Bernie Sanders won’t admit defeat, but the presidential hopeful is signaling a clear shift in strategy.
After a string of primary contest losses in Northeastern states, Sanders vowed to stay in the race “until the last vote is cast.” Notably, however, he made no promise to actually win the presidential nomination in a statement released by the campaign on Tuesday evening. Instead, Sanders declared he would “fight for a progressive party platform” at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia this summer. The candidate ticked off a long list of items he wants to see in the platform, including a $15 hourly minimum wage, free admission for public colleges and universities, and support for a carbon tax as a way to fight climate change.
The Democratic candidate seems to believe that his best shot at a political revolution now rests with fighting to transform the party, and politics-as-usual, rather than winning the White House. As the campaign shifts into this new stage of the race, it may increasingly need to fight a two-front battle, with Sanders doing everything he can to maintain grassroots enthusiasm while working to effectively make the case for change to party elites.
A behind-the-scenes push to shape party politics appears to already be underway. The New York Times recently reported that “aides to Mr. Sanders have been pressing party officials for a significant role in drafting the platform for the Democratic convention.” But how much would it matter if Sanders is indeed able to shape the platform? It would be far less powerful than winning the White House, but that doesn’t mean it would be inconsequential. The convention could provide a high-visibility opportunity for Sanders to preach his message of political revolution. If he can influence the Democratic platform, that would provide tangible evidence of his success. A party platform that spells out many of Sanders’s political priorities could become a tool for activists to hold the party accountable and pressure Democrats to move in a more progressive direction.