Attention members of the media: Please don’t ask Bernie Sanders when he will drop out of the presidential race. In fact, Sanders told CNN’s Jim Acosta on Tuesday that he was asked that very question “50 times” that day alone. (And Sanders made that statement in the morning!)
Sure, we get why you would be tempted to ask such a question.
With Sanders trailing Hillary Clinton by hundreds of pledged delegates and losing most of the states in Tuesday’s primary, the Vermont senator is very unlikely to chart a path to victory. And reporters are accustomed to dealing with typical politicians who quit when it looks like they can’t win electorally because that’s all they care about.
But every time you ask that question it shows you don’t get what Bernie is really about. Sanders is not waging a political campaign but rather a “political revolution.”
He told us that point blank upon launching his campaign in May 2015 with the words: “We begin a political revolution to transform our country economically, politically, socially and environmentally.” Adding what has now become synonymous with Sanders (and often parodied on “Saturday Night Live”), “Enough is enough,” as he called for “the people” to take back our government from the “handful of billionaires” and “Super PACs.”
However, the media and even most Democrats dismissed Sanders’ candidacy as being nothing more than a speed bump on the way to Hillary Clinton becoming the Democratic nominee. Yet despite polls last year showing the Vermont senator down by over 60 points to Clinton, he continued to discuss the same issues he raised in his May 2015 kick-off: income inequality, raising the minimum wage, Citizens United, reforming Wall Street, and free public college tuition.
And as he traveled the country campaigning over the next year, Sanders didn’t “evolve” or pivot to issues that were more popular. Instead he made the issues he was passionate about popular. He didn’t chase voters, they chased him.
That’s why Sanders has won primaries or caucuses in 16 states and national polls now put him just 2 to 5 points behind Clinton. And in head-to-head matchups with GOP front-runner Donald Trump, Sanders beats him by wider margins than Clinton.
But with Sanders trailing in the delegate count we increasingly see the media, which long ignored Sanders while giving Trump more free press than even a Kardashian could dream of, press him on when he will be dropping out. And given Sanders’ comment to CNN’s Chris Cuomo on Tuesday that he only has a “narrow path” to the nomination, we can expect even more such questions.
Well there are two reasons why Sanders should very much stay in the race. The first is practical. In addition to being only a handful of points behind Clinton in national polls, Sanders still has a passionate base of supporters and is raising money at a rate surpassing even Clinton, as he notched $44 million in March alone. People who are for Bernie just don’t feel the Bern, they are on fire for him.
The best reason Sanders should stay in the race goes back to what he said that spring day in May 2015: This is not a political campaign, but a “political revolution.”
Sanders winning the Democratic nomination and even the White House is truly not the prize that Sanders, or many of his supporters, are seeking. He wants to transform the system. This is a man who vowed when he launched his campaign that “we’re going to build a movement of millions of Americans who are prepared to stand up and fight back.” And he has done just that.
He has even moved Clinton to not just discuss the issues he has championed but also embrace his positions on issues like raising the national minimum wage to $15 to opposing the Trans Pacific Partnership.
And Sanders is already pushing for changes to the 2016 Democratic platform to embrace even more of the issues that are the cornerstone of his campaign.
What the media simply doesn’t grasp is that while Sanders may have fewer delegates than Clinton, he will never “drop out.” The issues he’s fighting for in this campaign are his life’s work. Regardless of who wins this election, Sanders will continue, as he told us last May, to ask people to join him in his campaign to “build a future that works for all of us, and not just the few on top.”
And the more we talk about the issues Sanders is championing, the more it becomes clear that Sanders has already won.