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Bernie Sanders suspends his presidential campaign

Matt Pearce and Evan Halper, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Political News

Bernie Sanders on Wednesday suspended an anti-establishment presidential campaign that changed the course of Democratic politics and energized large groups of new voters, but fell short of amassing a broad enough coalition to capture the nomination.

The Vermont senator's decision came after his campaign stalled following a string of losses to former Vice President Joe Biden in large, delegate-rich states that left him with little chance of becoming the nominee. Yet Sanders came closer than any self-proclaimed socialist in U.S. history.

He rebounded off his 2016 loss to Hillary Clinton to emerge for a few weeks as the front-runner in the current Democratic primary, before second thoughts about the wisdom of nominating him and voter anxiety over the rapidly escalating COVID-19 pandemic moved Democrats to rapidly consolidate behind Biden. By the time Sanders dropped out of the race, Biden was already proceeding as the presumptive nominee, vetting potential running mates.

Even while falling short of the nomination, Sanders had a transformative impact on the Democratic Party. He upended old rules of money and politics, eclipsing his rivals in fundraising with a loyal army of nearly 2 million small donors whose contributions averaged $21.

Sanders successfully pushed the party to abandon the Clintonomics of the past in favor of a more progressive path, and he forced rivals to embrace a more expansive role for government.

Yet the Vermont senator struggled to expand his passionate base of supporters to the critical mass needed to win the race. He ultimately ran into the same electoral buzz saw in 2020 that he did in 2016, getting rejected by African Americans and suburban voters in many Sunbelt states whose support is essential to winning the nomination.

 

It was not for lack of effort. Sanders raised a passionate brigade of progressive volunteers, forged a near-unbreakable bond with younger voters and won over many Latinos, some of whom affectionately dubbed the 78-year-old Brooklyn native "Tio Bernie." Sanders even survived a heart attack on the campaign trail in October only to see supporters double down on his candidacy.

Supporters cherish his consistency over more than four decades in politics, during which Sanders has never wavered from his democratic socialist agenda. But that stubbornness also cost the candidate with the mainstream voters he needed to win the nomination.

Sanders continued railing against the party "establishment," sticking with his complimentary remarks about some of the policies of the Fidel Castro regime in Cuba even in the days leading up to the primary in Florida, with its large number of Cuban exiles and their families, and pillorying the news media until the final days of his campaign. Mainstream voters were unnerved.

Although Sanders' base was smaller than in 2016 -- when some Democrats backed him solely as an alternative to Clinton -- and he conspicuously did not manage to generate the record turnouts he said his political revolution would need, he nonetheless thrived in what was initially a large and competitive 2020 Democratic primary field.

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