What’s Next for Sanders?

Bernie’s got a big choice to make.

Hillary Clinton reached her goal last night. As of this writing, the Associated Press has her total of pledged delegates at 2,184 – well over the 2,026 needed for a majority.

Going in to yesterday’s primaries, the Sanders campaign made the argument that superdelegates shouldn’t be counted until the convention and that he would attempt to convince them to change their minds and support him. Much of that was based on the possibility of Sanders coming out of these six primaries with momentum. That clearly didn’t happen. He won North Dakota and Montana, but lost to Clinton in New Jersey, New Mexico, South Dakota and the big enchilada – California. The only remaining case he has to make is his ongoing belief that he would fare better against Trump in the general election. But that would mean overturning the will of a majority of primary voters – who have clearly chosen Clinton with her pledged delegate lead.

So…what now for Sanders? According to this report from Edward-Isaac Dovere and Gabriel Debenedetti from inside the campaign, the candidate himself hasn’t spent much time thinking about that.

Top Sanders aides admit that it’s been weeks, if not months, since they themselves realized he wasn’t going to win, and they’ve been operating with a Trump’s-got-no-real-shot safety net. They debate whether Sanders’ role in the fall should be a full vote-for-Clinton campaign, or whether he should just campaign hard against Trump without signing up to do much for her directly.

They haven’t been able to get Sanders focused on any of that, or on the real questions about what kind of long term organization to build out of his email list. They know they’ll have their own rally in Philadelphia – outside the the convention hall—but that’s about as far as they’ve gotten.

Greg Sargent spoke to two of Sanders’ Congressional supporters – Senator Jeff Merkley and Rep. Raul Grijalva – both of whom say that it is time to build party unity going in to the convention.

“Once a candidate has won a majority of the pledged delegates and a majority of the popular vote, which Secretary Clinton has now done, we have our nominee,” Merkley, who is Sanders’ sole supporter in the Senate, told me. “This is the moment when we need to start bringing parts of the party together so they can go into the convention with locked arms and go out of the convention unified into the general election.”

Last night, Clinton did her part in reaching out to Sanders and his supporters.

I want to congratulate Senator Sanders for the extraordinary campaign he has run. He has spent his long career in public service fighting for Progressive causes and principles and he’s excited millions of voters, especially young people. And let there be no mistake: Senator Sanders, his campaign, and the vigorous debate that we’ve had about how to raise incomes, reduce inequality, increase upward mobility, have been very good for the democratic party and for America. This has been a hard fought, deeply felt campaign. But whether you supported me or senator Sanders or one of the Republicans, we all need to keep working toward a better, stronger America.

It looks like President Obama is likely to play the role of negotiator with the two candidates. The White House Press Secretary released a statement from the President congratulating Clinton on being the presumptive nominee and thanking Sanders for his inspiring campaign. This is how it ended:

In addition, at Senator Sanders’ request, the President and Senator Sanders will meet at the White House on Thursday to continue their conversation about the significant issues at stake in this election that matter most to America’s working families. The President looks forward to continuing the conversation with Senator Sanders about how to build on the extraordinary work he has done to engage millions of Democratic voters, and to build on that enthusiasm in the weeks and months ahead.

So, what’ll it be Sen. Sanders? This is your day of reckoning. For the sake of your legacy and the movement you’ve tried to build, I hope you chose wisely.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.