Sanders's address at the Democratic National Convention on Monday night effectively closed an improbable odyssey — two bids for the White House that together formed the backbone of a new, insurgent liberal movement.
Sanders nodded to his success in lifting his previously fringe calls for Medicare for all, free college tuition and a chastening of the nation's financial elite to the fore of a Democratic Party that had been drifting toward more-centrist views.
"Many of the ideas we fought for, that just a few years ago were considered radical, are now mainstream," Sanders said in his address, speaking from Burlington, Vt.
He cast President Donald Trump as a historic failure — a "threat to our democracy" who is "leading us down the path of authoritarianism."
"Nero fiddled while Rome burned," Sanders said. "Trump golfs. His actions fanned this pandemic, resulting in over 170,000 deaths and a nation still unprepared to protect its people."
Any bitterness about his defeat in the primary to presumptive nominee Joe Biden was absent. This phase of his revolution was televised and unified, with Sanders urging his supporters to back Biden.
"My friends, I say to you, to everyone who supported other candidates in the primary and to those who may have voted for Donald Trump in the last election: The future of our democracy is at stake," Sanders said Monday night. "The price of failure is just too great to imagine."
It was also a subtle handoff for the 78-year-old senator. Several rising Democratic stars, such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, see themselves as his political heirs and would surely pressure a President Biden from the left.
Sanders, who suspended his campaign on April 8, told the Washington Post in May that "next time around you're going to see another candidate carrying the progressive banner."
Sanders-style left-wing populism is gaining power throughout Europe and the Americas, at times replacing an older guard of liberals who embraced globalization. Across Western democracies, campaigns rooted in passionate emotion and grievance have won mass followings.
"I'm very proud. I am very proud of the movement that we have built," Sanders said in the interview Sunday. "The younger generation is overwhelmingly progressive, and they want to see their government function in a different way than in the past."
Sanders pointed in the interview to Ocasio-Cortez and Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., two allies who recently won congressional primaries, as evidence of a healthy and competitive left flank inside the Democratic Party.
He then rattled off a list of races at the federal, state and city level that allies of his campaigns have won, including "six members of the [Democratic Socialists of America] on the board of aldermen" in Chicago. And he applauded activist Cori Bush, one of his surrogates who tapped into the energy of the movement for racial justice, for defeating longtime Missouri congressman William Lacy Clay in a Democratic primary this month.
Unlike four years ago, when Sanders delegates clashed with Clinton delegates on the convention floor in Philadelphia, Sanders and his bloc arrived at this year's virtual gathering more at ease.
Sanders has praised Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Biden's running mate, as an "asset" to the campaign, and some Sanders allies have noted approvingly that she has, at times, touted Medicare for all, although she adjusted her position during the early months of the 2020 race.
The looming threat of a second Trump term has also helped to smooth out any lingering acrimony and at least somewhat shelved distaste for Biden's record and Harris' past work as a prosecutor.
Sanders has forged a bond with Biden, too — more than he ever did with Clinton, associates of both men said. Ocasio-Cortez and others close to Sanders have been welcomed into the Biden campaign's platform talks as part of "unity task forces."
Speaking Sunday with the Washington Post, Sanders resisted saying much about what his prominent role at the convention meant for him — the son of Jewish immigrants who was arrested at a civil rights protest in 1963 and wandered in Vermont politics for years before winning office.
"Obviously it is a sense of personal gratification, but I don't look at things like that," Sanders said. "I didn't do this alone. I did it with extraordinary people. "
He paused when asked about whether he ever thought back in 2015 that it could end like this — two presidential campaigns and a truce with Biden amid political war with Trump.
He said he did not.
"It's not about looking back," he said. "It's about looking forward."