On Wednesday, the campaign of Hillary Clinton announced, according to the Huffington Post, that it would “pursue a debt-free college for all policy,” the clearest sign yet that the political movement both within and surrounding the campaign of Bernie Sanders is making a tangible impact on the policy direction of the Democratic Party.
Over the last several days, Sanders has expressed both optimism and dismay as a result of the Democratic Party’s platform drafting process, during which many of Sanders’s proposals were approved, while several others were shot down.
Throughout his campaign, Sanders has stressed the importance of placing popular pressure on the political establishment, and Sanders has used the leverage he has accumulated throughout the primary process to influence the agenda of the party.
His approach seems to be working.
Earlier on Wednesday, Sanders was reportedly booed by Democrats in a private meeting. The reason was apparently Sanders’s persistent refusal to fall in line behind Hillary Clinton by formally endorsing her.
One Democrat, speaking to Politico on the condition of anonymity, claimed that Sanders is, by withholding his support, “squandering the movement he built.”
This is an “odd” notion, observes the Washington Post‘s Greg Sargent.
“Today Hillary Clinton announced that she was moving dramatically in the direction of one of the most important pillars of Bernie’s agenda. She substantially expanded her proposal for improving access to a college education so it ensures that families below a certain income level will not pay tuition at in-state public colleges and universities,” Sargent notes. “This, taken with other recent Sanders victories, basically means that Sanders’s movement is succeeding.”
Indeed, by bringing issues like stagnant wages, the collapsing middle class, and Wall Street greed to the national stage, Sanders’s approach has proven remarkably effective in a year many felt would be an easy win for Hillary Clinton.
But while Sanders has succeeded in changing the conversation and in significantly influencing the Democratic platform, he has also succeeded in drawing the ire of the Democratic leadership, which has of late become frustrated by his decision to remain in the race.
Sanders, however, has not been deterred.
“What I’m trying to do, and the reason I ran for president, is to help transform this country,” Sanders said in an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “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.”
Many Democrats have expressed their anxiety that, by remaining in the race, Sanders is harming Hillary Clinton’s chances against Donald Trump. But Sanders believes that by making the Democratic agenda stronger and more appealing to those who believe the party has left them behind, defeating Trump will become easier, not more difficult.
“My message was a simple message,” Sanders said of his meeting with House Democrats. “We have got to fight for the needs of the middle class and working families of this country. “We got to get people involved in the political process, we got to get a large voter turnout, and if we have a larger voter turnout, Democrats will regain control of the Senate and I believe they’re gonna take the House back.”
In response to the Clinton campaign’s strengthened public education proposal, Sanders seemed genuinely pleased. As the Huffington Postnotes, the plan “is a direct result of the private meeting Clinton had with the Vermont senator in June.”
Sanders called the plan a “bold initiative.”
“This proposal combines some of the strongest ideas she fought for during the campaign with some of the principles that I fought for. The final product is a result of the work of both campaigns. “Let me be very clear. This proposal, when implemented, will revolutionize the funding of higher education in America, improve the economic future of our country and make life immediately better for tens of millions of people stuck with high levels of student debt.”
As a recent report by Time makes clear, “the student loan crisis is even worse than people think,” and the long-term effects of the accumulation of loans in the pursuit of a college education have proven disastrous for millions.
Clinton’s plan is a step in the right direction. But as Sanders has repeatedly made clear, he will not lighten the pressure any time soon.
[Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]