Bernie quits race, but in a sense he’s already won

Bernie quits race, but in a sense he’s already won, by Freddy Gray.

Bernie Sanders has suspended his campaign, which in normal times would be major news. Amid the panic of the coronavirus crisis, however, most people won’t be that interested. The still incomplete Democratic primary already feels like ancient history, a relic of the BC (Before COVID-19) time.

Nevertheless, Sanders’s decision is significant. It means that one of the most consequential American politicians of the 21st century will never be president. Sanders has arguably as great an impact on American politics as Donald Trump. He didn’t ultimately succeed, but his revolution is unstoppable. …

In a roundabout way, though, the Bernie of 2020 lost because he’d already won. He’d already created the revolution that other Democrats now must pander to if they are to have a hope of winning. Before Sanders’s 2016 run, Medicare-for-All was a dangerously subversive idea. Now every Democratic candidate supports it, one way or the other.

It’s often said that Bernie has ‘dragged his party to the left’. That’s not exactly right. What Bernie did, like Trump, was expose the rift between the party’s voters and its leadership. This is in turn has forced the Democrats to come up with ever more inventive ways of speaking his language without fully committing to his agenda. …

On the Green New Deal, immigration and taxes, Joe and Bernie increasingly sing from the same statist hymn sheet. But moderate voters could support Biden, safe in the knowledge that, like any good politician, he doesn’t really mean what he is saying. Now that he has knocked back Sanders, he can pivot back to the center, and just hope the base still hates Trump enough to win him the election.

Bernie, however, meant it. He wasn’t a good politician. He was too authentic. He couldn’t or wouldn’t pretend to be different things to different constituencies.