San­ders back­ers start to turn to party plat­form

Demo­cratic lead­ers work to unite party be­hind Clin­ton

The Washington Times Weekly - - Pol­i­tics - BY BEN WOLF­GANG

Lead­ing lib­eral back­ers of Sen. Bernard San­ders have be­gun to shift their at­ten­tion away from the pres­i­den­tial pri­mary and to­ward push­ing the party as a whole to the left as it co­a­lesces around Hil­lary Clin­ton — though the se­na­tor from Ver­mont and his ar­dent sup­port­ers re­main de­fi­ant.

The change in pro­gres­sives’ fo­cus comes as top Democrats on Capi­tol Hill ramp up their calls for Mr. San­ders to drop out of the pri­mary race af­ter Mrs. Clin­ton se­cured the nec­es­sary 2,383 del­e­gates last week to claim the party’s nom­i­na­tion. Those law­mak­ers ar­gue that Mr. San­ders’ con­tin­ued pres­ence dis­tracts from the larger mis­sion of de­feat­ing Repub­li­can Don­ald Trump in Novem­ber, and they in­di­cated they will keep the pres­sure on the se­na­tor if he re­fuses to step aside.

At the same time, lib­eral groups that have backed Mr. San­ders, along with those that didn’t for­mally en­dorse the se­na­tor but cham­pi­oned many of his core is­sues, seem to be ac­knowl­edg­ing that the pri­mary fight is over. Rather than con­tinue to fight for a San­ders nom­i­na­tion, they now hint it’s time for pro­gres­sives to fight for ma­jor changes in the party plat­form, which will be ham­mered out at the Demo­cratic Na­tional Con­ven­tion in July.

In a vic­tory speech be­fore a rau­cous crowd at her Brook­lyn cam­paign head­quar­ters last Tues­day night, Mrs. Clin­ton con­grat­u­lated Mr. San­ders for a tough fight while also mak­ing clear that, de­spite the Ver­mont se­na­tor’s pledge to keep cam­paign­ing, the pri­mary fight is fin­ished.

“Let there be no mis­take: Sen. San­ders’ cam­paign and the vig­or­ous de­bate we’ve had about how to raise in­comes, re­duce in­equal­ity, in­crease up­ward mo­bil­ity, have been very good for the Demo­cratic Party and for Amer­ica,” she said be­fore mak­ing a di­rect ap­peal to Mr. San­ders’ ar­dent sup­port­ers, many of whom have been hes­i­tant to sup­port Mrs. Clin­ton.

“Whether you sup­ported me or Sen. San­ders or one of the Repub­li­cans, we all need to keep work­ing to­ward a bet­ter, fairer, stronger Amer­ica. … As we look ahead to the bat­tle that awaits, let’s re­mem­ber all that united us,” she said.

Mr. San­ders says he will keep cam­paign­ing even though Mrs. Clin­ton has the nom­i­na­tion in hand, and his grass-roots sup­port­ers across the na­tion aren’t ready to ad­mit de­feat. Their seem­ingly nev­erend­ing fight will surely present a headache for Mrs. Clin­ton, who des­per­ately wants to turn all of her fire on Mr. Trump.

But top pro­gres­sives that had been wav­ing the flag for Mr. San­ders seem ready to turn the page.

The Na­tion mag­a­zine, a lead­ing pro­gres­sive news out­let that en­dorsed Mr. San­ders ear­lier this year, ac­knowl­edges that Mr. San­ders won’t cap­ture the nom­i­na­tion, and ar­gues it’s in­stead time to fight for the val­ues the se­na­tor has cham­pi­oned over the course of the cam­paign.

“San­ders him­self may not se­cure the nom­i­na­tion, but his sup­port­ers could yet se­cure the fu­ture — if they main­tain the com­bi­na­tion of ide­al­ism and for­ti­tude that has been the cam­paign’s strength, while re­fus­ing to be­come en­meshed in per­son­al­ity clashes and petty feuds,” the mag­a­zine’s ed­i­tors wrote in a re­cent ed­i­to­rial.

The lib­eral PAC Democ­racy for Amer­ica, which has en­dorsed Mr. San­ders, said the se­na­tor’s cam­paign has been a po­lit­i­cal ben­e­fit for the coun­try, but also hinted the race is com­ing to an end, and it’s time to fo­cus on putting Mr. San­ders’ prin­ci­ples front and cen­ter.

“The un­prece­dented cam­paign that Bernie San­ders and his sup­port­ers have built over the last year has en­sured that, from city coun­cil races to the fight for the White House, the Demo­cratic Party of 2016 is more fo­cused on dis­man­tling the evils of in­come in­equal­ity, money in pol­i­tics, and struc­tural racism than ever be­fore,” Jim Dean, the group’s chair­man, said in a state­ment. “Our party and our coun­try [have] been made bet­ter by the po­lit­i­cal revo­lu­tion Bernie San­ders helped in­spire and, de­spite sug­ges­tions to the con­trary, that will re­main true as he con­tin­ues his cam­paign un­til ev­ery last vote is cast and cau­cus is con­ducted.”

The pow­er­ful Pro­gres­sive Change Cam­paign Com­mit­tee — which did not en­dorse Mr. San­ders but strongly sup­ports many of his top causes, such as debt-free col­lege, more Wall Street reg­u­la­tion and other is­sues — said that the next bat­tle­ground is the Demo­cratic Party plat­form.

“Demo­cratic Plat­form Com­mit­tee mem­bers should unite the party and sow the seeds for vic­tory in Novem­ber by em­brac­ing pop­u­lar, pro­gres­sive ideas that have risen to the fore­front in re­cent years that are not cur­rently in the plat­form,” the or­ga­ni­za­tion said in a state­ment, af­ter news broke that Mrs. Clin­ton had se­cured the nec­es­sary 2,383 del­e­gates. “Ideas like ex­pand­ing So­cial Se­cu­rity ben­e­fits, debt­free col­lege, break­ing up too-big-to-fail banks and mo­nop­o­lies, a $15 min­i­mum wage, mas­sive in­fra­struc­ture in­vest­ment, paid fam­ily leave, al­low­ing Amer­i­cans to buy health in­surance through Medi­care” and a host of oth­ers were called for.

Mr. San­ders’ chances at claim­ing the Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nod are all but dead af­ter Mrs. Clin­ton’s win in the Puerto Rico pri­mary. That vic­tory, com­bined with the sup­port of party su­perdel­e­gates, has given her the needed 2,383 del­e­gates to claim the nom­i­na­tion, ac­cord­ing to an As­so­ci­ated Press anal­y­sis.

Mr. San­ders mounted a last-ditch fight in the Cal­i­for­nia pri­mary, and a vic­tory in the state could give him new fuel to keep cam­paign­ing. Democrats in New Jersey, New Mex­ico, North Dakota, South Dakota and Mon­tana also voted last week.

Mrs. Clin­ton scored vic­to­ries in Cal­i­for­nia, New Jersey, South Dakota and New Mex­ico while Mr. San­ders won North Dakota and Mon­tana.

Mrs. Clin­ton was to cam­paign in Penn­syl­va­nia and Ohio, un­der­scor­ing her strong be­lief that the party pri­mary is now over and it’s time to move on to the gen­eral elec­tion fight.

While Mr. San­ders still ar­gues he can swing su­perdel­e­gates away from Mrs. Clin­ton and to his side, there’s lit­tle in­di­ca­tion such a strat­egy will work. The su­perdel­e­gates don’t of­fi­cially vote un­til the con­ven­tion, though it would be un­prece­dented for them to switch al­le­giances at this stage in the process, es­pe­cially given Mrs. Clin­ton’s large lead among pledged del­e­gates.

Given that fact, top Democrats on Capi­tol Hill say that Mr. San­ders’ con­tin­ued pres­ence in the race is a dis­trac­tion, and that it’s time for the se­na­tor to get out.

“He should stand down now. That’s my con­clu­sion,” Sen. Bill Nel­son, Florida Demo­crat, told Politico this week. “Democrats will come to­gether af­ter the con­ven­tion any­way. But it’s an un­nec­es­sary di­ver­sion at this point.”

Other top Democrats ex­pressed sim­i­lar sen­ti­ments.

“If Bernie claims to be a good Demo­crat, that’s what he would do,” Sen. Joe Manchin III, West Vir­ginia Demo­crat, said when asked whether Mr. San­ders should drop out of the race and ad­mit de­feat. “Hil­lary had to come to the same con­clu­sion eight years ago. So it’s very clear this is how it’s done.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Hil­lary Clin­ton has amassed the needed 2,383 del­e­gates to as­sure the Demo­cratic nom­i­na­tion, but op­po­nent Sen. Bernard San­ders and his sup­port­ers con­tinue to say they will push on in their quest.

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