avoid certain niceties—singing the Democratic party’s praises, buttering up the press—made him an abrasive figure for some. This wasn’t helped by excessive attention given to small but vocal segments of Sanders’s aggressive online supporters. There is ample criticism to be made of Sanders’s failure to radically change his campaign from his failed 2016 run, notably his failure to expand his base and making greater gains among black voters, particularly older black voters.
But Sanders was the favorite among voters 45 and younger of every race, and he was particularly popular among Latinx voters across the board. His emphasis on providing healthcare for every American, increasing the federal minimum wage, advocating for reproductive justice, eliminating student loan debt, providing free college tuition and trade school for the country’s youth, and combating climate change made him an important figure among progressives and leftists who were tired of Democrats advocating for half-measures.
In a tweet announcing his withdrawal from the race, Sanders wrote that “the struggle for justice continues on,” indicating that he will continue to champion the causes on which he built his career.
“If we don’t believe that we’re entitled to live in a world of justice, democracy, and fairness, without racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, or religious bigotry,” Sanders said in a live stream, “we will continue to have massive income and wealth inequality, prejudice and hatred, mass incarceration, terrified immigrants, and hundreds of thousands of Americans sleeping out on the streets in the richest country on earth.”
Sanders may have lost the primary, but he helped normalize ideas that were once considered too radical; simple ideas that prioritized human dignity above all else. Those ideas will live on after his campaign, but it’s tough to be hopeful that they’re enough.