On Wednesday, Sen. Bernie Sanders announced that he is ending his campaign for US president.
"Together we have transformed the American consciousness as to what kind of nation we can become," Sanders said in his address on Wednesday.
Sanders' decision to drop out of the race comes after a series of key primary losses. After former Vice President Joe Biden had an unexpectedly strong showing on March 3rd's Super Tuesday primaries, Sanders needed to make a major comeback, but consistently trailed behind in delegate counts. This news comes as multiple elections were postponed during the COVID-19 pandemic in the US, with the exception of Wisconsin's primary, which was held on Tuesday with in-person voting.
Exit polls in March showed that black voters and women were a huge part of Biden's wins; he had double-digit leads among women over Sanders, though it's unclear how Sanders would have fared in states that postponed their elections more recently.
Still, Sanders' supporters included a strong allegiance of young and first-time voters. The candidate, who started a "political revolution" that galvanised millennials and Gen Z across the country, sought to change our political systems and promote inclusivity among classes. "The ideas that seemed radical four years ago are now kind of mainstream," Sanders said on 60 Minutes in February.
"Not only are we winning the struggle ideologically, but we are winning it generationally," Sanders said in his announcement.
Sanders entered the race after losing the primary to Hillary Clinton in 2016, capitalising on the grassroots movement he'd built during his previous campaign. He was a frontrunner throughout, but battled against perceptions of being too radical for people who felt a moderate candidate was necessary to bring the Democratic party together to beat Donald Trump. After dropping out of the race, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Pete Buttigieg, and Amy Klobuchar all endorsed Biden; Elizabeth Warren did not endorse.
Sanders ran on a progressive platform that included support for Medicare For All, halting detention and deportation of immigrants, and allowing incarcerated people to vote. He often cited his Jewish values as a driving force in his quest to become the first Jewish president and spoke openly about his support for Palestinians, turning down an invitation to speak at AIPAC, one of the largest pro-Israel gatherings in the country. His Brooklyn accent and Ashkenazi Jewish tone and mannerisms were sometimes interpreted as angry or abrasive.
In response to the current coronavirus fight, Sanders said in his announcement that the pandemic "has exposed for all to see how absurd our current employer-based health insurance system is." Sanders also vowed to continue fighting for his progressive platforms, saying that although he is suspending his campaign, he is going to keep his delegates and remain in the ballot through the Democratic National Convention.
His supporters have been a driving force in his campaign, both for good and for bad. The grassroots momentum he was able to build was made up of many young people who saw Sanders' vision for a more progressive future to be one they could get behind. However, his supporters were sometimes accused of going too far for their candidate and of engaging in toxic behaviour, especially in online spaces.
Ultimately, Sanders thanked his supporters for helping spread a vital message in his second presidential bid. "I want to thank the 2 million Americans who have contributed financially to our campaign, and showed the world we can take on a corrupt campaign finance system, and run a major presidential campaign without being dependent on the wealthy and the powerful. Thank you for your 10 million contributions," Sanders said. "But to me, the thing I will remember most, is in the faces of the people we have met from one corner of this nation to the other. The compassion, love, and decency I have seen in them makes me so hopeful for our future."
Sanders also vowed to help work with Joe Biden to oust President Trump in the 2020 election, which he has consistently touted as the number one priority among the entire Democratic party. "Please stay in this fight with me. Let us go forward together. The struggle continues." Sanders said.