After five years of waging campaigns for the White House, Vermont US Senator Bernie Sanders officially ended his long march to the Democratic presidential nomination.
The self-professed Democratic Socialist briefly enjoyed front-runner status until the entire party political and media establishment encircled and broke his candidacy in the narrow window between a Saturday night South Carolina primary and Super Tuesday.
It was the most extraordinary coordinated move in the history presidential primary politics, executed flawlessly within a tight 72 hour window as MSNBC and political consultant James Carville issued a call to arms resulting in candidates being withdrawn at key moments to the benefit of ex-Vice-President Joe Biden.
Something Sanders never appreciated was that his strong showing in 2016 was not rooted in popular support for the socialist paradise he was selling but general loathing for Hillary Clinton.
Don’t believe me? Ask Jimmy Carter, who admitted voting for Sanders in the Georgia primary in 2016. Sanders received support from many people who mentally left the party years before but whose registration papers never changed.
Not running against the bogeyman in 2020, Sanders wasn’t going to benefit from being “the other guy” on the ballot.
His “tie” with Mayor Pete Buttigieg in Iowa and far too narrow win over him in New Hampshire showed that Sanders was underperforming between the polls and the actual results. The revolution was already at an ebb.
However Sanders had an advantage, while his support wasn’t growing, it was solid. And a split field meant Sanders was going to finish first a lot.
Nevada would prove to be a mixed blessing for Bernie: it would stand out as his first (and only) resounding victory but it would also serve as an unpleasant reality check for the presidential hopes of Buttigieg and Minnesota US Senator Amy Klobuchar.
It also was the first stirring of the party machine, which helped Biden salvage an important second place showing.
Though he was not on the ballot, Nevada would be where billionaire ex-New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg would have his coming out (or rather shooting down) at the Las Vegas debate.
Biden was virtually ignored at the event as all fire was directed towards the candidate everyone then thought was the man to beat. And we all know how that played out…
South Carolina is where Bernie could’ve sealed the nomination with a win though that was never going to happen.
Sanders and the rest of the field rightfully placed great emphasis on winning black support, a critical bloc in southern states where African-Americans constitute a significant if not majority share of the Democratic vote.
Before a lilly-white crowd inside a Des Moines school gymnasium Mayor Pete invited on to the stage his five black supporters of prominence. From outside Iowa.
Such pandering wasn’t going to dent Biden’s black support and all of a sudden the ex-veep was relevant again.
With Bloomberg officially on the ballot and Biden now viable, Sanders received three critical blows to his campaign: Buttigieg and Klobuchar were out but more significantly, Elizabeth Warren, who shares a similar political base with Sanders, was still in.
Now it was Sanders being bled by Warren in the face of a Biden coalescing with Bloomberg crashing fast to the former vice-president’s benefit.
The states on the other side of Super Tuesday weren’t going to be very favorable (Ohio, Florida) and the others were marginal. Super Tuesday was the day Sanders needed to win big to create an air of inevitability and to absorb the blows of expected losses.
Super Tuesday wasn’t a rout for Biden but it may as well have been.
Denied the delegate haul he needed, the Sanders campaign was effectively over. It was an act of going through the motions and by the time Warren dropped out (who should’ve exited after New Hampshire) it was a meaningless act.
Bernie never was able to build upon 2016 because not all the support he received was truly his. Much of it was anti-Hillary.
Beyond having approached closer to the White House than he ordinarily should have ever been, Sanders’ great accomplishment was sowing the seeds of an eventual party crack-up.
As Sanders shuffles off the stage, AOC, Ilhan Omar, and other radical progressives will fill the void. And Nancy Pelosi’s ability to rein in the radicals will continue to diminish. And it’ll be gone if the Dems fail to win back the White House this November.
A flag has been planted. Just because Bernie is gone, the Democratic Bernie Problem has gone nowhere.