Bernie Sanders has conceded the Democratic presidential nomination, ending an insurgent campaign that rallied young voters with promises of revolutionary change and pushed the party to the left.
The end of the Vermont Senator’s second White House bid follows a string of losses to former vice-president Joe Biden, who now becomes the presumptive challenger to President Donald Trump as the novel coronavirus crisis reshapes the race.
While Mr. Biden has emerged victorious from a once historically diverse field of more than 20 serious contenders, he faces a difficult task uniting a fractious party with deep ideological divides.
In a livestream from his Burlington, Vt., home Wednesday morning, Mr. Sanders said his “path toward victory is virtually impossible” and his “battle for the Democratic nomination will not be successful.”
“As I see the crisis gripping the nation, exacerbated by a President unwilling or unable to provide any kind of credible leadership, and the work that needs to be done to protect people in this most desperate hour, I cannot in good conscience continue to mount a campaign that cannot win and that would interfere with the important work required of all of us in this difficult hour,” Mr. Sanders said.
Mr. Sanders said he would keep his name on the ballot in all states that have not yet voted. He said he hoped to amass as many delegates as possible to push for his policy promises – such as single-payer health care, a US$15-an-hour minimum wage and free university tuition – to be included in the party platform.
He also described Mr. Biden as “a very decent man” that he would “work with to move our progressive ideas forward.”
The self-described socialist bounced back from a heart attack in the fall to become the race’s front runner over the winter, winning the most votes in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada. But Mr. Biden came roaring back in South Carolina, won a majority of states on Super Tuesday and racked up several more victories in mid-March.
Mr. Biden consolidated the centrist vote as the field rapidly winnowed. His coalition of African-Americans, older voters and suburbanites ultimately overwhelmed the alliance of millennials, blue-collar workers and Latinos that favoured Mr. Sanders.
In a long, laudatory statement, Mr. Biden called Mr. Sanders “a powerful voice for a fairer and more just America” and promised to adopt some of his ideas.
“I’ll be reaching out to you. You will be heard by me,” Mr. Biden said. “And to your supporters I make the same commitment: I see you, I hear you and I understand the urgency of what it is we have to get done in this country. I hope you will join us.”
But a January poll by Emerson College found just 53 per cent of Mr. Sanders’s voters said they would support the Democratic nominee no matter who won. And on the campaign trail, many of Mr. Sanders’s supporters derided Mr. Biden as too moderate.
The Senator’s insistence on ideological purity, however, may have ultimately cost him. Despite running for the Democratic nomination, for instance, he never actually joined the party.
“He just thinks Democrats are like some kind of summer rental,” Mary Ralston, a 71-year-old retired insurance agent, told The Globe and Mail in the audience of an Elizabeth Warren rally in Iowa in February. “He makes us look like doormats because we’ve fallen for it.”
The coronavirus pandemic upended the race in the middle of last month, just as Mr. Biden consolidated his lead. Several states postponed their primaries and both candidates moved their campaigns online, delivering speeches from their living rooms that received scant attention.
Mr. Biden has sought to paint himself as a steady hand who can better navigate the fallout from the crisis than the mercurial Mr. Trump.
Mr. Sanders has exerted a profound ideological influence on the party since bursting to national attention with his surprisingly strong run against Hillary Clinton in 2016. His candidacy paved the way for a wave of leftist legislators in the 2018 midterm congressional elections.
“Your fight for progressive ideas moved the conversation and charted a path for candidates and activists that will change the course of our country and party,” Ms. Warren, a fellow progressive who quit earlier in the race, wrote on Twitter Wednesday.
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