BERKELEY (KPIX 5) — Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign came to an end Wednesday as the Vermont senator announced he was withdrawing from the race, leaving many of his supporters in the Bay Area in a tough spot.
Sanders said he saw no path to victory and ended his campaign, saying he didn’t want it to interfere with the important work required of Americans in this difficult time.
“It was pretty sad, I think, just because he’s a hero for a lot of us,” said Ammar Bhaiji, a Cal student living at home during the shelter-in-place. He says Sanders supporters were shocked at how other candidates dropping out of the race threw their support to Biden even though he was trailing in delegates at the time.
Sanders had won the California primary over former Vice President Joe Biden, garnering 35.5% of the vote to Biden’s 28%.
“Honestly, we were just a little bit angry just because it was, sort of, the moderates coalescing together ganging up on us,” said Bhaiji.
Steve Woolpert teaches political science at St. Mary’s College and says that anger may be a problem for Biden if he struggles to get Sanders’ supporters to turn out for him in the general election.
“It makes it hard for them to wholeheartedly and enthusiastically support him, even though they want to defeat Trump as much as anyone else does in the Democratic Party,” Woolpert said about the Sanders faithful. “But they were never able to broaden their base beyond the roughly 30 percent or so of hardcore Sanders supporters.”
But Cal student Sage Lenier says that kind of talk misses the point. “Bernie was not just a candidate,” she said. “He was an idea.”
She says Sanders’ supporters weren’t just trying to elect a president, they were trying to change the world. And in a strange way, the coronavirus pandemic may actually help with that.
“We kept saying, we have to stop the system, we have to change it and there was no way to do that,” Lenier said. “But, literally, society is shut down right now. There’s no movement at all right now. So, I think coming out of this pandemic in the next couple of months there’s a huge opportunity to say, ‘We’re not going back to the way things were. We’re doing things differently forever now.’”
Professor Woolpert says President Trump’s fortunes in the election will depend on how well the economy and the nation are recovering from the pandemic when it’s time to vote.
And COVID-19 may have another impact as well: Woolpert said President Trump’s divisive, bare-knuckle campaign style may not play well with Americans who are uniting to help each other get through the crisis.