Following President Obama’s formal endorsement of Hillary Clinton, there will be more pressure than ever before on the outspoken Democratic dark horse of this campaign to step down and let Clinton take the reigns before the convention in Philadelphia.
Rewind to April 2015 when Sanders first announced his candidacy, not one news correspondent seemed to take the senator from Vermont seriously- albeit, most people adopted similar attitudes towards Donald Trump when he first announced his candidacy in June.
The Brooklyn born senator was an easy target for media skepticism and parody for everything from his disheveled hair, sometimes-cantankerous demeanor, his age and his self-professed socialist policies. Despite all the faults media outlets found, flash forward to 2016 where it is staggering to see how much support the 73 year old senator from Vermont has garnered since then.
Sanders highlighted his points of clean energy, unemployment, and youth incarceration and of course targeted corporate controlled government when he and Clinton dominated the October 2015 Democratic debate. Collectively Clinton and Sanders spoke for nearly an hour, leaving candidates Chafee, O’Malley and Webb with a collected forty minutes of speaking time. Still the morning after the debate, Huffington Post shared a video that had Sanders playing the bongos to jest at the senator’s expressive hand waving.
Back in April, Sanders hosted a rally in Washington Square Park that drew in over 11 thousand people. Thousands watched from inside the park and from buildings nearby and listened to the senator speak for over two hours about corporate greed in American politics and railed Hillary Clinton for being a willing participant.
When a bird landed on Sanders’ podium mid-speech during a rally in Portland, the crowd erupted into mayhem. Watching the reactions of those standing behind the senator, people were cheering, laughing, fist pumping, praying, some on the verge of tears even. It may have seemed a little too melodramatic for the senator’s usual style, but it encapsulated the motto of Sanders’ campaign, which was that Americans need a future to believe in, even if it means believing in a bird. #birdiesanders
At the start of 2015, the popularity gap between Sanders and Clinton was striking. In January, Huffington Post Pollster calculated an average opinion poll rating of nearly 61% for Clinton and a dismal 4% for Sanders. As of June, Clinton’s approval has dropped nine points finishing at 51.6. Sanders approval rating in June was 40.2%, 36 points up from the January 2015 poll.
In the latest primary results from last Tuesday, Sanders took North Dakota by a landslide 64-25 and Montana by a smaller margin of 51-44. If you look at a map of Democratic delegates, it looks like a near 50/50 split with Sanders dominating the North West and East states and Clinton doing the same in the South East and parts of the West.
As it currently stands, Clinton has just shy of the number of pledged delegates needed to win the nomination. Sanders is trailing close behind her with nearly 2000 pledged delegates. Those numbers combined with President Obama’s endorsement means that Clinton’s chances of being elected the nominee are pretty high, although Sanders has made it quite clear that he’s not going without a fight.
In Vermont on Sunday, Sanders affirmed that he would be taking his campaign to transform the Democratic party to the convention in July. It wasn’t a direct threat to the Clinton campaign, but it was also a clear answer to whether or not Sanders was going to concede in light of recent events.
If Sanders doesn’t win the nomination next month, his success in the primaries will still speak volumes. Sanders is a grumpy old Brooklynite who began his fight against government injustices and greed decades ago. While at the University of Chicago, he was heavily involved with the Socialist Party of America and the Congress of Racial Equality. He got arrested during a 1963 anti-segregation rally and was a conscientious objector in the Vietnam War. There’s no doubt that Sanders’ dedication to his purpose as an elected official is anything less than noble. He’s exposed millions to the consequences of a government system infected with corruption, but also speaks firmly about what a government is capable of when it is transparent and principled. Sanders has managed to get more young people interested in the election than ever before and took the election back to basics, and reminded everyone what governments were installed to do in the first place.