Sen. Bernie Sanders departed the race for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination on Wednesday with a forward-looking message to the diverse coalition of voters that made up his enthusiastic base of support across the United States.
"While this campaign is coming to an end," said Sanders, "our movement is not."
"In terms of healthcare, even before the horrific pandemic we are now experiencing, more and more Americans understood that we must move to a Medicare for All, single-payer system."
—Sen. Bernie Sanders
In a livestreamed address announcing the end of his campaign, the Vermont senator said that while he failed to achieve his goal of leading the Democratic ticket against President Donald Trump in November, the grassroots movement that drove his presidential bid "won the ideological struggle."
Much like his longshot 2016 presidential run, Sanders' 2020 campaign propelled universal programs like Medicare for All, tuition-free public college, and a Green New Deal to the center of the national political conversation. Those bold policy ideas, once marginal in the Democratic Party and among the American public, now enjoy widespread support from the Democratic electorate and members of Congress.
"In terms of healthcare, even before the horrific pandemic we are now experiencing, more and more Americans understood that we must move to a Medicare for All, single-payer system," the Vermont senator said, referring to the deadly coronavirus crisis currently gripping the nation, laying bare the systemic flaws in the U.S. healthcare system that Sanders has been warning about for decades.
"If we don't believe that we are entitled to healthcare as a human right, we will never achieve universal healthcare," Sanders said. "If we don't believe that we are entitled to decent wages and working conditions, millions of us will continue to live in poverty. If we don't believe that we are entitled to all of the education we require to fulfill our dreams, many of us will leave school saddled with huge debt, or never get the education we need."
"The greatest obstacle to real social change has everything to do with the power of the corporate and a political establishment to limit our vision as to what is possible and what we are entitled to as human beings... pic.twitter.com/2wMcf1UyiQ— People for Bernie (@People4Bernie) April 8, 2020
In February, Sanders burst out of the gate with three consecutive victories in Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada, solidifying his status as the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination and sparking panic in the corporate media and Democratic establishment.
"He was right when he seemed to be the only alarmist in a political climate of complacency. He is right now that he's the only politician unsurprised to see drug companies profiteering from a lethal plague with Congress' help."
—Elizabeth Bruenig, New York Times
But the dynamics of the race shifted rapidly following former Vice President Joe Biden's landslide victory in South Carolina on Feb. 29.
On March 2—just two days after South Carolina and on the eve of the hugely consequential Super Tuesday contests—Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Pete Buttigieg dropped out of the presidential race and simultaneously endorsed Biden. Beto O'Rourke, who dropped out of the 2020 race in November, and former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) also endorsed Biden on that same day.
The rapid consolidation of the Democratic establishment behind Biden helped the former vice president win decisively on Super Tuesday and build momentum heading into key states like Florida and Michigan, which Biden also won.
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Sanders on Wednesday said that if he "believed we had a feasible path to the nomination," he would continue his presidential campaign.
"But it's not there," said Sanders. "I will stay on the ballot in all remaining states and continue to gather delegates. While Vice President Biden will be the nominee, we should still work to assemble as many delegates as possible at the Democratic convention where we will be able to exert significant influence over the party platform and other functions."
The Vermont senator concluded his remarks by vowing to remain committed to the fight for a country that "lifts up all our people."
"Please stay in this fight with me," said Sanders. "Let us go forward together. The struggle continues."
Let us go forward together. The struggle continues.— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) April 8, 2020
Following Sanders' announcement, progressive advocacy groups and supporters thanked the senator for his movement-centered campaign and embraced his call to continue the fight against "the greed of the entire corporate elite" and for a more just world.
"Because of Bernie and the grassroots organizing he inspired, issues like Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, and the Fight for $15 are more popular than ever," Larry Cohen, board chair of Our Revolution, said in a statement. "Not only has Bernie won the issues debate, he's also inspired a new generation of progressive candidates to run on his platform up and down the ballot and mobilized the grassroots."
RoseAnn DeMoro, former executive director of National Nurses United and a vocal Sanders supporter, tweeted that "we changed the narrative, won the ideological struggle, Bernie is right about that."
"But our representatives will still belong to the wealthy," said DeMoro. "Wall Street won again. Thank you Bernie. We will carry on."
In a column Wednesday, Elizabeth Bruenig of the New York Times wrote that Sanders "was right from the very beginning, when he advocated a total overhaul of the American healthcare system in the 1970s."
"He remains right now, as a pandemic stresses the meager resources of millions of citizens to their breaking point, and possibly to their death," wrote Bruenig. "He was right when he seemed to be the only alarmist in a political climate of complacency. He is right now that he's the only politician unsurprised to see drug companies profiteering from a lethal plague with Congress' help. In politics, as in life, being right isn't necessarily rewarded. But at least there's some dignity in it."