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The Thorniest Question for Bernie Sanders

Under what conditions should Bernie Sanders endorse Hillary Clinton?

April 3, 2016

Under what conditions should Bernie Sanders endorse Hillary Clinton?

Less than a year after Bernie Sanders announced his candidacy for the 2016 Presidential Election as a Democrat, his campaign has astonished his supporters and opponents.

Sanders’ political revolution has already begun, no matter what happens to his specific campaign and whether or not he leads it. It is gaining more strength by the day.

Feared because of his impressive successes to date, the Democratic Party machinery has increased pressure on Sanders to withdraw from the race.

Except for brief interludes, the mainstream media has all but ignored his campaign, occupying itself instead with the often silly titillations of the Republican “race.” But Bernie Sanders has vowed to continue till the last vote is casted.

But with or without winning the nomination, the Sanders’ campaign has already achieved a political milestone.

The best agenda setter

Income and wealth inequality, the corrupt campaign finance system, and the revolving door between Wall Street and the White House are now a part of the everyday conversations across the country.

The calls for a $15 minimum wage, student debt forgiveness, free public higher education and a single payer system have gained support among millions of Americans.

As a nation, we are far ahead of where we were a year ago when Sanders announced his candidacy. Sanders also broke with the longstanding American disease of declaring this country as incomparable and in a class of one.

His insistence on looking at Europe and asking why nations there can have health care for all at affordable prices and not sink their young with student debt puts important questions on the American agenda for the future.

These pressing issues can’t be airbrushed out of the American picture of the future.

Given these achievements, Sanders is right to continue campaigning with the goal to win the nomination. However, his campaign must seriously consider the possibility of not winning the nomination and must work on developing the most appropriate strategy to continue the political revolution.

The “E” question (as in endorsement)

What should the campaign do if Sanders fails to win the nomination? Under what conditions should Sanders endorse Hillary Clinton? This may be the thorniest question in the Sanders campaign now.

The Clinton campaign seems to feel secure in the assumption that it will receive Sanders’ endorsement in July.

Banking on Democratic voters’ disgust with Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim and anti-women positions, the Clinton team is confident of getting the support of a big segment of Sanders’ followers in the general election.

Sanders’ supporters would not want Trump as the next president of the United States. However, opposition toward Trump should not be viewed an unconditional endorsement of Hillary Clinton.

Fearing a Trump victory should not lead to abandoning the legitimate demands of the millions who have joined the political revolution. Hillary Clinton should still do the work to earn the vote of Sanders’ supporters. (This will also strengthen her efforts against Trump more than taking them for granted.)

Spelling out the conditions

The time is now for Sanders to clearly specify the exact conditions for his possible endorsement of Hillary Clinton in July.

The Sanders campaign must proceed on two parallel fronts. While continuing to focus on winning as many states and districts as possible to demonstrate wide and deep support for his message, the campaign must also make every effort to incorporate specific policies in the Democratic Party platform in case Hillary Clinton is the nominee.

Bargaining over the party platform before the convention would not be new to the Clinton campaign. Negotiating with Barack Obama and his campaign, the Clinton wing of the Democratic Party managed to put its signature on the party platform and Obama’s presidency.

In the transition after the 2008 election, the Clintonites ended up dominating Obama’s economic team.

Obama’s reliance on Larry Summers, Robert Rubin and other advocates of financial deregulation to design the new administration’s response to the Great Recession was not coincidental.

Clinton or not, Wall Street remained in charge of U.S. economic policy after 2008. That benefited the titans of Wall Street and their political handmaidens in Washington most handsomely.

However, the United States and the world missed a golden opportunity to reshape policy in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton was nominated Secretary of State.

Where does the Democratic Party go from here?

Sanders’ negotiations with the Clinton team, by contrast, must center on the issues that continue to energize his supporters, those who are revolting against the economic elite and their control of politics. There is no common ground between the working poor or the indebted students and the economic elite.

In a recent interview with “The Young Turks,” Sanders alluded to a conditional endorsement of Hillary Clinton.

“If I can’t make it…we want to completely revitalize the Democratic Party and make it a party of the people rather than one of large campaign contributors,” Sanders said.

Sanders must now concretize the conditions for revitalizing the Democratic Party and for endorsing Hillary Clinton.

Hillary Clinton needs to endorse specific policies and demands of the Sanders campaign to win the vote of his supporters.

A $15 minimum wage, specific revisions of TPP, tax increases on billionaires and a special tax on speculation are among such demands.

Endorsement without gaining support for these policies will lead to the demoralization of those who have joined the political process with the hope of achieving real and tangible changes. It will set back and severely damage the political revolution that is only in its infancy.

Fighting to defeat Trump — or whoever is the Republican Party candidate — and pursuing progressive change in the United States are not mutually exclusive.

The best way to defeat Trump is to respect the demands of the young voters and others around the Sanders campaign who have clearly signaled a desire for something dramatically different. The center ground of moderation will not prove fertile this particular November.


Fearing his successes, the Democratic Party has increased pressure on Sanders to withdraw from the race

Sanders has to specify the exact conditions for his possible endorsement of Clinton in July.

For Sanders, there is no common ground between the working poor and the economic elite.