Yet the senator emphasized that defeating “Trump cannot be our only goal,” pivoting to a discussion of his Democratic rival. “It is no secret that Secretary Clinton and I have strong disagreements on some very important issues,” Sanders noted, but quickly added: “It is also true that our views are quite close on others.” Overall, he spoke of Clinton more as a partner than as an adversary. “I look forward, in the coming weeks, to continued discussions between the two campaigns to make certain that your voices are heard and that the Democratic Party passes the most progressive platform in its history,” Sanders said. “I also look forward to working with Secretary Clinton to transform the Democratic Party.”
Sanders risks losing leverage by remaining in the race. That is particularly true if it seems like the movement he has worked so hard to build is beginning to dissipate. Some of his closest allies are already giving up on his fight for the White House. On Wednesday, MoveOn.org, a progressive organization that endorsed Sanders, offered its congratulations to Clinton. On Thursday, Raul Grijalva, the first member of Congress to endorse Sanders, announced he was ready to support Clinton. The congressman made clear that he wants Clinton to embrace the ideals Sanders has fought for, but the declaration was an unmistakable sign that the end is near.
It was never going to be easy for Sanders to win concessions to the party agenda and the nominating process. It will be far more difficult if even his allies desert him. The question now is: How much, if any, of the agenda he has laid out will Sanders achieve? And how many of his followers will stand by him as he attempts to enact change?
The Clinton campaign must be relieved that Sanders seems to have turned his attention to a fight over the future of the party and away from attacks on the former secretary of state. But the senator’s decision to stay in the race is an irritant to supporters of the presumptive nominee. For her part, Clinton is working to act conciliatory, a clear recognition that she needs the support of his followers to defeat Trump in November.
So far, détente appears to be going well. The rival candidates met privately in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday to discuss what comes next. Each campaign put out a positive assessment of the meeting afterward. A spokesperson for Sanders noted afterward that “the two discussed a variety of issues where they are seeking common ground: substantially raising the minimum wage, real campaign finance reform, making health care universal and accessible, making college affordable and reducing student debt.” It remains unclear what the outcome of negotiations between the campaigns will ultimately be, and whether it will stick.
Sanders made clear on Thursday that he wants to focus attention on state-level politics as well. “The current Democratic Party leadership has turned its back on dozens of states in this country and has allowed right-wing politicians to win elections in some states with virtually no opposition – including some of the poorest states in America,” he said. “The Democratic Party needs a 50-state strategy. We may not win in every state tomorrow, but we will never win unless we recruit good candidates and develop organizations that can compete effectively in the future.” He directed supporters to his website to “learn more about how you can effectively run for office or get involved in politics at the local or state level,” saying he hopes “people will give serious thought to running for statewide offices and the U.S. Congress.”