Bernie Sanders is ending his run in the Democratic primary. Well, sort of.
The Vermont senator’s live-streamed remarks Thursday — in which he stopped short of endorsing Hillary Clinton but said he would work together with her to defeat Donald Trump — were strong evidence that his crusade against the Democratic establishment is not over just yet, even though he no longer has any chance at winning the Democratic nomination.
“Election days come and go, but political and social revolutions that attempt to transform our society never end,” Sanders said. “That’s what this campaign has been about for the past year.”
Following his loss in the D.C. primary on Tuesday and in California a week earlier, Sanders’ stubborn refusal to fully concede shows that he wants to take every opportunity — even this very last one — to criticize the DNC for its reliance on large donor contributions and lack of appeal to his camp of young voters and progressives.
“I look forward in the coming weeks to continue discussion between the two campaigns to make sure that your voices are heard,” he said. “I also look forward to working with Secretary Clinton to transform the Democratic Party so that it becomes a party of working people and young people and not just wealthy campaign contributors.”
Even if Clinton has clinched the nomination, it only makes sense that Sanders’ campaign — which has framed itself as a “political revolution” — is milking all the influence it can in order leave some lasting imprint on the Democratic Party, instead of merely dissolving into a united anti-Trump general election effort.
Sanders drew ire from many Democrats last week after he refused to formally concede following his losses in New Jersey and California, which put Clinton solidly over the number of delegates required to win the Democratic nomination, and dragging out his campaign until the convention is unlikely to resolve their frustration.
But Sanders built his campaign on a wave of mostly young, mostly progressive grassroots supporters dissatisfied with mainstream politics, and his lack of a full concession shows that he wants to pin the Democratic National Committee for failing to reach out to them, living up to a campaign promise to attend he Democratic National Convention as a candidate.
In his remarks following a meeting at the White House with President Obama, Sanders called for a structural transformation to the party, including more outreach, more open primaries, and new leadership at the DNC — a pointed reference at current DNC chair and Florida congresswoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
By arguing that “we need major, major changes in the Democratic Party in converting it to a party of the people—welcoming working people, welcoming young people,” Sanders marked the beginning of a struggle with, and against, the Democratic Party, even after conceding that he doesn’t have a shot at the nomination.
Likewise, the extension of his campaign is also a way to amplify the voices of his supporters as loudly and for as long as he can. In order to shift the party to the left, this means showing that his “vision for the future of this country is not some kind of fringe idea. It is not a radical idea,” as he said in his speech on Thursday.
Sanders’ principal strategy for this amplification seems to be drawing attention to the party platform. Normally more of a procedural document that the focus of waning presidential campaigns, that might change this year: Sanders has selected unconventionally progressive representatives like Cornel West and Bill McKibben — both vocal critics of the Obama administration — who are likely to make a scene in Philadelphia later this month.
Sanders pledged in his speech on Thursday to ensure “that the Democratic Party passes the most progressive platform in its history and that Democrats actually fight for that agenda.”
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