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The Long-Lasting Impact of Bernie Sanders’ Political Revolution

How the Vermont senator, who conceded the Democratic primary on Tuesday morning, changed the presidential race—and his own party.

By Jared Keller


Bernie Sanders campaigns with Hillary Clinton at Portsmouth High School on July 12, 2016, in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. (Photo: Darren McCollester/Getty Images)

The Bernie Sanders bonanza has come to a close.

On Tuesday morning, at a joint rally in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Sanders officially endorsed Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination, ending his own presidential bid in the process.

“Secretary Clinton has won the Democratic nominating process,” Sanders said. “She will be the Democratic nominee for president, and I intend to do everything I can to make certain that she will be the next president of the United States.”

Sanders’ endorsement comes as a huge boon for Clinton, whose campaign is confident in the Vermont senator’s ability to energize and mobilize the young voter base he so successfully connected with in his primary bid. It also confirms that Sanders will not be running as a third-party candidate.

Despite months of feuding between the Sanders and Clinton campaigns, and the establishment politicians who perpetuate a system that many feel is rigged against the voters, the senator decided to quietly accept the hard electoral math: On the eve of the California primary, Clinton earned enough delegates to technically clinch the Democratic presidential nomination. But after initial protestations from Sanders and his adherents — and with the prospect of the Democratic caucus plunging into an all-out brawl at the party convention later this month— the Sanders campaign has decided to play ball for the sake of the party. With Donald Trump looming on the horizon, this can’t come a moment too soon for the Democrats.

Sanders’ brand of liberal populism helped move the Democratic Party’s center of gravity further to the left.

By conceding to party rules around superdelegates and concerns that his continued attacks on Clinton may weaken the party going into the general election, Sanders’ concession may be a letdown for die-hards who firmly believe that 25 years in Congress does not make you immune to the wheelings and dealings of Washington. If the system is rigged — a long-held rallying cry by the Sanders campaign—then concession is a tacit affirmation to the rules and rule makers.

But despite the gradual reversal on his attacks on Clinton and other agents of the plutocracy, it’s worth noting that Sanders’ candidacy has been far more than a meager whimper. As FiveThirtyEight notes, the Sanders campaign has effectively mobilized independent voters to participate in this year’s Democratic primaries, voters who may end up providing the ballots necessary for Clinton to edge out Trump. Additionally, the Guardianreports “that six times as many Sanders supporters are prepared to swing behind Clinton than Trump in November. By stepping aside before the convention, Sanders will give Clinton a better springboard into the general election than any floor fight ever could.

More importantly, Sanders’ brand of liberal populism helped move the Democratic Party’s center of gravity further to the left, the most recent example being Clinton’s plan for free college tuition. Where health-care reform formed the policy core of Barack Obama’s message in 2008, Sanders’ adamant focus on issues like income inequality and campaign finance reform has helped galvanize an up-and-coming generation of voters wary of the existing political system. That Sanders is playing by Democratic National Committee rules may be disheartening, but the campaign’s progressive domination of the party’s platform committee ahead of the convention will leave an impactfor Democrats far beyond the race for the White House.

So what will Sanders supporters do now? According to the Guardian, the revolution “will not be silenced.” Already an army of liberal non-profits like the Roosevelt Institute are working to articulate Sanders’ platform into workable policy solutions focused on income inequality and money in politics. We’ll certainly know more come November.