While several media outlets have reported that Bernie Sanders is expected to formally endorse Hillary Clinton as early as Tuesday, the Vermont senator’s supporters remain skeptical about voting for a candidate who they feel represents the status quo, against which they have fought so hard throughout the primary process.
Sanders, in many interviews, has indicated that he is working with the Clinton campaign to make the Democratic platform reflect the values of the millions of voters who share Sanders’s resentment of “establishment politics and economics.”
“We are working together to see how we can be most effective, in terms of coming together on issues, and in running the kind of campaign that needs to be run, to make sure that Donald Trump does not become president,” Sanders said.
But despite these signs of cooperation, Sanders has for weeks remained insistent that a formal endorsement of Clinton will not be forthcoming.
This has changed, however.
In an interview with Bloomberg‘s Al Hunt, Sanders said, “We have got to do everything that we can to defeat Donald Trump and elect Hillary Clinton. I don’t honestly know how we would survive four years of a Donald Trump as president.”
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) July 7, 2016
Though this halfway endorsement is far from enthusiastic — we must, he reasons, elect Clinton to prevent a Trump presidency — it is the closest he has come to formally embracing Clinton as the Democratic nominee.
Sanders, to the consternation of many working on the outside of the two-party political process, has said from the beginning that he would back the eventual nominee.
But his drift toward Clinton after a brutal primary battle in which key — and for many, deal-breaking — differences were highlighted has dismayed many Sanders supporters who are adamant that Clinton is beholden to special interests and anathema to a bold, progressive vision.
This feeling has shown in the polling data.
A recent Bloomberg poll, for example, found that “nearly half” of Sanders’s supporters do not plan to support Hillary Clinton in the general election.
Democrats booed Sanders today. But in reality, the Sanders movement is actually succeeding: https://t.co/u2IvPOTIqz
— Greg Sargent (@ThePlumLineGS) July 6, 2016
This demonstrates the striking growth of the “Bernie or Bust” movement, and it spells potential trouble for Hillary Clinton, who has shifted her rhetoric to the left in response to the ambitious progressive agenda of her opponent.
But while she has made efforts to appear more open to the Sanders platform (for instance, with her recent education plan), many supporters remain insistent that a vote for Clinton is a betrayal of political values. Many point to Clinton’s Wall Street speeches, the email scandal, the Clinton Foundation, and, of course, Clinton’s record, which is hawkish in the realm of foreign policy and center-right in the realm of domestic policy.
“You can’t expose the corruption of the political system and then expect us to get behind that same political system,” one Sanders supporter, Gary Frazier, told CNN.
Sanders recently faced boos during a meeting with House Democrats, reportedly because he repeated his intention to remain in the race through the convention, urging Democrats to understand that “the goal is to transform America,” not merely “to win elections.”
“What I’m trying to do, and the reason I ran for president, is to help transform this country. To deal with income and wealth, inequality, a declining middle class, the fact that so many of the young people are leaving school deeply in debt.”
Democrats, as Sanders has made clear throughout this primary process, seem to be disconnected from the views of a large swath of the American people who are facing crippling economic anxiety and crumbling prospects as wages stagnate and jobs disappear.
And a recent Pew study reflects this broad dissatisfaction with the political and economic systems, and the nomination process in particular.
“Overall satisfaction with the choice of candidates is at its lowest point in two decades,” the study found. “Currently, fewer than half of registered voters in both parties — 43% of Democrats and 40% of Republicans — say they are satisfied with their choices for president.”
Who, then, can blame Sanders supporters for refusing to embrace a candidate who represents more of the same?
“If you actually support Sanders’s goals — on expanding health care, economic equity, fair trade, the environment, ending a foreign policy of regime change, and achieving justice for the Palestinians,” concludes The Nation’s D.D. Guttenplan, “then you should be grateful he’s still fighting for them.”
[Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images]