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0000017a-15d9-d736-a57f-17ff8e130001Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is an independent politician who, on April 30th, made an official announcement of his candidacy for the 2016 Democratic presidential primary. Sanders, a self-described "Democratic Socialist," is a native of Brooklyn, New York.Sanders served four terms as the mayor of Burlington, and in 1990, defeated Republican Peter Smith to become the first Independent candidate elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in four decades. In 2006, he was elected to the U.S. Senate after receiving the endorsements of prominent national Democrats, including New York's Senator, Chuck Shumer, and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid.

N.H. Sanders Supporters Speak of His Legacy, and Uniting the Party

Sam Evans-Brown / NHPR

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders announced today he is suspending his campaign for president. Sanders won the New Hampshire primary back in February. Joe Biden, now the presumptive Democratic nominee, came in fifth place. 

State Rep. Renny Cushing is a Democrat from Hampton. Cushing was one of Sanders' most prominent supporters here during primary season. He spoke with NHPR’s Peter Biello to remember the legacy that Sanders’ campaign has left on the state.

So Bernie Sanders suspended his campaign earlier today. Why do you think he made this decision now?

I think Bernie just... he can count. And I think he recognizes that we're in an unprecedented time. He didn't see a clear path to the nomination, but he's already accomplished much. He's already had a most profound impact upon our society of I think any candidate for office in this century.

And how would you describe that impact?

Well, he's changed the political debate and it's reflected in what's happening right now, you know. This is a moment where this is not about billionaires, this is about people who are emptying bed pans, who are filling grocery store shelves, who are on the front line of providing health care to people who are under attack. And he's... in a way it's prescient, his recognition that without health care for all, we're all undermined. That we have a society where we need an economy that works for everybody. And so that's what it was about when he raised the issues, wanting to have a minimum wage, wanting to have health care for all, wanting to make sure that education was a right for everyone, trying to address the burden of student debt, trying to deal with the existential threat to our civilization, that from climate change. Bernie has been at the forefront of raising these issues, and he's helped build a political movement that I think ultimately is going to endure.

And those issues you raised were very popular among New Hampshire primary voters in 2016 when he won and then this year, again when he won. First of all, a lot of talk about whether Bernie Sanders voters will now support Vice President Joe Biden. So I want to ask you, will you be supporting Joe Biden now?

Oh, of course. I mean, we recognize, as Bernie said, that we must deal with the most dangerous president that we've ever had in our lifetime. And I'm sure that this is a moment where we need to band together to help transform our society, to help save our society, if you will.

There are some Bernie Sanders supporters, however, if you see social media, who are really not happy with this. What will it take, in your view, for New Hampshire's Sanders supporters to back Biden?

You know, I think people... Bernie always put it this way. It's not about me. It's about us. And it's about trying to have a recognition that what we need to do right now is to stop the madness that's running our country. I mean, we're seeing total incompetence in the midst of a pandemic. We are looking for leadership. We need that. And I think that we have to unite to defeat Donald Trump.

And will it be difficult to unite in your view?

You know... People obviously have disappointments as they go forward. But I think we have much more in common than we do that splits us apart. I know that we're ready to roll up our sleeves, get to work, and to replace the current president.

Sanders says that he will remain on the ballot in states that still have primaries coming up, he'll continue to gather delegates. Why is he doing that?

Bernie is about building a political revolution. The issues that he has been raising and talking about for the past 30 years are things that are really important that need to be spoken to. Bernie inspires a whole generation of people who have come of age in the post-9/11 and post economic collapse world who in many ways feel like they were ignored. They didn't like the world that they've been inherited. Bernie inspires that. And the issues that he speaks about are the issues that motivate and unite people. And I think, Bernie, he won the debate on the issues. He's not going to win the nomination, but he's winning on the issues because he's transforming the discussion.

But as a practical matter, how will continuing to gather delegates advance the issues that he's been proposing in his campaign?

It's a way that you have an influence on the party platform. I mean take a look at four years ago, Bernie, continued to do that. The party platform that the Democrats adopted is, you know, kind of a profound revolutionary vision for what our society should look like. And it's a mechanism by which all stakeholders and Democratic Party can be part of the discussion and shape the direction that we'll be moving forward in the next four years.

Peter Biello is the host of All Things Considered and Writers on a New England Stage at New Hampshire Public Radio. He has served as a producer/announcer/host of Weekend Edition Saturday at Vermont Public Radio and as a reporter/host of Morning Edition at WHQR in Wilmington, North Carolina.

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