On Tuesday morning, Bernie Sanders announced that he was dropping out of the presidential race.
The timing was odd, to put it mildly: the candidate did not wait to learn the results from a Wisconsin primary some of his supporters thought he might win. But the decision itself was unsurprising given the shocking trajectory of this election year and Bernie Sanders’s own admirable focus on the horrors of COVID-19 rather than a necessarily stunted campaign:
According to nearly every analyst of the Democratic presidential nominating contest, Sanders had virtually no chance of overtaking Joe Biden in pledged delegates, and the plenary delays in the primaries necessary to confirm this outcome made closure for either campaign difficult, even as campaigning itself in any traditional sense became all but impossible. The situation must have been particularly excruciating for Sanders, who thrived on the enthusiasm of live audiences and counted on constant person-to-person contacts by his army of volunteers. For weeks now, there have been regular reports of disagreement within the Sanders campaign and the broader movement he led about his best path forward, with some (particularly the professionals running his campaign) calling for a dignified withdrawal and others wanting to sojourn on in order to keep pressure on Biden for platform or future personnel concessions — or possibly in case of some improbable meltdown by the presumptive nominee.
Now we know the answer to his quandary: an end to this once-indomitable candidacy which had not only lost momentum at the ballot box but had been overshadowed by a pandemic that in some respects may have vindicated his long-standing calls for universal health coverage and economic equality.
Given his age, this is probably the end of Bernie Sanders’s personal “revolution.” But depending on what happens between now and November 3 (or, God help us, later in the case of a protracted or contested 2020 general election), he may simply prove to be the Moses figure who pointed the way to the promised land for progressives, but was fated never to set foot there himself.