So What Does Bernie Sanders Want From Hillary Clinton?

Jun 19, 2016

  Thursday night, Bernie Sanders looked into a TV camera and spoke for 23 minutes to approximately 220,000 of his most fervent supporters via a live-stream feed.

The Vermont senator, who rallied millions of voters to his cause during the primary and caucus season, said many things during his 23 minutes.

Except the one thing that Hillary Clinton and her supporters were hoping to hear:

I will vote for Hillary Clinton for president of the United States and I urge all of my supporters to do the same.

That he did not say.

He did say this:

"The major political task that we face in the next five months is to make certain that Donald Trump is defeated and defeated badly. I personally intend to begin my role in that process in a very short period of time."

Oh, well, that sounds like a sort-of-but-not-quite endorsement of Clinton, doesn't it?

Well, maybe not. Because the next words out of his mouth were these:

"Defeating Donald Trump cannot be our only goal. We must continue our grassroots efforts to create the America that we know we can become. And we must take that energy into the Democratic National Convention on July 25 in Philadelphia."

And he encouraged his supporters – many of them young people new to the political process – to get involved and run for state and local offices, from school board to the governor's office.

"We need new blood in the political process; and you are that new blood,'' Sanders said. "I have no doubt that with the energy and enthusiasm our campaign has shown that we can win significant numbers of local and state elections if people are prepared to become involved."

But when it came to a flat, out-right, unequivocal endorsement of Hillary Clinton, all the Clinton camp heard was the sound of crickets.

Mike Moroski, a member of the Hamilton County Democratic Party's executive committee who was on the Sanders delegate slate in the Ohio primary, said he like what he heard.

"It was precisely what I thought it would be,'' Moroski said. "He was doing the best he could. He was not in a position to come out and say to his people, 'support Hillary.' Not yet."

Moroski said he particularly liked Sanders' call to his supporters to stay involved by running for state and local offices.  

The primary and caucus process is over and the reality is this – Hillary Clinton will be the first ballot nominee at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

Sanders has no delusions that he can still be the nominee. He just doesn't like the Democratic Party's process for choosing a nominee. And, no doubt, that was discussed when Clinton and Sanders met early last week.

Here's the delegate math: According to the Associated Press count, Clinton has 2,219 pledged delegates. Sanders has 1,832. But Clinton also has pledges from 581 "super-delegates," the party leaders who can vote for whomever they choose. Sanders has only 49 super-delegates.

The super-delegates put Clinton well over the 2,383 delegates she needs to win the nomination.

Is it any wonder why Sanders has been railing against the "super-delegate" system for months now?

Sanders is going to try to get every concession he can out of the Clinton camp on the party platform and the rules for choosing presidential nominees.

Mack Mariani, associate professor and chair of political science at Xavier University, said that he thinks what Sanders really wants is to "create something a bit more permanent – a movement, a political organization that will last beyond his candidacy."

"He may be thinking of something along the lines of MoveOn.org, which was created during the (Bill) Clinton scandals of the 1990s and stayed around as a political force,'' Mariani said. "MoveOn.org isn't what it used to be, but it's still out there."

Creating such an organization, Mariani said, "would energize his supporters."

But would it drive them to vote for Hillary Clinton this fall?

That depends on what concessions Sanders can gain in his talks with Clinton between now and the Democratic convention.

"They would want to see Hillary Clinton adopt some clear policy that has been part of his agenda,'' Mariani said. "Probably something on international trade, where the two of them have differed. Bernie would probably want promises that Hillary, as president, would pursue certain parts of his agenda."

But, in the end, Moroski said he believes his candidate will come out and urge his supporters to vote for Clinton.  

"I can see (Sanders) chilling out for a while,'' Moroski said. "Then I see him going to the convention and saying, 'OK, it's done. I release my delegates. Now let's go out and kick Trump's butt.'''

It would be wise, Moroski said, for Clinton to give Sanders "a seat at the table" when major decisions are being made – not the vice presidency, probably not even a cabinet position, but a situation where he is heard and listened to by candidate Clinton and, possibly, President Clinton.

The two former foes will likely make peace, but it remains to be seen if Sanders' supporters can work up enough enthusiasm to go out and vote for Clinton, just to prevent Trump from winning the White House.

Mariani said Clinton clearly needs all the help from Sanders' supporters that she can get.

"There's an old saying in politics that goes 'Democrats fall in love; Republicans fall in line,''' Mariani said. "Well, that didn't happen in either party this time."

Morning Consult, a non-partisan media and technology company that does independent polling in political campaigns, released nationwide polling Thursday that suggests Clinton and Trump are the most unpopular presidential candidates in history, with the highest unfavorable ratings ever.

Everyone knows that Ohio is a crucial swing state in this presidential election; it always is – in recent memory, anyway.

Morning Consult's polling of Ohio registered voters showed Clinton and Trump with nearly identical "favorable" and "unfavorable" ratings. Clinton is viewed favorably by 38.7 percent; Trump is viewed favorably by 38 percent, according to the poll. Clinton's "unfavorable" rating was at 58.6 percent; Trump's was at 58.8 percent.

Mariani looked at the national poll and came to the conclusion that, with Trump, "the biggest problem he faces remains the charge of racism." One of every four in the national poll said they see him as racist.

"Hillary's position,'' Mariani said, "is very precarious because the perception about lack of trustworthiness and corruption is fairly widespread among independent voters."

The Republican Party has been shattered by the Trump nomination; there is nothing even resembling unity with dozens of national GOP figures refusing to support their party's nominee.

Clinton, on the hand, has a fractured party too – but it could be put back together again, if Bernie Sanders were to say the word – go out and vote for Hillary Clinton. Or suffer through a Trump presidency.

That message is likely to come sooner or later. The question then will be whether or not the majority of Sanders' supporters will be in a mood to listen.