In a live-streamed video message to his supporters last night, Bernie Sanders laid out what he wants. It includes all of the proposals he’s been talking about, like a $15 minimum wage, stopping bad trade deals, a modern-day Glass-Steagall, breaking up the big banks, free tuition at public colleges and universal health care. There were lots of other things he listed – all of which Hillary Clinton agrees with. On these that I listed, Clinton’s proposals include the same goals – but a different approach to getting there. When it comes to where his campaign goes from here, this is what Sanders had to say:
The major political task that we face in the next five months is to make certain that Donald Trump is defeated and defeated badly. And I personally intend to begin my role in that process in a very short period of time.
But defeating Donald Trump can not be our only goal. We must continue our grassroots efforts to create the America that we know we can become. And we must take that energy into the Democratic National Convention on July 25 in Philadelphia where we will have more than 1,900 delegates.
Sanders neither congratulated Clinton on becoming the Democratic presumptive nominee, nor did he endorse her. In other words, he is holding out on such a statement in order to continue negotiations on the issues he outlined.
I look forward, in the coming weeks, to continued discussions between the two campaigns to make certain that your voices are heard and that the Democratic Party passes the most progressive platform in its history and that Democrats actually fight for that agenda.
The question becomes: did he wait until too late? What is his leverage in those negotiations? The big question leading up to this point was whether or not there would be party unity going into the convention this summer. Once Clinton overwhelmingly beat Sanders in the California and New Jersey primaries, that became less of an issue. Democrats who had waited on the sidelines – like President Obama, VP Biden and Sen. Warren – endorsed her. And those who had supported Sanders – like Sen. Merkley and Rep. Grijalva – did so as well. In the last few days, we’ve also seen Clinton endorsements from groups such as MoveOn and the AFL-CIO.
Beyond that, the specter of candidate Trump is beginning to cause talk of a landslide election in Clinton’s favor. What does she gain by embracing Sanders’ agenda in order to win his endorsement, while abandoning her own that led to a victory in the primaries?
I imagine that Clinton will be very gracious to both Sanders and his supporters. But as Sen. Warren said, she’s a fighter and has spent her whole life working on the kind of vision she has put forward during the primary. Sanders can either get on that train at some point, or get left behind.
At the end of his speech, Sanders talked about the kind of effort that is actually needed in order to transform America.
We need to start engaging at the local and state level in an unprecedented way. Hundreds of thousands of volunteers helped us make political history during the last year. These are people deeply concerned about the future of our country and their own communities. Now we need many of them to start running for school boards, city councils, county commissions, state legislatures and governorships. State and local governments make enormously important decisions and we cannot allow right-wing Republicans to increasingly control them.
It’s never too late for that!