The OZY ‘Hunger Games’: Feeling the After-Bern

The OZY ‘Hunger Games’: Feeling the After-Bern

By Sean Braswell


Because sometimes, the biggest impact a presidential candidate makes is when they exit the race.

By Sean Braswell

Remember how The Hunger Games would honor its fallen tributes? In this occasional series, OZY predicts which presidential candidates will be the next to fall — whether they know it or not.

When you started this campaign a year ago, as you like to say, Sen. Bernie Sanders, you were 60 or 70 points down in the polls and no one gave a 74-year-old Jewish socialist from Vermont much of a chance of beating Hillary Clinton and her Super PAC-backed campaign juggernaut. Now, 40-plus contests and millions of votes later, and, even after your primary win this week, we’re predicting that, well, the naysayers will be right. 

But … you certainly gave us an unforgettable run for our $27. And you undoubtedly left Clinton and the Democratic Party feeling at least a second-degree Bern in the process. Time will tell whether they will leave that wound — and your progressive platform — to air out at the Convention or cover it with a bandage in the hopes that your party will forget the scarred flesh in the rush to equip for battle with Donald Trump.

Indeed, if it weren’t for Trump, you would have been the story of the election, hands down. And it wasn’t just that a septuagenarian resembling a muppet managed to excite more young people between the ages of 18–20 than a fake ID that made your campaign (which did not respond to requests to comment) special. It was the way you did it.

Let’s start with the S-word. In a country where the “socialist” label can still be toxic, you wore it as a badge of honor. Hell, you weren’t even an official Democrat when you announced your candidacy. Many U.S. politicians may have been progressive, bleeding-heart liberals in their youth, and even marched in the civil rights movement as you did, but in your decades in Congress and months on the campaign trail, you never strayed from your message of social and political inequality, even when it would have been expedient to do so.


And you, Senator, the longest-serving Independent member in the history of the U.S. Congress, have certainly been around a while, and would have been the oldest person ever to assume the presidency. To paraphrase Pop Fisher, the ornery manager in the classic baseball film The Natural: You don’t start running for president at your age, you retire. Yet, the former carpenter and mayor of Burlington who received a mere 2 percent of the vote in your first bid for the Senate in ’72 just kept right on trucking, wooing a generation of Americans who were largely infants and gametes when you first entered Congress in 1990.

Somehow, a balding grandpa from Brooklyn started drawing huge crowds in places like Phoenix …

And that was just the start of the surprises. Somehow, a candidate whose closest comedic foil was Seinfeld’s Larry David, managed to electrify younger voters with a campaign that was more about policy than personality. Somehow, a balding grandpa from Brooklyn started drawing huge crowds in places like Phoenix that even candidate Barack Obama would have envied. Somehow, one of the poorest members of the Senate managed to organize a small donor army that has brought in almost $200 million without the aid of a single Super PAC.

But campaigns are not won on Facebook feeds, at crowded rallies or in the hearts and minds of the under-35 crowd. And despite the many expectations your campaign exceeded, it ultimately failed to eclipse Clinton, particularly among minority voters and when it came to foreign policy and non-economic issues. Your consuming focus on income inequality and money in politics was also your biggest limitation: The American electorate hasn’t been so captivated by a one-trick-pony show since Ross Perot pulled out his infomercial charts to balance the federal budget in 1992.

The burn from your searing candidacy will likely continue to be felt in the months ahead, but the revolution is over.

All hail the Fallen, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.