Although some Bernie Sanders supporters have insisted his endorsement of Hillary Clinton is a “betrayal” of their movement, their preferred candidate has a long track record of saying he would work to elect Clinton should he lose the nomination battle.
Indeed, as early as April, Sanders went on record to say he would cast his ballot in favor of Clinton, should she beat him in the primary race.
During an appearance on CBS News’ Charlie Rose in April, Sanders insisted that his most important priority was ensuring that a Republican candidate would not be taking the White House in 2017.
“Look, as I said a million times, I think the idea of a Donald Trump or a Ted Cruz presidency would be an unmitigated disaster for this country,” he said. “And if Secretary Clinton is the nominee, I will certainly support her.”
At a town hall that month hosted by MSNBC in Philadelphia, he reiterated the same sentiment, saying, “I will do everything in my power to make sure no Republican gets into the White House in this election,” according to TIME.
As it became increasingly clear that the Republican running in the fall would be Donald Trump, his words against the GOP—and in support of Clinton—became less subtle.
“Yes, I think the issue right here is I am going to do everything I can to defeat Donald Trump,” he said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” in June. “I think Trump in so many ways will be a disaster for this country if he were to be elected president.”
In another interview that day, he told CNN’s Chris Cuomo that he would “in all likelihood” vote for Clinton.
While his campaign and candidacy have been called everything from unconventional to an entirely unprecedented political phenomenon, his choice to support the eventual winner of the party’s primary is not.
Indeed, Clinton backed Obama in 2008; just as Howard Dean endorsed John Kerry in ’04 and Bill Bradley endorsed Al Gore in ’00. On the opposite side of the aisle, the last election cycle saw Rick Santorum endorse Mitt Romney, who—four years earlier—endorsed John McCain, who had endorsed George W. Bush eight years before that.
(Of course, Ted Cruz’s controversial remarks at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, where he refrained from endorsing Trump and instead urged the audience to “vote your conscience,” were unusual to say the least)
Perhaps the most recent break from this pattern was in 1992, when (then-former, now-current) California Gov. Jerry Brown took the convention stage but seconded his own nomination rather than putting his support behind Bill Clinton. (Brown, who ran a famously tense campaign, drew headlines this spring when he endorsed Hillary despite his former grudge against her husband.)
While Brown’s campaign could be easily compared to Sanders’—both ran grassroots, anti-establishment campaigns refusing to accept corporate money—his ultimate impact was not nearly as significant. Brown only won six states, compared to Clinton’s 35, and a third primary candidate, former Massachusetts Sen. Paul Tsongas, put his support behind Bill Clinton soon after dropping out of the race.
2016, some say, recalls 1968: Following the assassination of Bobby Kennedy, the party was split between establishment vice president Hubert Humphrey and the antiwar Sens. George McGovern and Eugene McCarthy. The latter had challenged LBJ from the beginning.
McCarthy was carried by a similar sort of young, progressive, impassioned fervor as Bernie, at the Chicago convention that eventually nominated Humphrey. He waited until days before the election to endorse Humphrey, a move that many interpreted as one of several blows that resulted in the Democrats’ loss that year.
In Politico, the Princeton historian Julian E. Zelizer wrote:
In the end, McCarthy’s unwillingness failure to swing his supporters into the Humphrey camp didn’t just help Humphrey lose the election that year—it also helped paved the way for Republican dominance of the electoral map for decades to come.
After his speech on Monday night, Bernie will not go down in history in the same category as McCarthy and Brown. But as some protesters insist that they cannot support Hillary Clinton, reports of a “divided” Democratic party have nonetheless continued.
Photo: U.S. Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders speaks about his attempts to influence the Democratic party’s platform in Albany, New York, U.S. June 24, 2016. REUTERS/Brian Snyder