Bernie Sanders isn’t ready to back down yet—but the end of his campaign is in sight.
Speaking outside of the White House on Thursday after meeting with President Obama, Sanders confirmed he would compete in Washington, D.C.’s Democratic primary next week. But he signaled a willingness to work with Hillary Clinton to ensure that Democrats win the White House. “I look forward to meeting with her in the near future to see how we can work together to defeat Donald Trump and create a government, which represents all of us and not just the one percent,” Sanders said.
The Democratic primary race isn’t officially over, but Clinton has already claimed victory, much to the frustration of Sanders’s devoted followers. On Tuesday, Clinton congratulated the senator on “the extraordinary campaign he has run.” Sanders must now figure out how to continue influencing the direction of the party and the Democratic agenda.
The senator thanked the president and Vice President Joe Biden for their “impartiality” in the Democratic race on Thursday. “What they said in the beginning is that they would not put their thumbs on the scales, and in fact they kept their word and I appreciate that very much,” he said. That remark is significant, and suggests the senator may back down on previous claims of unfairness during the primary. If Sanders indicates he lost the race fairly, it will be easier for his supporters to eventually back Clinton.
Sanders promised he would take his progressive agenda to the Democratic National Convention. “We will continue doing everything that we can to oppose the drift which currently exists toward an oligarchic form of society where a handful of billionaires exercise enormous power over our political, economic, and media life,” he said.
But his overarching message was clear: Trump cannot win the White House. “Donald Trump would clearly, to my mind and I think the majority of Americans, be a disaster as president of the United States,” Sanders said. “Needless to say, I am going to do everything in my power, and I will work as hard as I can, to make sure that Donald Trump does not become president of the United States.”
High-ranking Democrats have grown impatient for the race to formally end. The president himself has recently been sending signals that it’s time to wrap things up, while taking care not to look like he is forcing Sanders out of the race. “My hope is over the next couple weeks we’re able to pull things together,” Obama said during a taping of The Tonight Show set to air on Thursday.
The question is whether Sanders supporters will stand with Clinton when the senator exits the race. Sanders may find it easier to make the negative case against a Trump presidency than an affirmative case for a Clinton presidency. He has not been afraid to criticize the former secretary of state, and many of his supporters are skeptical, if not outright opposed, to the prospect of Clinton winning the White House. As Sanders decides what message to impress upon his supporters so that Trump will not win, he will have to proceed cautiously.