Opinion: Bernie Sanders’ loss was devastating


FILE - In this March 9, 2020, file photo a supporter of Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., applauds as Sanders speaks during a campaign rally in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File)

Dylan Ritter

When Senator Bernie Sanders dropped out of the presidential election earlier this week, I was devastated. I saw it coming for nearly a month, but was still left speechless after seeing the notification flash across my screen. I was disheartened and worried that the movement Sanders represented might end with his campaign.

To me and many others, Sanders represented a political awakening. He motivated millions to become active voters and inspired countless others to become engaged community activists. Sanders’s movement gave us all hope that grassroots action can change the world from the bottom up. He made us feel that, for the first time in electoral politics, our individual action and engagement could go further than corporate donations.

Since being pulled into politics in 2016, I have organized around many candidates, ballot initiatives, and community issues, but none ever seemed like a realistic way of creating lasting systemic change like the Sanders campaign did. He was so close in 2016 and it seemed as though he had the organizational framework and energy to pull it off in 2020. It was easy for me to get carried away in the excitement of it all. I had several friends working on the campaign and I was making calls and texts as a volunteer any chance I had.

As March progressed and the delegate count began to slip away, I found myself making excuses. I kept telling myself it was just a matter of time before Sanders pulled ahead, but he never did. It was easy to be angry and blame others for his loss. I vacillated between throwing blame at anyone I could in the last days of the campaign.

Now, I wonder if he ever stood a chance to begin with. Was it false hope to believe a grassroots campaign could win in electoral politics? Was it all a waste of time? You can say that, if nothing else, Sanders pushed the party and voters on healthcare, climate change, and criminal justice, but at the end of the day, the Democratic party still put up a candidate who has a problematic history and weak response to all.

I worry that the movement Bernie Sanders created will die in November when the Democratic party asks young people to decide between two accused sexual predators who, in my opinion, don’t believe in anything other than self-aggrandizement. Progressives will be forced to vote for Biden if they don’t want Trump and his judicial appointees to rule over the supreme court for the next 100 years. It will be a hard vote for many to cast and I am not sure if the passion and excitement Sanders voters have can survive it. I don’t know if my passion for politics can survive it.

I do, however, know that if the Democratic party is not going to adapt to reflect the shifting ideology of its party members, it will lose a generation of voters and scratch its head wondering why the Bidens of the world are losing.