Jamelle Boule is an opinion columnist for the New York Times who voiced the case for Bernie Sanders in late February. He wrote this column before Senator Sanders ended his campaign but when it was clear he would not win the nomination.

Joe Biden is on track to win the Democratic nomination for president and has been endorsed by Bernie Sanders. Biden will need to unify the party to have any chance of defeating Trump. He will need to bring Sanders supporters into a strong coalition. Both Sanders and Biden agree that Trump is an existential danger to the future of democracy.

Sanders will arrive at the Democratic convention with a large bloc of delegates. that bloc will have a large say in the party platform. Governor Andrew Cuomo’s decision to cancel the New York presidential primary would have deprived Sanders of many delegates and hurts progressives in down-ballot races for other offices. Fortunately his decision was reversed by a judge in response to an appeal by Andrew Yang. The primary is going forward.

Now, Boule writes, is not a time for progressives to despair,. He wrote the following column after Biden’s decisive victory in Michigan, which Sanders had won in 2016.

What comes next? A world where Biden wins the nomination and then the presidency — which is well in the realm of possibility — feels like one where the Democratic establishment has successfully marginalized the progressive left, where supporters of Sanders have no future in electoral politics. Some of those supporters might even drop off the map in apathy and despair.

There is another possibility, though. It’s not as viscerally thrilling as an outright win — few things are. But if the goal is to move America to the left — to craft and pass policies that help ordinary people — then a Biden candidacy isn’t the end of the game. He represents an opportunity. You can see what this might look like in Virginia, where the Democratic majority in the General Assembly just finished its legislative session.

In 2017, Virginia Democrats faced a difficult choice about the future of the party.

Would they nominate a forceful, dynamic left-wing politician who stood against “establishment” politics and called for structural political change? Or would they fall behind a party stalwart with conservative instincts and an unremarkable record in office?

The progressive candidate, Tom Perriello, ran a vigorous campaign for the nomination. But the stalwart, Ralph Northam, won the race, cruising to victory with heavy support from African-Americans and moderate suburbanites. And despite fumbles and flops throughout the fall campaign against Ed Gillespie — a pro-business Bush Republican masquerading as a Trumpist demagogue — Northam won the governor’s mansion in a sweep of the state’s most populous regions.

As governor, Northam has been unexpectedly controversial. And true to form, he hasn’t challenged the overall status quo of Virginia politics, where powerful business interests hold huge sway over lawmakers in Richmond. But the anti-Trump wave that put Northam into office also energized progressives, who seized the opportunity presented by a Democratic governor to advance their interests and build power ahead of the next election cycle. When that cycle came, in 2019, progressives spearheaded the charge that broke the Republican Party’s hold on the state Legislature. Years of careful, difficult work — of building relationships and investing in marginalized communities — paid off in a statewide sweep that put Democrats in the driver’s seat of Virginia politics.

Northam is still governor and most of the caucus is either moderate or conservative. But for the first time, progressives have a major say in policy, and they have used it to push an unabashedly liberal agenda through the Legislature, raising the minimum wage, legalizing collective bargaining for public employees and expanding the right to vote. Just last week, Virginia lawmakers — led by Lee Carter of Manassas, a member of Democratic Socialists of America — passed one of the nation’s lowest caps on the price of insulin.

Progressives may have wanted someone else for governor, but for the first time ever, they’ve been able to stake a claim on power in the state. You could dismiss this as half a loaf — especially in light of Northam’s opposition to far-reaching reform, like ending Virginia’s right-to-work law — but I think it’s more significant than that. These are the kinds of victories that can build on themselves. Progressives may not win the governorship in 2021 (Northam is term-limited) or 2025, but they are on the path to winning the reins for one of their own.

There’s every chance for the progressive left to make this happen on a national scale. It looks like Biden will secure the nomination, but Sanders won the policy argument. Democrats in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina support Medicare for All; Democrats in California, North Carolina, Texas, Tennessee and Virginia support free college. And the future of the Democratic Party — the youngest voters — are with Sanders.

If Biden goes on to win the White House, there’s real space for the pro-Sanders left to work its will on policy. It can use its influence to steer Biden toward its preferred outcomes. It can fulfill some of its goals under the cover of Biden’s moderation, from raising the minimum wage nationally to pushing the American health care system closer to single-payer.

This may sound a lot like wishful thinking. And if Biden were a different politician — if, like Sanders, he was strongly ideological — I might also doubt his malleability. But Biden, like Northam, is a creature of the party. He doesn’t buck the mainstream, he accommodates it. He doesn’t reject the center, he tries to claim it. You saw this during the Obama administration, when Biden reversed himself on a career of moderation to embrace and champion the former president’s most liberal policies.

If the two Sanders campaigns have, over five years, pulled the center of the Democratic Party as far left as it’s been since before Ronald Reagan, then Biden is likely to hew to that center, not challenge it.

Speaking to supporters after his win in Michigan on Tuesday, Biden promised to unite the Democratic Party and work with Sanders to “defeat Donald Trump.” Biden knows he needs the Sanders left. He’s going to extend a hand. Progressives should take it — and keep planning for when they can make moderates compromise with them.