Bauer has known for weeks that Sanders likely wouldn’t be the Democratic nominee. But the coronavirus pandemic, in a strange way, had renewed his optimism: Maybe, between all the calls for universal testing and affordable treatment for COVID-19, more Americans would finally see the need for Medicare for All, he thought. “We were hoping that that would translate into a bump in momentum for” Sanders, Bauer told me, “where he could use that to his advantage in the [remaining] primaries.” Instead, his candidate appeared in a live-stream video on Wednesday to utter the words Bauer had been dreading: “The path toward victory is virtually impossible.”
Read: Bernie Sanders gets a rude awakening
Bauer said he was “almost despondent” after the senator’s announcement. He immediately logged on to Facebook to write several frustrated posts about Biden and the Democratic Party. In the comments, he argued with people who called him a crybaby. But mostly, he commiserated with his fellow Medicare for All advocates, who, he told me, share an overwhelming sense of despair. That anguish was clear across social media: The day Sanders exited the race, Twitter and Facebook were replete with desperate posts from people about their chronic illnesses, their expensive medications, and their inability to afford them.
Sanders “was our best hope to get these things passed, and now that he’s no longer in the race, it’s hard to imagine those policies becoming a reality,” Bauer told me. “We lost out on something that was really huge.”
The Democratic Party’s presumptive nominee is hardly a conservative when it comes to health care; Biden’s agenda is in some ways more liberal than Hillary Clinton’s was. He campaigned on a promise to expand the Affordable Care Act—legislation he pushed for as vice president—and to offer free coverage to low-income Americans who live in states that haven’t yet expanded Medicaid. As a recent concession to progressives, Biden has also proposed lowering the Medicare-eligibility age from 65 to 60.
But throughout his presidential campaign, Biden has been adamantly opposed to Medicare for All, citing the proposal’s $30 trillion price tag. Last month, he suggested that he might hesitate to sign the bill if it came across his desk. To Bauer, Biden’s plans to improve access aren’t nearly good enough. “If Joe Biden becomes president, I honestly have very little hope that any of this will change,” Bauer said, referencing his own situation. “He opposes everything that Bernie stands for—and those are the things that I need to survive.”
Former President Barack Obama is expected to endorse Biden today, and yesterday Sanders did the same, securing a promise that, as president, Biden would push for a nationwide $15 minimum wage. Health care was discussed only briefly in their live-streamed conversation. The biggest question of the primary race now is whether Sanders’s supporters will make the same endorsement. Many concerned Democrats have joined together to issue one deafening demand to the senator’s fans: Vote for Biden, or Trump wins again. Some Sanders supporters have already vowed to keep pushing Biden to the left; they’re determined that the revolution will continue without the Vermont senator at the helm.
But others are still busy grieving a future that, just weeks ago, they thought was attainable.
Bauer says he’s voted for the Democratic candidate in every presidential election since 1990, including four years ago, when Clinton went up against Donald Trump. But he doesn’t plan on doing so again.
“Either I will write in Bernie or I will vote for [the] Green Party,” he said. “It’s the only thing I can justify at this point.”