United States Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who has helped elevate progressive ideas to a higher plane by mounting two successive campaigns for the presidency, announced today that he will no longer be seeking the 2020 Democratic nomination. In a livestreamed address from Burlington, Sanders said he had concluded there was no path to victory and acknowledged his rival, Vice President Joe Biden, as the party’s presumptive nominee.
Despite choosing to end his campaign, Sanders said he would remain active in fighting for all of the causes he and supporters care so deeply about. As a United States Senator, Sanders is well positioned to continue to champion good ideas the country needs, like Medicare For All, the Green New Deal, and free college.
“I have concluded that this battle for the Democratic nomination will not be successful. So today I’m announcing the suspension of my campaign.”
“Please know that I do not make this decision lightly,” he emphasized.
“In fact, it has been a very difficult and painful decision. Over the past few weeks, Jane and I, in consultation with top staff and many of our prominent supporters, have made an honest assessment of the prospects for victory.”
“If I believed we had a feasible path to the nomination, I would certainly continue the campaign. But it’s just not there.”
“I know there may be some in our movement who disagree with this decision, who would like us to fight on until the last ballot cast at the Democratic convention. I understand that position,” Sanders continued.
“But 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 could not in good conscience continue to mount a campaign that cannot not win and which would interfere with the important work required by all of us in this difficult hour.”
You can watch Bernie’s address in its entirety below.
Vice President Joe Biden responded quickly with a lengthy statement praising his former rival and emphasizing that he won’t take Sanders voters’ support for granted. (A few of Sanders’ supporters are not Democratic voters and have made it clear they aren’t interested in supporting Biden under any circumstances.)
Here is that statement:
Today, Senator Sanders announced he was suspending his campaign. Bernie has put his heart and soul into not only running for President, but for the causes and issues he has been dedicated to his whole life.
So, I know how hard a decision this was for him to make — and how hard it is for the millions of his supporters — especially younger voters — who have been inspired and energized and brought into politics by the progressive agenda he has championed.
Bernie has done something rare in politics. He hasn’t just run a political campaign; he’s created a movement. And make no mistake about it, I believe it’s a movement that is as powerful today as it was yesterday. That’s a good thing for our nation and our future.
Senator Sanders and his supporters have changed the dialogue in America. Issues which had been given little attention — or little hope of ever passing — are now at the center of the political debate. Income inequality, universal health care, climate change, free college, relieving students from the crushing debt of student loans. These are just a few of the issues Bernie and his supporters have given life to. And while Bernie and I may not agree on how we might get there, we agree on the ultimate goal for these issues and many more.
But more than any one issue or set of issues, I want to commend Bernie for being a powerful voice for a fairer and more just America. It’s voices like Bernie’s that refuse to allow us to just accept what is — that refuse to accept we can’t change what’s wrong in our nation — that refuse to accept the health and well-being of our fellow citizens and our planet isn’t our responsibility too. Bernie gets a lot of credit for his passionate advocacy for the issues he cares about. But he doesn’t get enough credit for being a voice that forces us all to take a hard look in the mirror and ask if we’ve done enough.
While the Sanders campaign has been suspended — its impact on this election and on elections to come is far from over. We will address the existential crisis of climate change. We will confront income inequality in our nation. We will make sure healthcare is affordable and accessible to every American. We will make education at our public colleges and universities free. We will ease the burden of student debt. And, most important of all, we will defeat Donald Trump.
At this moment, we are in the middle of an unprecedented crisis in American history. There is enormous fear and pain and loss being felt all across the country. There are also untold stories of heroism — of nurses and health care workers and doctors and first responders and grocery store workers and truck drivers and so many others on the front lines of this crisis. Putting their own lives in danger for the rest of us. If we didn’t know it before, we know it now: This is the backbone of our nation.
Our first job is to get through the immediate crisis threatening the public health and getting into the pockets of America’s workers. But we also need to take a hard look at what we need to fix and change in this country. Many of the biggest cracks in the social safety net have been laid bare — from health care to paid sick leave to a more extensive and comprehensive system of unemployment benefits.
We will need to address these. Just as we need to address rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure. And we all know — the clock is ticking — we don’t have a moment to waste in combating the climate crisis.
As friends, Jill and I want to say to Bernie and Jane, we know how hard this is. You have put the interest of the nation — and the need to defeat Donald Trump — above all else. And for that Jill and I are grateful. But we also want you to know: I’ll be reaching out to you. You will be heard by me. As you say: Not me, Us.
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.
You are more than welcome. You’re needed.
Together we will defeat Donald Trump. And when we do that, we’ll not only do the hard work of rebuilding this nation — we’ll transform it.
DNC Chair Tom Perez also issued a statement praising both Sanders and Biden, who is as of today officially considered to be the presumptive nominee.
This primary has been one of the most inclusive and transparent in our party’s history. It has showcased the best of our party, and I’m so inspired by all of our candidates. All of them brought integrity to this contest. All of them brought talent, drive, and enthusiasm.
And most importantly, all of them showed an unwavering commitment to improving the lives of the American people.
I want to congratulate Vice President Biden and his team on their victory, and I also want to congratulate Senator Sanders and his team on theirs. His energy, ideas, and leadership have strengthened our Democratic Party, and we need Senator Sanders and his team to continue leading in this fight.
Now it’s time to come together and unite around our presumptive nominee. It’s time to finish the job and send Joe Biden to the White House. For more than half a century, Joe Biden has fought for the underdog – from lifting up workers and middle-class families, to protecting survivors of domestic abuse through the landmark Violence Against Women Act, to leading the fight against the NRA and the gun lobby in the United States Senate.
And as labor secretary under President Barack Obama, I got to see Vice President Biden’s invaluable leadership firsthand as he helped to lift our economy out of a recession, rescue the auto industry from collapse, and expand health care coverage for millions of Americans, including those with preexisting conditions.
Joe Biden is Donald Trump’s worst nightmare. And you don’t have to take my word for it. Even Trump’s own advisors have admitted Trump is terrified of running against Vice President Biden.
The choice for the American people could not be clearer: Donald Trump is a man of chaos and cruelty; Joe Biden is a man of character and compassion. Donald Trump has failed every test of presidential leadership and broken just about every promise he’s made, including during this public health crisis; Joe Biden has a decades-long record of delivering results for the American people.
Now more than ever, we need a change in leadership to get our country on the right track. The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the utter incompetence, inexperience, and ineffectiveness of Donald Trump. His failure to prepare for this crisis and to listen to health experts has cost people their jobs, their savings, and even their lives. In times of crisis, we need a president with the experience and empathy to lead the way forward. We need Joe Biden.
The American people know the Democratic Party has their back.
They know Democrats are the only party fighting to protect their health care, their jobs, their homes, and their future.
They know Democrats are the only party fighting to end gun violence, combat climate change, and protect reproductive rights.
They know Democrats are the only party who will give them a fair shake – no matter what they look like, where they come from, who they love, or how they pray. That’s why they’re ready to elect Joe Biden as the next president of the United States.
As a 2016 Bernie Sanders national delegate, I congratulate Bernie on having once again run a classy campaign that was powered by ideas and grassroots contributions. The campaign did not secure the nomination, but that doesn’t mean it was not successful. A campaign does not need to fulfill its ultimate and overriding objective to be victorious because it can have more than one objective.
As a strategist and a long-term thinker, I don’t evaluate campaigns solely on the basis of whether they result in an electoral victory. It is possible to win just by running. Just by contending. Just by showing up. It matters.
Bernie’s slogan has long been #NotMeUs.
If ever there was a campaign that had more than one objective, it was this one.
At its heart, Bernie’s campaign has always been about transforming the country and revolutionizing grassroots politics (which, incidentally, is the NPI motto.) As Bernie said in his remarks, his campaign is a campaign that was fundamentally about the future. It sought to build a multi-generational, multi-racial movement for sorely needed change. And it has affected the trajectory of American politics.
That matters. Like Bernie said, progressive ideas that weren’t considered “mainstream” just a few years ago are now increasingly popular and credible. That didn’t happen by accident. It took hard work and perseverance.
Over the course of two presidential campaigns, Bernie Sanders has reshaped Democratic politics and the wider American political landscape.
One way to put the impact that Sanders has had in its proper perspective is to think back to what American politics was like in 2014, the year before the Senator announced his first campaign. The Democratic Party was disintegrating almost everywhere and its performance in the 2014 midterms was abysmal.
Voter turnout was declining. The powerful coalition that had carried Barack Obama into the White House in 2008 had vanished as a political force, with ominous implications for the party’s performance in the ensuing 2016 cycle.
Into the void stepped Bernie Sanders. He declared that nominations should not be coronations, and he said that he would run for President in order to give Democratic voters a choice. And he did exactly that, to the astonishment of many journalists and pundits who did not take him seriously at first.
The 2016 Sanders campaign helped lay the groundwork for the rebirth of Democratic politics in the ashes of the catastrophic losses of 2016.
The 2020 Sanders campaign affirmed that progressive ideas were here to stay, carrying forward the work of the 2016 campaign.
It was evident from the very first 2020 debates that the 2016 Sanders campaign had influenced the ideas of almost everyone in the entire Democratic field this cycle. The total lack of interest in the campaigns of candidates like John Delaney, and the Democratic electorate’s emphatic rejection of Michael Bloomberg’s candidacy, has demonstrated that Democratic voters don’t want a rich, unapologetic neoliberal or former Republican as the head of the party.
What legacy will Sanders’ 2020 campaign leave? It’s hard to know exactly at this juncture, as the campaign has only just come to an end. With the passage of time, it will be easier to discern what effects it has had on American politics.
But I believe the Sanders campaign will be judged favorably and kindly by historians and scholars and others who study American politics.
I imagine a great many Bernie Sanders supporters are feeling disappointed right now. Maybe even heartbroken. And it’s okay to feel that. Really, it is.
But disappointment should also be mixed with pride. And happiness. Again, this campaign cannot and should not be measured solely by whether it secured a presidential nomination because it was always about so much more than that.
It’s tempting, on a day like today, to feel like picking up your ball and going home. But, if you supported Bernie Sanders and truly believe this country needs a political revolution, then your path forward is clear. You owe it to yourself and the community you’re a part of to continue your political involvement.
And there are many ways in which you can do that.
For instance, you can join an existing progressive nonprofit like this one. (We’re recruiting for several staff positions!) You can build new progressive infrastructure in your community. Or, you can remain focused on electoral politics and pivot to working on a downballot campaign. There are a lot of candidates running for other offices who would like your time, talent, and treasure.
On the electoral front, think about how many positions the people of the United States elect in a given four year period. We don’t just choose slates of electors for the Electoral College every four years. We elect United States Representatives and United States Senators. Governors. Attorneys general. Secretaries of state. State legislators. Mayors. City councilmembers. County commissioners. School board members. Even judges and justices in many states are elected.
If you have enjoyed seeing Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley, and Ilhan Omar at work in Congress for the last fifteen months, then consider committing yourself to getting more candidates like them elected. It’s a presidential election year, but again, there’s so much more that is on the ballot.
While this organization does not endorse candidates or engage in electioneering for or against any candidate — it’s outside the scope of what we do at NPI — I personally want to defeat Donald Trump this autumn, so I’ll be voting for Joe Biden without reservation, and I encourage everyone else to do the same.
But I don’t just want to win the Electoral College this year. I want to see victories for Democratic candidates and progressive causes up and down the ballot.
Being able to reflect and take stock is an important skill. Bernie Sanders set a really good example for his supporters today with his remarks withdrawing from the race. He was thoughtful and contemplative. The Senator did not trash Joe Biden, or say he could never support him. He did not say he was exiting politics, or ceasing his involvement in the Democratic Party. Quite the opposite.
Follow the example he is setting if you want to be a leader who gets results.
As he said: “Let us go forward together. The struggle continues.”