Sanders backers start to turn to party platform
Democratic leaders work to unite party behind Clinton
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.”
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.