Bernie Sanders has ended his bid for the 2020 Democratic nomination and cleared the field in the presidential race to former Vice President Joe Biden. The 78-year-old Vermont senator made the announcement the morning of Wednesday, April 8, 2020, after a loss to Biden in the Wisconsin primary a night earlier. Sanders, who clashed with the party’s establishment leadership while moving its platform further to the left, at one point appeared destined to be the nominee. But a major win by Biden in South Carolina and then a dominant Super Tuesday by the former vice president knocked Sanders into second place.
Sanders’ campaign was then hindered by the coronavirus pandemic, as he was unable to hold rallies and campaign in states where he needed massive primary wins to have any chance to overtake Biden. In March, Sanders, who also fell short in the 2016 primary campaign against Hillary Clinton but similarly pushed the party in profound ways, told reporters, “While our campaign has won the ideological debate, we are losing the debate over electability.”
Sanders, speaking from his home in Burlington, Vermont, titled his speech, “While the campaign ends, the struggle for justice continues on.” You can watch his live video message to his supporters here:
Sanders, who overcame an October heart attack, won the most votes in the first two Democratic primaries, in Iowa and New Hampshire, and also won in Nevada. But in South Carolina, Biden topped Sanders by more than 150,000 votes. Moderate Democrats rallied around Biden after that result, and on Super Tuesday, after several candidates left the field and endorsed Biden, the former vice president beat Sanders in 10 of 14 battles. Sanders leaves the race trailing Biden by a margin of 1,217 to 914 in the delegate count, with no realistic path to overcome that deficit.
Sanders Thanked His Supporters & Said Their Movement ‘Won the Ideological Struggle’
During his address to supporters on Bernie Sanders said, “I want to express to each of you my deep gratitude for helping to create an unprecedented grassroots campaign that has had a profound impact in changing our nation. I want to thank the hundreds of thousands of volunteers who knocked on doors, millions of them in the freezing winters of Iowa and New Hampshire and in the heat of Nevada and South Carolina. And in states throughout the country.” He said his supporters showed that it is possible to “take on a corrupt campaign finance system and run a major presidential campaign without being dependent on the wealthy and the powerful.”
Sanders said, “Together we have transformed American consciousness as to what kind of nation we can become and have taken this country a major step forward in the neverending struggle for economic justice, social justice, racial justice and environmental justice.”
The Vermont senator added, “Few would deny that over the course of the past five years our movement has won the ideological struggle. In so-called red states and blue states and purple states a majority of the American people now understand that we must raise the minimum wage to at least $15 an hour, that we must guarantee health care as a right to all of our people, that we must transform our energy system away from fossil fuel and that higher education must be available to all regardless of income. It was not long ago that the people considered these ideas radical and fringe. Today they are mainstream ideas and many of them are already being implemented in cities and states across the country. That is what we have accomplished together.”
Sanders said health care has become an even bigger priority. “Even before this horrific pandemic, we are experiencing, more and more Americans understood that we must move to a Medicare for all single-payer program.” He said exit polls showed a strong majority of Democratic voters supported a single government health insurance program to replace private insurance. He said that was true even in states where they didn’t win. He said the “horrific crisis” has exposed how “absurd” the current employer-based system is. He said millions have lost their jobs and health insurance.
Sanders said his campaign has also been winning the generational struggle. “The future of our country rests with young people. And in state after state, whether we won or we lost the Democratic primaries or caucuses, we received a significant majority of the votes, sometimes overwhelming majority, from people not only 30 years of age or under, but 50 years of age or younger. In other words, the future of this country is with our ideas.”
Sanders Says the Country Is Now Facing an ‘Unprecedented Crisis’
Sanders told his supporters that the country is now facing an “unprecedented crisis.” He said, “not only are we dealing with a coronavirus pandemic, which is taking lives of many thousands of our people, we are also dealing with an economic meltdown that has resulted in the loss of millions of jobs.”
Sanders said he would be working intensely in the Senate as part of the Democratic leadership to ensure that Congress passes packages that help America’s working-class people, not just the wealthy elite. Sanders said that would take up much of his time for the next months.
“Today I congratulate Joe Biden, a very decent man, who I will work with to move our progressive ideals forward,” Sanders told his supporters. “On a practical note, I will also say this. I will remain on the ballot in all remaining states and will continue to gather delegates. While Vice President Biden will be the nominee, we must continue working to assemble as many delegates as possible at the Democratic convention, where we will able to exert significant influence over the party platform and other functions.”
Sanders said, “Then together, standing united, we will go forward to defeat Donald Trump, the most dangerous president in modern American history. And we will fight to elect strong progressives at every level of government, from Congress to the school board.”