Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) formally ended his campaign on Wednesday after over a year of vying for the Democrat Party’s nomination, leaving a number of key moments on the campaign trail that will likely live in presidential campaign infamy.
Sanders launched his presidential bid in February 2019, largely channeling the same progressive, grassroots movement that propelled his failed bid against Hillary Clinton in 2015 and 2016. He conceded on Wednesday that a viable path to the nomination no longer exists but encouraged supporters to continue to fight, emphasizing that the “struggle continues.”
Here are some key highlights from Sanders’ 2020 presidential bid.
1. $16 trillion Green New Deal
Sanders presented a historic proposal to address climate change — something he called the “single greatest threat facing our planet.” He took the original progressive call for a Green New Deal and turned it into a series of policy proposals estimated to cost $16 trillion. His plan contained a swath of big government ideas — from “investing $1.12 billion in ‘tribal land access and extension programs,’” to providing “oral translation assistance to USDA, FDA, and DOJ offices for non-English speaking farmers ‘”– and vastly expanded existing entitlement programs, like SNAP.
As his bid went on, Sanders routinely modified his climate change doomsday timeline, going from 12 years, to eight or nine years, to “right now.”
Sanders told viewers of CNN’s March debate that we must address the climate change “crisis” with the same urgency as the Chinese coronavirus pandemic.
2. “I wrote the damn bill.”
Medicare for All remained a hallmark of Sanders’ campaign, and he defended it vigorously, even as more moderate Democrats questioned its viability. Sanders posed a single-payer system as the most “cost-effective approach” to providing health care for everyone in the country and told his critics “I wrote the damn bill if I may say so” during September’s presidential debate.
Some estimates show Sanders’ Medicare for All plan costing over $60 trillion over the next decade.
3. Cardi B interview
Sanders scored a flurry of celebrity endorsements, from Danny DeVito to Dick Van Dyke. While many celebrities participated in endorsement videos, few actually interviewed him. Rapper Cardi B did, and in a nail salon in Detroit, at that. The two discussed a host of issues, including free college and “police brutality.”
Cardi B’s nails are juuuust a little different than mine. Our views on the issues are pretty similar. pic.twitter.com/PhA2wXnkpy
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) August 15, 2019
Sanders continued to maintain friendly relations with the rapper, stating that it “would be great” for Cardi B to pursue a career in politics.
4. Heart attack comeback
Sanders shocked the political world after finding himself hospitalized in October after suffering a heart attack. He underwent emergency heart surgery, with two stents placed in a blocked artery. The news shook many across political aisles and caused many to wonder if the health setback would effectively result in an early end to his campaign. The opposite happened. Sanders showed signs of strength, returned to the campaign trail, and released a bill of health from doctors. His support boomed, leading him to become, for some time, the Democrat Party’s frontrunner.
5. “Squad” endorsement
Sanders’ campaign largely kicked off its “Bernie’s Back” narrative by rolling out endorsements from three of the most prolific members of the far-left “Squad” — Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), and Ilhan Omar (D-MN). All of them, at one point or another, stumped for Sanders and promoted his socialist agenda to the masses. Ocasio-Cortez even appeared for Sanders in his place as he found himself stuck in Washington, DC, for the failed impeachment effort against President Trump.
6. Bernie jets
Sanders, as well as his fellow presidential hopefuls, had to pause traditional campaign trail activities in key states due to the impeachment trial. Ironically, Sanders, who has referred to climate change as an existential crisis, floated his intention of utilizing a private jet to fly to and from DC in order to continue his campaign activities. Additionally, FEC filings show that Sanders spent more than all of his rivals, $1.2 million, on private air travel in the last quarter of 2019.
7. “Let’s not do it right now.”
In January, Sanders found himself in the midst of a political controversy with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who proclaimed that Sanders previously told her that a woman could not win the presidency against Trump in 2020. Sanders denied the allegation during January’s presidential debate, leading to a contentious moment between the two after the debate concluded.
8. “And I’m white as well!”
Sanders, 78, defended his status as an old, white candidate as the Democrat Party’s field, once filled with diversity, continued to narrow. He responded to remarks from former President Barack Obama, who said the world’s problems could be largely attributed to “old people, usually old men, not getting out of the way.”
Sanders said the issue is not race or gender but “where power resides in America.”
“We are living in a nation increasingly becoming an oligarchy. We have a handful of billionaires who spend hundreds of millions of dollars buying elections and politicians,” he said during December’s debate.
“The issue is not old or young, male or female. This issue is working people standing up, taking on the billionaire class, and creating a government and economy that works for all, not just the one percent,” he added.
9. Crowds abound
Sanders was able to draw massive crowds to his campaign events, many of which were campaign-concert hybrids. Several bands and artists performed on Sanders’ behalf, including The Strokes, Vampire Weekend, and Bon Iver. Indie rock band Portugal. The Man. helped Sanders draw a crowd of 17,000 to his rally in Tacoma, Washington, in February. His rally in Denver, Colorado, drew an estimated 11,400 people that same month. His campaign described it as the “largest rally any presidential candidate has held in Colorado this cycle.” One month later, Sanders drew a crowd of 15,000 to Chicago’s Grant Park.
10. Fidel praise
Sanders’ bid did not go without controversy. He came under fire in February after praising aspects of the education system in Cuba under the regime of communist dictator Fidel Castro.
“We’re very opposed to the authoritarian nature of Cuba but you know, it’s unfair to simply say everything is bad,” Sanders said during a 60 Minutes interview with Anderson Cooper.
“You know? When Fidel Castro came into office, you know what he did? He had a massive literacy program. Is that a bad thing? Even though Fidel Castro did it?” he asked.
He ultimately refused to express regret for his remarks.
Sanders continued to see momentum as the primaries kicked off, winning the popular vote in Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada. The victories gave him, for a time, the lead with pledged delegates.
Sanders’ end was all too familiar for the Vermont socialist’s most ardent supporters. Many believe the Democrat Party establishment made considerable efforts to rig the election against their candidate — a narrative that exploded after a steady stream of former presidential candidates, including Beto O’Rourke, Pete Buttigieg, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), crawled out of the woodwork and endorsed his opponent Joe Biden (D), right before Super Tuesday. Sanders took it in stride, lightly acknowledging the establishment’s opposition to his campaign.
“Today I say to the Democratic establishment, in order to win in the future, you need to win the voters who represent the future of our country, and you must speak to the issues of concern to them,” he said following his poor performances in the March 10 primary contests.
While he vowed to soldier on, even after experiencing a slew of primary losses, he ended his fight on Wednesday, succumbing to the Democrat establishment yet again.