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“I look around here and I see a movement of people who are going to be engaged no matter what,” said Ian Tennison, an Arab American activist who lives in the city. Even if Biden wins the nomination, or Donald Trump wins another term, “you bet a lot of these people, including myself, are still going to be out there fighting, lobbying, doing what they can to make sure justice is served.”
As recently as four days ago, last night’s results didn’t seem possible; the moderate lane was a crowded place, and it seemed likely that the senator from Vermont would manage to come away from Super Tuesday with a crush of delegates. By late last night—after a decisive weekend victory in South Carolina and the coalescing of party leaders around his candidacy—Biden had won nine states to Sanders’s four and taken the delegate lead. It was a hell of a comeback.
Sipping Blue Moon, attendees watched dejectedly as the MSNBC polling wiz Steve Kornacki called state after state for Biden—first Virginia, then North Carolina, and on it went. Sanders’s first victory, in Vermont, hardly helped their spirits—it was expected. “Obviously, it makes your heart flutter a little bit,” said Carl Roberts, a 26-year-old who works in communications at a nonprofit. Another young man waiting in line for a beer sighed when I asked him for an interview. “It’s all kind of depressing,” he said. “I don’t really want to talk about it.” For the first two hours, the only bright point came when anchors announced that Michael Bloomberg had won American Samoa, his only victory of the night. The crowd howled.
As we watched, the Sanders fans kept reminding me that they are working for more than just this nomination fight and this presidential election. “I’m not super invested in voting just by itself,” said Charles Christiansen, a writer from Alexandria, Virginia. Instead, he’s invested in progressive organizing. “This movement is not just Senator Sanders,” echoed Nat Steele, a local union organizer. “It’s the organizations that have endorsed him, all the people that voted for him. This has been a long struggle for justice and this is just one part of that.”
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It’s perhaps comforting, when your candidate suffers, to shift the focus off him toward broader goals on the horizon. But many Sanders fans I’ve spoken with in recent months—and DSA members especially—really do believe that their work does not require him. Despite the upcoming election, DSA chapters in Iowa, for example, have chosen to largely forgo electoral work and direct their limited resources toward local projects instead. And a new generation of young leftists are in office now, championing policies that Sanders has long fought for. That includes multiple state and federal candidates and officeholders who are members of DSA, an organization that has itself grown dramatically in the past five years.