Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), the self-described Democratic Socialist competing to be the Democratic Party’s nominee, dropped out of the race on Wednesday citing America’s “desperate” struggle with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I know that there may be some in our movement who disagree with this decision, who would like us to fight on to the last ballot cast at the Democratic convention – I understand that position,” Sanders said in a video posted on Twitter shortly before noon, resurrecting memories of 2016 when he stayed in the race until July with little chance of winning.
Many political analysts have said his unwillingness to concede to Hillary Clinton until two weeks before the Democratic convention may have contributed to Trump’s razor-slim margin in three swing states that led to his election in 2016.
This time, the COVID-19 pandemic prevents him from continuing to campaign without a clear path to victory, Sanders said in the video.
“As I see the crisis gripping the nation, exacerbated by a president unwilling or unable to provide any kind of credible leadership, and the work that needs to be done to protect people in this most desperate hour, I cannot in good conscience continue to mount a campaign that cannot win and which would interfere with the important work required of all of us in this difficult hour,” he said.
Sanders’s exit makes former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. the presumptive nominee in a primary process that has been dominated in recent weeks by the COVID-19 pandemic.
That puts Biden’s $640 billion housing plan, announced five days before February’s South Carolina primary that vaulted him into first place, front and center. It would restore several Obama administration anti-discrimination housing policies rolled back by Trump and establish a “Homeowner’s Bill of Rights,” modelled on legislation passed in California with the same name.
Yesterday, Wisconsin held a primary after the Democratic governor lost a bid to delay the election and expand absentee-ballot voting. Sanders went into the Wisconsin election lagging Biden by 303 delegates and with no chance of catching up.
Media coverage of the Wisconsin primary showed elderly people and others waiting in crowded lines, some with masks and some without, to cast their votes.
The Supreme Court on Monday sided with the state’s Republican-controlled legislature in blocking the governor’s executive order postponing in-person voting and extending to June the deadline for absentee ballots.
Three weeks before the highest court’s ruling that forced thousands of Wisconsin voters to risk their health if they wanted to exercise their right to vote, the justices closed the Supreme Court building and cancelled all public hearings because of fears of spreading the virus.
One picture of the Wisconsin election that went viral yesterday showed a masked woman holding a sign saying “This is ridiculous” as she stood in a long line waiting to cast her ballot. She later told journalists she was caring for an elderly father who has lung disease.
Other photos showed people waiting in line with signs such as “Dying to vote,” pointing out they were risking their lives to have a say over whether the Democratic Party’s nominee would be Biden or Sanders.
Almost 2,000 Americans died of COVID-19 on Tuesday, the day of the Wisconsin election, making it the deadliest day yet of the pandemic. More than 400,000 people in the U.S. have tested positive for COVID-19, and more than 13,000 have died, according to Johns Hopkins University.
“The path to victory is virtually impossible,” Sanders said in the video, a day after the Wisconsin vote and five days before any results are announced. “This battle for the Democratic nomination will not be successful.”