The end of Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign this week was a crushing blow to his youth-led movement and his calls for political revolution.
His withdrawal has sparked a particular anguish for the diverse and vast coalition of supporters in California, who handed him a resounding victory of 221 delegates on Super Tuesday – a win that the campaign had hoped would propel him to the nomination.
Here, six California voters reflect on the Vermont senator’s departure from the race, and the likely nomination of Joe Biden.
Ana Gonzalez, 33, representative for state Democratic party in Rialto
“I just started crying, I didn’t know what to think. I felt devastated and heartbroken. And I’m angry at the Democratic National Committee, I feel like they made it more difficult for Bernie to win.
“The Biden supporters are saying, ‘Now you better get on board.’ But they are missing why we voted for Bernie. He earned our vote. Joe Biden hasn’t done that. Of course we don’t want Trump to win. But why am I going to vote for someone I don’t believe in? As a party leader, I obviously have to fall in line. But it’s going to be really hard for me to encourage voters to support Biden.”
Yolanda Green, 56, homeless shelter resident in Los Angeles
“I’m sad. Bernie Sanders was out there loud and for the people. He was for all people, but especially for low-income people and families. He was talking about poverty. He had a voice that people listened to. He wasn’t fake. And he wanted to build something. He would’ve talked to people here [at Skid Row] and seen how he could help.
“I love Biden, too. I think he’ll be a damn good president, but I wanted somebody fresher.”
Andres Garcia, 28, former Amazon warehouse worker in San Bernardino
“I was emotional. I took a moment to despair about it. It underscores why my generation has no faith in electoral politics. I’m getting ready for another four years of Trump. I don’t have a breath of confidence in Joe Biden. He’s just a wreck, altogether. He has been problematic for decades. A lot of people are really going to have to put on some hardcore blinders to stomach voting for him.
“I’m just going to have to turn my back on electoral politics and reach back into my community. That is more rewarding than trying to pour my heart and soul into some really crusty candidate. I’m not going to vote for Joe Biden.”
Assal Rad, 37, research fellow at the National Iranian American Council Action in Orange county
“To have him step down at such an important moment is really difficult to take. The cracks we see in the system because of this pandemic, he’s been speaking about these cracks for decades. One of the pillars of what he stands for is the working class, the people who are now suffering the most. We don’t have safety nets in place.
“I understand the impetus to say, ‘Vote blue, no matter who.’ But if Biden wants to galvanize the youth vote and get Bernie Sanders supporters, he needs to appeal to them. He needs to have messaging that doesn’t look to the past, but looks to the future. You can’t just yell at people to vote against something. Give them something to vote for.”
Soli Alpert, 22, graduate student and rent board commissioner in Berkeley
“I started sobbing. I ran for Berkeley rent board because of Bernie. For folks my age, there’s not a lot of hope for our future. Bernie gave me a lot of optimism. People always say, ‘How do we get young people involved?’ But then they give us nothing. For the past five years, we told them what we want. We told them what would get us to come out. And they mocked us. It seems so self defeating.
“How can I tell any person who has survived sexual harassment or rape they should vote for Biden? How can I tell anyone whose parents were deported under the Obama administration that they support him? Do I think Biden is going to make my life better? No. I don’t think he gives a shit. If you live in a swing state, you kind of have to vote for Joe Biden. The supreme court matters a lot. But my vote in California doesn’t matter. And Joe Biden will be a bad president. I hope Biden wins, but he won’t have my help.”
Katherine Palomares, 27, census outreach worker in Inland Empire
“It doesn’t extinguish my hope. There’s still a lot of work to be done. I’m trying to gear my energy toward the things I can do for my family, my friends, my neighbors. I’m more focused on local elections.
“I don’t judge people if they want Biden. But I’m personally not behind him based on his record, the way he’s treated people, and the way he’s run his campaign … Bernie’s name will still be on the ballot [in upcoming primaries] and I know some are encouraging people to vote for him. There’s still more we can do, even if he’s not going to be president.”