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Sunday, October 22, 2017

In a joint rally in Portsmouth, New Hampshire Tuesday morning, Bernie Sanders gave a full, hearty endorsement of Hillary Clinton’s bid for the White House. There wasn’t much beating around the bush: Sanders recited his usual stump speech, pre-empting each point with language like “Hillary and I are in agreement that…” and “Hillary Clinton understands that…”

The substance of Sanders’ speech was no different than any other campaign stop. It was an excoriation of corporate greed, environmental destruction, regressive taxes, educational and health care debt, and nativism. Absent, though, were any associations between Clinton and Wall Street, a staple of the tone of his campaign in primary season.

In a written statement to supporters on his Facebook page, Sanders thanked them for turning his long-shot campaign into a cultural movement, saying that it was “extremely important that we keep our movement together, that we hold public officials accountable and that we elect progressive candidates to office at the federal, state, and local level who will stand with us.” He listed the work his and Clinton’s campaigns had done bringing their platforms closer together, and underlined the importance of her election over Donald Trump.

“But none of these initiatives will happen if we do not elect a Democratic president in November. None!” he wrote of his progressive agenda as a candidate. Sanders pledged he would be “actively campaigning throughout this election season to elect candidates who will stand by our agenda”

Clinton, for her part, seemed ready to talk up at least some of Sanders’ progressive campaign. “We need to go big, and we need to go bold. this isn’t a time for half measures!” she said, before outlining an progressive economic platform including “saying no to the assault on the right to organize and bargain collectively” and “bad trade deals and unfair trade practices including the Trans-Pacific Partnership.” (This even though Clinton’s representatives on the Democratic platform committee, perhaps under pressure from the Obama administration, blocked Sanders representatives’ attempts to officially oppose the TPP.)

She also expanded on a central point of Sanders’ platform — lessening the impact of Citizens United by requiring the full disclosure of donors to political campaigns, a fairly mainstream idea; establishing a small donor matching system, which would have helped Sanders’ campaign quite a bit earlier this election; automatically registering 18-year-olds to vote and requiring that polling places meet standards for wait times and accessibility.

“These aren’t just my fights, these are Bernie’s fights,” Clinton said. “And I feel with all my being that these are fights we have to win together.”

Clinton concluded by reaching out to the Sanders supporters outside of the Democratic mainstream. “Let’s open the doors to anyone who shares our values,” she said. “You will always have a seat at the table when I am in the White House.”

For most Democrats, Sanders endorsement tied together a tough primary battle between two different wings of the party, one that pitted Clinton’s pragmatism against Sanders’ idealism. For Republicans, and some Sanders supporters in the #NeverClinton camp, the speech could never have been anything but Sanders giving into to systematic pressure to “fall in line.”

No matter how ringing the endorsement, and it was pretty ringing, the subtext of Sanders’ endorsement was inevitable: He lost in pledged delegates, super delegates, and the popular vote. And no matter if he did find endorsing Clinton so distasteful as to betray his supporters (that’s not to say he did), Sanders would have faced a simple choice: Endorse, or wreak havoc.

Still, Clinton isn’t know as a “deal-maker” for nothing: The reputation that marked her as an “establishment” political player in a decidedly anti-establishment year could have convinced Sanders that Clinton was willing to take on a sufficient amount of his core issues, including establishing a free college tuition (for families with incomes under a national limit) and announcing, at least in this speech, her opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

The real question now: Will we see Sanders in some position of leadership in the 115th Congress? 

 

Photo: Democratic U.S.  presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders stand together during a campaign rally where Sanders endorsed Clinton in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, U.S., July 12, 2016.  REUTERS/Brian Snyder

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