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EDITORIAL: Bernie Sanders, father of the new Democratic Party

Bernie Sanders packed it in on Wednesday, leaving Joe Biden as the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee. But despite the Vermont socialist’s sudden collapse, he has been — for better or worse — one of the most seminal Democrats in a generation.

Sen. Sanders addressed his followers in a livestream address, saying his “path toward victory is virtually impossible.” His concession capped an unexpected sequence of events. Sen. Sanders began March in a commanding position but was soon overwhelmed by the force of moderate Democrats flocking to Mr. Biden as the best hope to defeat President Donald Trump in November, handing the former vice president convincing victories in a number of important states.

As expected, however, Sen. Sanders is not going quietly into the night. He said he will remain on the ballot in upcoming primaries to accumulate delegates he hopes to leverage in crafting the Democratic platform at the party convention.

There’s little doubt about what that would entail. While Sen. Sanders won’t be representing the Democratic Party in the 2020 presidential election, he is in large part the person most responsible for its rapid lurch left. Imagine 15 years ago that a socialist who praised Cuba and had a soft spot for the former Soviet Union could be taken seriously as a potential Democratic standard-bearer. Yet Sen. Sanders made not one, but two, serious runs for the nomination.

The Sanders Utopian collectivist agenda of free health care, free college, free day care and a fierce antipathy of the private sector — a “revolution,” no less — is now firmly entrenched in the Democratic ethos and has bred a high-profile farm team, most notably the progressive “squad” in the House. “Bernie was alone in the wilderness … for 40-plus years,” one liberal activist told The Wall Street Journal. “He’s no longer just a lone voice.”

All this comes at a price. Many moderate and independent voters — let alone Republicans — aren’t clamoring for the United States to repudiate the markets and liberties that have made it the most successful nation in history in favor of a socialist economic upheaval that celebrates central planning and coercion. There is a strong undercurrent of anti-Americanism in the attacks on success that dominate the rhetoric of Sen. Sanders and his supporters. Is it even possible for Mr. Biden to square the circle by bringing in radical activists while still attracting voters in the center?

Whether Sen. Sanders’ influence takes long-term hold or he eventually fades into history a la William Jennings Bryan remains to be seen. But today’s national Democratic Party would be almost entirely unrecognizable to the faithful of a generation ago — and you can thank, or blame, Bernie Sanders for that.

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