Following Sen. Bernie Sanders’s (I-Vt.) April 8 decision to end his presidential campaign, Sanders supporters on campus are regrouping and looking for ways to influence the 2020 election.
Pat Hughes, a third-year philosophy graduate student and Stanford Students for Bernie (SU for Bernie) organizer, said that while Sanders’s decision to terminate his campaign had not come as a surprise, his supporters at Stanford were still disappointed by the outcome.
“The campaign was always just one goal in a movement to transform our country, and our disappointment is tempered by the knowledge that we are still in this struggle together and will continue to fight for each other until we win the world we deserve,” Hughes said.
David Palumbo-Liu, comparative literature professor and Sanders supporter, echoed Hughes in that he was disappointed but also emphasized the long-term goals of shaping the Democratic race.
“I was of course disappointed, but it makes good political sense,” Palumbo-Liu said. “He has galvanized a movement that will continue, and the foremost goal right now is to make sure that Trump is not re-elected.”
Sanders’ campaign managed to bring together students of all backgrounds to work together on grassroots political organizing. About 300 people signed up for the SU for Bernie mailing list, with a third of them serving as active organizers and participating in events including tabling, canvassing and attending debate watch parties, according to Hughes.
For Ryan Yu ’23, an international student, SU for Bernie was an opportunity to explore their interest in American politics.
“I was into U.S. politics before I came to America, and have always been interested in political organizing, but never had the chance, coming from China,” Yu said. “As a socialist, I find Bernie’s campaign inspiring with its political message and grassroots organizing, so I decided to get involved and see what it’s like.”
The campaign did not disappoint.
“Working on the ground and simply getting to know people is fun in itself, but it’s even more fun when you can engage with people who might be coming from a different perspective,” Yu said.
Alyssa LaTray ’23, who worked with Yu for SU for Bernie, said even initially embarrassing moments campaigning had now faded into positive memories, recounting a time she and Yu had been yelled at while canvassing after asking a man if he were voting.
“He was dismissive and walked away without answering,” LaTray said. “We started laughing, mostly at ourselves for how embarrassing our job was, and he walked back to us and yelled at us in front of everyone in White Plaza. That was mortifying but relatively funny now.”
Looking to 2020
Even after the campaign’s suspension, Sanders supporters at Stanford are looking toward the 2020 election and the future as opportunities to continue spreading Sanders’s messaging and policies.
Hughes said SU for Bernie encourages members to get involved in groups and initiatives like Young Democratic Socialists of America, Stanford Students for Workers’ Rights and the Stanford Solidarity Network.
“Now is a time of deep fear and uncertainty, and with it comes the duty and opportunity to build the world we deserve, a world where we all feel safe regardless of income, gender, race, ability, immigration status, etc.,” Hughes said. “Our campaign expanded many people’s imagination for what we can fight for and is possible, and we will continue that movement.”
Palumbo-Liu said he is adjusting to the situation by reaching campus activists online, encouraging students to get involved.
“My ongoing class on scholarship and activism is planning a campus-wide virtual town hall to create an integrated network of progressive organizations and individuals on campus,” Palumbo-Liu said. “Anyone interested should contact me.”
LaTray said that, as her primary goal in 2020 is defeating President Trump, she was considering working for former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign.
“I’m going to vote for Biden and hope for the best,” LaTray said. “I’m not really excited about him as a candidate, but I really despise Trump.”