“The campaign ends, the struggle continues.” These were the words sent out to all of Senator Bernie Sanders’ supporters on the evening of April 8th as the lifelong progressive announced that his campaign would be suspended going forward. Despite still being on the ballot, this all but sealed the fate of the senator’s second go at the presidential primary. The move came almost as a surprise that no one would ever want to receive, especially Bernie’s mass following of young, progressive, and plucky voters. What led to this point could be talked about for days. Sadly, what’s done is done, and we can’t change the mind of the man who inspired so many Millennials and Gen Zers to be so passionate about politics. One question does persist, though: Where do the millions of Sanders supporters go from here?
It seems like that question has infinite answers. People from the Democratic side of the isle have rung out the sentiment of “vote blue no matter who”, and that if their supporters don’t do all they can to vote out Trump, we are all faced with certain doom. Republicans from the other side have used Sanders’ defeat almost as a catalyst to try and lure people in from the rival party. They claim that, once again, Bernie has been robbed of yet another presidential election and that his followers should be enraged that the DNC has stolen another victory from the seemingly popular candidate. Somewhere in the middle are the people who are just biting the bullet. They are either putting their moral handbook to bed and voting for whoever their party’s representative is or they are denouncing this upcoming election altogether. Some are even voting for third parties so they can at least feel like they can sleep at night.
What all these solutions seem to lack is a sense of completion. Vote blue and you’ve essentially given in to the powers that be that have caused this sticky situation in the first place. Vote red and you’re turning your back on the ideals and agendas that made Sanders such a forward thinking candidate and likable among his followers. Then there’s the risk of voting third party, which both sides deems unacceptable and considers it “just another vote for the other party”. Realistically, this situation has no ideal outcome. It’s almost like being stuck in a lose-lose-lose situation.
What happens now? It’s clear that we will undoubtedly get the campaign battle of Trump vs. Biden. For many people, this is just an unacceptable outcome, one where we never thought we would end up at. Yet here we are in 2020, forced to swallow the bitter pill of an election that is as tasteful as fish oil. For Bernie fans, there seems to be no end to the ongoing political despair that has been the past almost half-century.
Despite not being enthusiastic about the upcoming election, there is at least something that 100% of Sanders supporters should be doing: voting. The man that so many love would not want his followers to sit home as one of the best opportunities citizens have to participate in government just passes on. We live in a country that gives us the right to vote, and as freedom reigns over America, we should exercise this right as much as humanly possible. We owe it to ourselves, at the very least, to try to make things better as we see fit. Sanders himself stated, “Change will not take place without political participation,” and it’s with this statement that we realize that even having a small part plays a great role in the larger picture. It’s also with this quote that we are also given some clarity as what Sanders supporters should be doing in the absence of their go-to candidate.
As people grimace at the short-term ramifications of Bernie dropping out of the race, the fact remains that political activism is an ongoing wheel. “Political participation” extends far beyond the means of just going out and voting every couple of years. Even as we sit and sulk about the progressive’s champion leaving the race, he himself has turned all his efforts to helping the American people in a time of such uncertainty and panic. Instead of feeling defeated and putting his head in his hands, the man that hasn’t missed a beat for the past 39 years (ever since he took his first oath in a Mayoral office) is still fighting for the same things he has been fighting for. Sanders is still moving forward in his efforts to support the people during this crisis, still pushing for forgiving student debt, and still making it a point that we need to expand our voting system.
As his supporters wrestle with the thought of “What’s next?” they should take an example from Bernie Sanders himself. Yes, for them, these next couple of years will be nothing short of challenging. There will be political heartbreak and turmoil, the likes that a lot of his supporters haven’t really had to deal with firsthand before. Does this mean that this should be used as an excuse to be inactive and show their bellies? Is that the kind of example that Sanders has set for his fellow leftists? If this is what floats with them things will never seemingly change. Just think of how things were before Sanders launched his first failed campaign. Even in defeat, the policies of higher minimum wages and worker’s rights stayed in the mainstream and have since been adopted into popular Democratic opinion.
So yes, be frustrated. Be oh-so-very frustrated. What shouldn’t happen is turning that frustration into apathy. Use the fire that ignited the most promising grassroots campaign in years and turn it into something you can use as fuel to keep the fight going. Campaign for candidates at your local level, write letters and emails to state officials that you feel aren’t being held to the standards of a voted office, and rally politically when you see fit. Things won’t change overnight, but if Sanders supporters keep fighting the good fight, who’s to say they can’t eventually win?