Sanders drops out of Democratic race, says movement “won the ideological struggle”
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., waves to supporters behind the stage during one of his last campaign rallies before the COVID-19 outbreak suspended public events, March 5, 2020, in Phoenix. | Ross D. Franklin / AP

Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent whose two runs for the White House galvanized millions of voters—including a majority of young voters—officially dropped out of the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination race on April 8, ceding the nod to the last remaining hopeful, former Vice President Joe Biden.

But even though the two differed sharply on key issues during the months-long battle for the nomination to face GOP incumbent Donald Trump this fall, Sanders had previously said, “If I lose this thing, Joe wins—Joe, I will be there for you.” And he reiterated that, strongly, in his withdrawal speech.

“We will go forward together to defeat Donald Trump, the most dangerous president in modern history,” Sanders declared.

Though he officially suspended his campaign, Sanders said he will stay on ballots in remaining primary and caucus states, hoping to gain more delegates to “exert significant influence” on the Democratic Party platform and its future at the convention, now scheduled for Milwaukee in August.

“We have never been just a campaign, but a grassroots, multiracial, multigenerational movement. While the campaign is coming to an end, our movement is not,” he emphasized.

Sanders acknowledged he will not be the nominee, but he encouraged supporters to take pride in the victories they’ve scored together. “Our movement has won the ideological struggle. Ideas which were radical and fringe are now mainstream and being implemented in cities around the country,” Sanders said. They include the fight for a $15 hourly minimum wage, transformation of U.S. energy sources away from fossil fuels, and ideas for debt-free higher education.

Sanders has just over 900 delegates so far, to Biden’s 1,200-plus, and needs one-quarter of the conclave’s 3,981 delegates to get seats on the convention’s platform committee. But combining that 300-delegate deficit with pro-Biden states coming up, Sanders conceded that “a path to victory” in the nomination race itself “is virtually impossible.”

Biden was the favorite candidate all along of party “insiders” and the Democratic “establishment,” including corporate campaign contributors—a point Sanders kept pounding away at during the primaries and 11 Democratic debates. The big donors’ enthusiasm showed up in the stock market this morning, which rose by 500 points upon hearing that its last and strongest Democratic critic had left the race.

But he was also the favored candidate of African-Americans, a key and pivotal Democratic constituency. Sanders made little headway among them, the primaries’ exit polls showed.

A key boost to Biden came when influential Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., openly endorsed the former veep before the South Carolina primary, which Biden won in a landslide thanks to African-American votes. He then went on to trounce Sanders in succeeding primaries, and, to top it off, won endorsement on April 7 from Congress’s moral leader—due to his civil rights sacrifices—Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga.

Sanders based his campaign on several favored causes, notably for Medicare For All, which he intends to keep fighting for through the convention and beyond. That was a key point of conflict between the two. Biden favors a “public option” and would retain the role of the powerful and pernicious health insurers in delivering payment for health care.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., right, says he will work together with former Vice President Joe Biden, left, to defeat Donald Trump in November. Sanders’s name will remain on the ballot in the primaries still to come, however, and he will seek to accumulate more delegates to influence the eventual platform adopted by the Democratic Party. | Evan Vucci / AP

By contrast, Sanders would abolish privatized health care in favor of a government-run single-payer system. He conceded it would need a payroll tax hike to partially fund it, but kept emphasizing that workers and their families—and businesses, too—would save far more by elimination of the insurers’ overhead, co-pays, denial of care and out-of-pocket costs forced on workers and their unions.

More recently, he switched to saying Medicare For All would avoid the holes in coverage that leave millions without care during the coronavirus pandemic—including all 11 million undocumented people and the millions who have lost their employer-linked coverage due to becoming suddenly unemployed.

Campaigns against corporate interests were another key difference between Sanders, a self-declared democratic socialist, and Biden. It wasn’t just a case of Biden taking corporate PACs’ and company execs’ campaign cash and Sanders’ reliance on the flood of small individual donations.

Sanders repeatedly called for a bootstraps-up revolution to remake a political system which he said—and which statistics show—is excessively tilted to the 1%.

In the immediate future, Sanders said, he would return to the Senate to “address this unprecedented economic crisis with an unprecedented response.” He said Congress has to act to “meet the needs of working families, not just the powerful.” He vowed it is something he’ll “intensely fight for in the coming months,” as the nation is now in an economic recession—or worse—due to shutdowns and closures as part of the anti-coronavirus pandemic fight.

“We will accelerate and institutionalize the progressive change we have all been fighting for,” Sanders concluded.


Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C. that he has headed since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jervis bureau chief for the Middletown, NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.

C.J. Atkins
C.J. Atkins

C.J. Atkins is the managing editor at People's World. He holds a Ph.D. in political science from York University in Toronto and has a research and teaching background in political economy and the politics and ideas of the American left. In addition to his work at People's World, C.J. currently serves as the Deputy Executive Director of ProudPolitics.