On Monday night, the Associated Press announced that Hillary Clinton is the presumptive nominee of the Democratic Party, having gained enough delegates and super delegates to clinch the nomination. But despite Bernie Sander's inability to win the race for the candidacy, Sanders supporters should still feel good about how the race has gone. Because while it's true that he won't be the Democratic nominee, he's championed progressive policy ideas with unapologetic and moral force, and he's likely dragged Clinton further to the left than she ever otherwise would've gone.
Update: Bernie Sanders' campaign has argued that the primary is not over, saying that the nominee will not be clear until July.
I know that it's probably cold comfort, given just how popular Sanders is with his adherents, and how much spirit has been spent working to elect him. Losing any kind of political race when you're a true believer is about as grinding as it gets. At least if your sports team loses, you don't have real reason to think that the country and/or the world are worse or less hopeful places because of it. When a presidential candidate you support loses, it can feel like somebody just jabbed a knife in the side of the whole world ― progressives who lived through the Bush era may remember just how bleak November 3, 2004 felt.
But if there's anything you can consider, to try to soothe the frayed nerves of the last several months, it's this: not only has Sanders driven Clinton to embrace policy proposals that seem well to the left of where her natural inclinations might be. Her halfway-embrace of a $15 dollar minimum wage sticks out as a distinct example, as well as her eventual opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement ― suffice to say, there's little evidence to suggest that opposing TPP would've been Clinton's "true north" in absence of a strong challenge from Sanders.
It's beyond just influencing Clinton, too. Sanders has also reclaimed the title of "socialism" within the Democratic Party, making it a debatable political philosophy like any other, rather than an easily demagogued scare tactic. There are still people in the party who might disdain any association with the "socialist" label, sure, but Sanders has proven that a staggering number of Democrats and independents are ready for some slightly more radical policy ideas ― although, as he often points out, nothing about single-payer health care is particularly radical outside of the United States.
While it might not have necessarily been an easy road if he'd actually come out on top ― it's hard to say, given the relatively light treatment he's received throughout the primary, whether the broader electorate would be game for his brand of Democratic socialism, favorable hypothetical polling notwithstanding ― that's a very big deal. As recently as 10 or 15 years ago, it would've been unthinkable for a self-avowed socialist to get even this far. In fact, the GOP's entire pitch against the Obama election and reelection hinged strongly on tagging him as such, attempts which also failed.
If part of Sanders' legacy can be that he highlighted what a real American socialist looks and sounds like, and that people kinda liked it, to boot? That's yet another A+ on his 2016 electoral report card.
Really, at this point there's only one possible outcome in defeat that Sanders supporters should feel wary about, a possible negative implication of his role in the primaries ― if the divisions of the primary cause too many of his supporters to sit out the general election, needlessly tightening what should by all indications be a comfortable victory for Clinton against Donald Trump, perhaps the most egregiously dangerous and unpredictable Republican nominee in a political generation.
But considering how contentious the 2008 Democratic primaries were ― arguably even moreso than they are now― and how the party came together even after Clinton's candidacy ended, hopefully there won't be any close calls come November. That'll be a lot easier, incidentally, if Sanders ends up throwing his support behind Clinton, potentially the final starring turn in a race that's turned the Vermont senator into a household name. Sanders is fond of touting how far his campaign has come since its sleepy launch last year, and to that I can only say "hear, hear!"