Bernie Sanders dropping out of White House race extinguishes US left-wing dreams

The great dream of the American political left has receded into the distance.

It hasn’t vanished exactly, but it has taken a major detour.

Progressives in America have long demanded a safety net familiar to Europeans: Universal health care from cradle to grave; a decent minimum wage; greater environmental and economic justice; affordable college education.

The standard bearer of that vision has long been the extraordinarily energetic 78-year-old Bernie Sanders. He is a senator from Vermont, but ceaselessly travels the country, preaching the virtues of a democratic socialist revolution in America.

Sanders is no longer running for the White House. Credit: AP

But now he has been forced to abandon his presidential campaign and concede that the former Vice President Joe Biden will be the Democratic nominee for the White House. Bernie Sanders will stay on the ballot, hoping to retain his influence within the party, but he will not be America’s next president.

Bernie Sanders promises that he will maintain his fight for progressive values. He continues to make his most powerful argument: That America had become an oligarchy, corrupted by power and colossal quantities of money from Wall Street and corporate interests.

Bernie Sanders' supporters could be crucial for Joe Biden. Credit: PA

Joe Biden has lavished praise on his former rival, saying that his presidential campaign will adopt many of Bernie’s issues.

In a statement, Biden declared, that Sanders "hasn’t just run a political campaign, he’s created a movement" and thanked him for being a "powerful voice for a fairer and more just America".

But for all such comments, Biden’s political problem is clear. Bernie voters have little time for the establishment figure that is Joe Biden, a man who has been in American politics for many decades (he was elected a senator at the age of just 32 - and he’s now 77).

Bernie Sanders and former presidential rival Joe Biden. Credit: AP

In other words, there is a rift in the Democratic Party between moderates and radicals that will need to be healed before the November presidential election.

In another sense, none of this matters for now. America’s ordeal during this pandemic - with a death toll expected to exceed 100,000 and the vast majority of the country in lockdown - has overwhelmed all political debate.

Trump’s presidency will no longer be decided by normal political circumstances, but by a national judgment in November about whether he has helped or hindered America’s fight against the virus.

I have been to many Bernie Sanders rallies. They are remarkable events - drawing huge and overwhelmingly young crowds. They are passionate events and make you realise that beneath the fabric of this country there is a yearning for change and for greater justice.

That is the legacy of his two presidential campaigns. Bernie shone a bright political light on the dark undercurrents in American politics and society, and promised a young generation that change is possible.