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Bernie Sanders Ends the Agony

Possessed with considerable energy, Bernie’s presidential campaign finished further from the prize than four years ago.

WASHINGTON– The cause of international socialism has capsized since December.

Bernie Sanders — the Vermont senator, the seventy-eight year-old, and the twice runner-up for the Democratic nomination for president — announced the inevitable Wednesday, the closure of his now-beleaguered campaign, an ultimately underachieving effort. 

It was a shocking coda to a campaign that just months ago had risen from the dead. 

Fitting for a candidate who Wednesday thanked the “music and art” of his supporters, Sanders’ candidacy was one that, at moments, seemed to have the spirit of history herself in its corner. 

Sanders said Wednesday: “Nelson Mandela said… ‘It always seems impossible until it is done.’” Well, it has not been done. “Few would deny that over the past five years, our movement has won the ideological struggle,” Sanders said. 

And I would not deny it.  

Judged from the fifty yard line of this primary campaign, Sanders’ wild ride was another success: he overcame the rise of the contest’s veritable Menshevik, Elizabeth Warren, and ensured the relative primacy of his hardliners now and for some time to come.

Sanders’ second effort featured a laudable, enhanced emphasis on the foreign wars that drain America’s treasuries and decimate the reputation of this country’s project internationally. 

But judged by the battlefield as a whole, Sanders was beaten more thoroughly by Joe Biden, an allegedly weak front-runner, than he was by Hillary Clinton, a putatively insurmountable one. 

There is, of course, a lesson for Donald Trump in there.

Sanders now follows Jeremy Corbyn, in Britain, in having faced voters’ surprisingly clear repudiation. The Labourite got crushed just before Christmas. For now, the international left — buoyed in recent years by a coalition of its traditional believers joined by professionals with collapsing prospects — is a force defanged. 

Biden is not Corbyn, nor Clinton, nor Sanders, but rather, though twice his age, closer to France’s Emmanuel Macron. His doubters are numerous, but confined to the chattering classes.

To the man on the street, Biden’s a plausible frontman for a mediocre, but not menacing establishment. Inoffensive neoliberalism is preferable to many than both opera bouffe and truly out-of-touch aristocracy, best personified by Hillary Clinton. Biden leads the same band, but he’s the new lead singer.

For the Democrats, it’s a beautiful divorce. Biden’s pitch is as attractive during boom times, say this February, as it is in bust, say this April. It’s a flight to safety. 

The former vice president likes to boast he will lead the most progressive administration in American history. He may very well. 

And Sanders is right to insist he has a true legacy. For his disciples, it’s a matter of procuring more than a junior seat at the table. And for Sanders’ opponents on the right, it’s a matter of not eventually being overwhelmed by a new energy.

about the author

Curt Mills is Senior Reporter at TAC covering national security, the 2020 campaign and the Trump presidency. Previously, he reported for The National Interest, Washington Examiner, U.S. News & World Report and the Spectator. Mills was a 2018-2019 Robert Novak Journalism Fellow and is a native and resident of Washington, D.C.

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