From The Archives -- Thank You, Bernie

[ Posted Wednesday, April 8th, 2020 – 15:34 UTC ]

I wrote the following article in June of 2016, after it became crystal clear that Bernie Sanders was not going to win the Democratic presidential nomination. Now that Bernie has suspended his 2020 campaign, I thought it was worth publishing again.

In fact, if I were to sit down today and write a fresh article expressing the same thanks to Sanders, I wouldn't have to change much at all. Switch "Joe Biden" for "Hillary Clinton" and remove any Clinton-specific references, and it'd pretty much be ready to go.

In the intervening four years, much has happened, of course. Bernie now is the leader of a solid movement within the Democratic Party, and fresh new Progressive faces have indeed appeared on the scene. With Donald Trump in the White House, much of Bernie's agenda remains unfulfilled. But the biggest change of all is that Bernie Sanders has personally shifted the "Overton Window" in politics, and now his proposals are seriously discussed by people and politicians who previously scoffed at them (or worse). That is progress. Almost all of Bernie's ideas are not "radical" -- they poll incredibly well with the public, which is the very definition of "mainstream." They may have seemed radical to a Democratic Party emerging from two decades of centrist thinking and Wall Street appeasement, but they weren't radical to the voters. Now the politicians are beginning to catch up to all these mainstream ideas. That is more than progress, that is an enormous achievement.

So thank you once again, Bernie Sanders. You made all this possible, and by doing so you have already secured your place in history.


Originally published June 6, 2016

Senator Bernie Sanders, barring extraordinary unforeseen circumstances, is not going to be president. He has fallen short of his goal of winning the nomination of the Democratic Party. No tricky delegate math is going to save him now. His campaign is now over, whether he wants to admit it or not quite yet. But I for one am thankful he ran, and thankful for what he did manage to accomplish. Because though his campaign is done, his political revolution should continue.

I should note that I say "extraordinary unforeseen circumstances" because that is what it would take for Bernie to win the nomination at this point. Hillary Clinton could become physically unable (by a medical emergency, for instance) to run for president before the convention -- but that is a truly despicable thing for any political candidate's supporters to wish for or pin their hopes on. It's not just despicable, in fact, it is downright inhumane to even contemplate. The only other circumstance which could lead to Bernie being nominated is something Bernie himself declared he was "sick and tired of hearing about" -- the F.B.I.'s report on Clinton's "damn emails." If she's indicted on serious charges before Democrats meet in Philadelphia, Bernie would be the obvious choice to replace her. But for Bernie supporters to now cling to this thread as their only real hope is to disavow their candidate's professed wishes, in fact. Bernie's refusal to attack Clinton's email problems is now seen in one of two ways -- as a huge political mistake (maybe he could have won if he had pressed the attack on her); or as the finest moment of his campaign, when he lived up to his promise of running solely on the issues and not descending into the muck of personally tearing down his opponent, outside of his agenda. How you see Bernie's strategic decision depends on how cynical you are about politics, in some ways.

I personally choose to see things optimistically. Bernie accomplished something to be proud of, even if he fell short of achieving his goal. Bernie Sanders proved that a real Populist (or even a Democratic Socialist) can inspire millions across the country with a vision of progress that (for once) includes Main Street and not just fatter profits for Wall Street. That, to me, is an enormous achievement.

Bernie fell short of his goal, but not by that much. In the end he got 1,876 delegates to the Democratic National Convention, a little over 500 short of the 2,383 he needed to win. He did far better than others who have run ideologically-similar campaigns in the past. Bernie's agenda and rhetoric wasn't all that different from John Edwards (who spoke of the "two Americas," rich and poor), or Dennis Kucinich, or Howard Dean, or even Jesse Jackson. They all ran similar campaigns, thematically -- but none of the others ever even won 600 delegates to the convention. Bernie got over three times what any of them did. That is the magnitude of his accomplishment, in historical context.

Bernie Sanders absolutely reawakened and invigorated what used to be called the "Democratic wing of the Democratic Party." By doing so, he yanked the entire party back to mainstream issues that they used to support on a routine basis. None of what Bernie proposed was radical, no matter how hard the press and his opponents tried to paint him as a "fringe" candidate. Virtually all of the issues he championed poll extraordinarily well with the American public -- the very definition of "mainstream" in politics. To some, Bernie was nothing more than a joke, but to many others he was a candidate who finally talked about goals most Democrats seem to have forgotten about in the past few decades. Sanders had a big impact on the rest of the party, from his opponent (who shifted towards Bernie's position on a number of issues during the campaign) all the way up to the president (who only recently decided to support expanding Social Security, instead of cutting it). Bernie's influence on the party's agenda will not end because he didn't win the nomination; it is here to stay. For which I definitely want to thank Bernie Sanders.

Bernie has paved the way for future Progressive (and Populist) candidates within the Democratic Party. His campaign proved something many thought impossible a year ago -- that a presidential campaign could be run without super PACs and big donors, and instead rely on small donations from people who strongly agree with the candidate's agenda. Everyone loves to decry "big money" in politics, but Bernie has now proved "small money" can be just as powerful. Bernie Sanders took on the Clinton money machine, and he fought it to a draw. Clinton couldn't simply outspend Bernie, because Bernie had just as much money as she did -- which was famously raised "twenty-seven bucks at a time." Bernie blew away all small-donor campaign records, and by doing so proved that it could indeed be done. Candidates have been trying to achieve this feat for decades, even pre-dating the internet. Jerry Brown ran his 1992 campaign by always reeling off his "800 number" whenever in front of a camera, for example. Others had similar successes using whatever technology was available, but Bernie showed the power the internet can have in today's politics like no other candidate has ever previously done. He matched Clinton's campaign chest in a way many thought absolutely impossible.

Bernie's revolution can and should grow beyond him, but Bernie himself will still provide a lot of leadership for the movement. Revolutions should always be bigger than one person, but at the same time revolutions can sometimes fall apart absent any leadership at all (as Occupy Wall Street did, achieving nothing more than changing the terms of the political discussion with their focus on the "99 percent" and the "one percent"). The next steps for such a revolution are getting much more involved in the nuts-and-bolts of politics -- grooming Progressive candidates for House and Senate races, for instance. And in working with whatever Congress emerges from the November elections. This is where Bernie will play a large leadership role, by helping to shine the spotlight on his entire agenda, made real in actual legislation. If Democrats regain control of the Senate, Bernie will be perfectly positioned to take on the role of pushing the entire party to actually propose laws that help average Americans. He'll have the wind at his back when he does so, because his ideas have all generated so much excitement within the ranks of the Democratic Party. That's something other Democrats are going to respect in Congress next year.

Which is why I am thankful for Bernie's run for the White House. I am thankful he got as far as he did, and he won as many votes as he did. I have seen many other Populist candidates fall far short of what Bernie achieved, and been disappointed in the Democratic electorate at large as a direct result -- for decades. This time around, I am gleefully optimistic that Bernie truly represents the future of the Democratic Party. Not only did he win over 10 million votes in the primary season, but he overwhelmingly won the votes of the youngest voters. They will ultimately determine where the Democratic Party heads in the decades to come, and Bernie's message inspired and uplifted them like no other candidate has ever managed. So, yes, I am thankful that Bernie achieved all this even though he didn't win the nomination. It bodes well for the future, and it bodes well for the next Progressive candidate to run (likely in an election without the complication of a family dynasty candidate).

Thank you, Bernie, for proving that all of this could indeed happen. Thank you for getting as far as you did. Thank you for reawakening a wave of excitement within the Democratic Party. Thank you for championing a list of issues that I could heartily agree with, and for refusing to be distracted from your agenda by the usual mudslinging and other negative campaigning tactics so common in politics today. Thank you for not selling out to big donors. Thank you for showing that all of this was even possible in today's political environment.

Thank you, Bernie, for running -- and for running the way you did. We'll all remember you and your campaign for a long time to come.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


21 Comments on “From The Archives -- Thank You, Bernie”

  1. [1] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Has Senator Sanders won the ideological debate? Some say yes. But, the voters have spoken as to who can deliver on the specifics of that debate.

    Now, let's see what Senator Sanders can do to ensure that president Trump will be defeated in November.

  2. [2] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    I just mean that it's time to unite - on fighting this virus and winning in November.

  3. [3] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Sigh, Michale can't get back here too soon.

  4. [4] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    it's a different kind of election, and in very different circumstances than the last one. i think i can truthfully say that hillary was far from the only democrat to become complacent about the direction of the country in 2016.

  5. [5] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Signs of life! :)

    Hey, Joshua, I've been reading some comments sections in the NYTimes today and there is quite a lot of people trashing the WHO and its director general, Dr. Tedros.

    Where one earth is this coming from!?

  6. [6] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    dr. tedros has an opinion or two about universal health coverage. considering how big a surge of anger there was in opposition even to obamacare (a very modest attempt at improving coverage), it stands to reason that folks on the conservative end of the spectrum would be up in arms that someone in a position of global authority had the temerity to suggest full coverage for everyone.

  7. [7] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    i'm also disappointed that biden hasn't come out swinging on wisconsin though. it's an opportunity for him to really demonstrate his leadership.

  8. [8] 
    TheStig wrote:

    "Bernie now is the leader of a solid movement within the Democratic Party, and fresh new Progressive faces have indeed appeared on the scene."

    I don't know why he continues to label himself as a Democratic Socialist. I think his hard core troops get it...but not the middle and certainly not the right. Socialist = Communist in this country...or at least most of this country.

    Hardly anybody in this country bothers to read the fine print....and by fine print I mean anything past the Title and the 1st paragraph.

    The United States is in it's own way a deeply socialist country... Socialism for the rich, and free enterprise for the poor. It's leveled playing field but deeply tilted. Plebes vs Patricians

    Thanks for fighting the good fight Bernie.

  9. [9] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    Dr. Tedros may be the DG but he isn't the only one at WHO who understands the urgency around universal healthcare.

    Improving access to healthcare is one important path to getting the current outbreak under control, says the executive director of the WHO's Heath Emergencies Programme, Dr. Michael Ryan. I have learned so much listening to both of them.

    No, I think the vitriol that has been directed at Dr. Tedros for the last three months has nothing to do with his stance on universal healthcare, sadly.

  10. [10] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    what then, racism?

  11. [11] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Well, I hate to throw around that word but I don't know what else to call the things he has had to put up with. And, I don't mean the comments sections in the New York Times, my friend.

  12. [12] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    And, did you hear about the western scientists - in France, I believe - who talked about testing the vaccine in Africa?

    Dr. Tedros had an inspiring response to that.

  13. [13] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    As for Biden, don't expect him to come out swinging to show his leadership - it's not his style, like it or lump it because it ain't gonna change. :)

    Once he is in the WH - if we should all be so lucky - he won't have to come out swinging to show his leadership for everyone to see it in full bloom.

  14. [14] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    if biden is going to get to the white house and have a chance to show leadership there, which i think is the outcome most of us here would like, he's going to have to be a little more aggressive than his comfort zone.

  15. [15] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    hmm, "colonial mentality" probably is a better term.

  16. [16] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


  17. [17] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    But, that is the least of what is coming his way.

  18. [18] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    I'm not into twitter but just take a look at his feed if that's the correct term ...

  19. [19] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    … not to mention death threats.

  20. [20] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    The way some are treating the WHO - as a client of China, for example - is distressing. It reminds of a book, Everything Trump Touches Dies.

    It's long past the time when one might think that this is precisely Trump's game plan - this destruction of all institutions that threaten his overall self-preserving disinformation campaign.

  21. [21] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    LizM -

    It's because all the Trumpies are desperately seeking a scapegoat right now, because to them (obviously) nothing is Trump's fault, ever. So they look around and see the current reality, and need someone to blame for it.

    That's really what's going on, I think.


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