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Mike Gravel drops out of 2020 race. He never wanted to be president anyway.

The former Alaska senator simply ran to get other candidates to talk about American imperialism.

Mike Gravel in 2007.
Jamie Rose/Getty Images

Former Alaska Senator and anti-war activist Mike Gravel, who announced in April he was running for president in order to get the other 20-something candidates to reckon with American imperialism, has officially declared the end of his run.

There had already been murmurs surrounding Gravel’s dropout last month, when the candidate announced on Twitter that it was looking to donate left-over funds because “the campaign is nearing its conclusion.” But on Tuesday, it became official. In a video on his Twitter, Gravel announced that he was endorsing Sen. Bernie Sanders, because his democratic socialism would “benefit all Americans.”

To be fair, Gravel never intended on becoming president. Before the official launch of his campaign, his spokesperson told Fox News that the candidate’s only goal was to make the debate stage to critique American imperialism on a national platform. He then planned to drop out and endorse the most progressive candidate.

Gravel, however, never made the debate stage. He didn’t meet the 65,000 unique donors threshold until after the June debates, and failed to poll above one percent in more than three DNC-recognized polls for both the June and July debates. Although candidates only have to meet the donor threshold or the polling threshold to qualify, the DNC had announced it would prioritize those who met both requirements for the top 20-candidate lineup. And, as Vox’s Dylan Scott writes, that posed a big problem for Gravel:

Despite those pointed barbs and bemused media coverage of the unusual origins of his campaign, Gravel has struggled to gain mainstream acceptance that he is, in fact, a real candidate for president.

Prominent polling outfits often leave him out of their 2020 surveys — and considering those polls help candidates qualify for the primary debates under the rules set up by the Democratic National Committee, that became a serious problem. Gravel’s campaign was left urging his fans to lobby polling firms to include him.

Gravel’s campaign all but accused the DNC of blacklisting the senator. In this Medium post, aide Kate Tyler said the campaign called Democratic headquarters more than 200 times to get information about the party’s debate qualifications.

Gravel, the 89-year-old anti-imperialist, had garnered national attention for his odd campaign that was basically run by two teenagers. These same two teenagers — David Oks and Henry Williams — had convinced the former senator to run for president in the first place, despite his failed bid in 2008. Together, the Gravel campaign built a savvy social media presence that connected with younger voters perhaps better than any other candidate.

That online presence, however, wasn’t enough to carry the anti-war legend to the debate stage, let alone the presidency.

Mike Gravel’s single platform: “No More War”

Unlike many of his fellow candidates, Gravel did not shy away from attacking his colleagues, primarily through his social media. Several candidates whom he deemed as “your average centrist politicians” were targeted by his tweets, including former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Kamala Harris and Sen. Cory Booker.

Gravel ran on a single platform: “No More Wars.” And as Vox’s Dylan Scott writes, the uncompromising anti-war candidate was one of the few voices among presidential candidates that seriously addressed foreign policy:

The former senator is a legend of the anti-war movement, having fought to end the Vietnam War draft and having taken the perilous step of entering the leaked Pentagon Papers into the official congressional record. He made a big splash in 2008, his last serious foray into politics, by hammering the other Democratic candidates for being too closely allied with the military-industrial complex. This was and is a serious guy.

As Scott notes, Gravel wanted to make radical changes to the US’s foreign policy and was unapologetic about his aggressive approach.

Gravel is the anti-war, anti-“American foreign policy for the last 50 years” candidate. Some of his priorities are the same as every other Democrat: He wants to rejoin the Paris climate agreement and the Iran nuclear deal. But he also wants to end unilateral sanctions against other sovereign nations. He wants to close every American base in a foreign territory and cut US military spending by 50 percent.

He wants to end American aid to Israel and Saudi Arabia. Mike Gravel, it is safe to say, says things you won’t see almost any other candidate say.

At the age of 89, it is unlikely that Gravel will return to politics — but that doesn’t mean he won’t continue to raise his voice against imperialism.

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