On Tuesday, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) took the stage with Hillary Clinton in Portsmouth, New Hampshire to offer his long-awaited endorsement, and to urge his supporters to unite in order to defeat Donald Trump.
“Secretary Clinton has won the Democratic nominating process, and I congratulate her for that,” Sanders told a rowdy crowd, who responded with a mix of cheers and boos. “She will be the Democratic nominee for president and I intend to do everything I can to make certain she will be the next president of the United States.”
Despite losing the nomination to Clinton more than a month ago, Sanders withheld his endorsement until this week. He focused in that time on rallying his supporters to pressure the Democrats’ Platform Committee to draft a blueprint for the party that embraces the ideas he ran on: raising wages, expanding access to health care and higher education, and reining in Wall Street’s biggest and riskiest actors.
Over the weekend, after back-to-back marathon sessions that lasted late into the night, the Democratic Party platform added even more planks to the already historically progressive draft created last week. Delegates for Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton came together in Orlando and passed amendments to put a price on carbon pollution, take steps toward legalizing marijuana, create a public option for healthcare, and raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Though the platform language is non-binding, these were hailed as major victories.
“We have made enormous strides,” Sanders said in a statement after the votes. “Thanks to the millions of people across the country who got involved in the political process — many for the first time — we now have the most progressive platform in the history of the Democratic Party.”
Yet Sanders’ delegates failed to win votes on two of their biggest priorities: banning fracking, and stating strong opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement. On the former, they settled instead for language allowing for states to impose stricter regulations on fracking. The section also now states: “We believe hydraulic fracturing should not take place where states and local communities oppose it.”
Sanders’ Policy Director Warren Gunnells applauded the outcome: “As a result of this plan natural gas is no longer regarded as a bridge to the future,” he said. “The future of America’s energy system now clearly belongs to sun and wind power.”
Now that we have a strong platform, let’s elect people at the top and bottom to implement it.
The final energy and environment language is a radical departure from the party’s 2012 platform, which touted President Obama’s controversial “all of the above” energy policy that promoted fossil fuel extraction along with solar, wind, and other clean sources of power. While the 2012 platform explicitly supported fracking, the 2016 platform calls for ending all tax breaks and subsidies for fossil fuel companies, ensuring all government buildings use “100 percent clean electricity,” and demands a moratorium on offshore drilling. The document also suggests that all corporations be legally bound to study how climate change will impact their business and reveal that information to their shareholders.
Some Sanders delegates present at the platform fight, including Nebraska Democratic Party chair Jane Kleeb, told ThinkProgress that these outcomes are evidence of Sanders’ influence. “If it wasn’t for Senator Sanders and his team’s grassroots pushing, we would have gotten a traditional status quo platform that would not have excited voters,” she said.
New Hampshire state senator Martha Fuller Clark, one of the few superdelegates to endorse Sanders, agreed, telling ThinkProgress that Sanders wielded more power in the platform fight by withholding his endorsement for Clinton.
“It was very clear that Senator Sanders felt a strong obligation to his millions of supporters,” she said. “And he felt the best way he could advance their ideas and recognize them was to be able to negotiate around the platform. It makes sense that he would delay his endorsement until after the finalization of the platform.”
Win some, lose some
Yet several other losses in the platform negotiations have left a bad taste in the mouth of some Sanders supporters. For others, they present a challenge to organize and protest more effectively in the future.
Kleeb expressed disappointment that amendments to ban fracking and ban fossil fuel companies from seizing private land using eminent domain did not win enough support from Clinton delegates to pass.
“Congress and the Democratic Party nationally has been out of touch with what’s happening on the ground,” she said. “They’re not hearing enough from we who live in the communities that are losing our land. But that just means there’s more we need to be doing in the streets. We have to keep one foot in the streets and one foot in the halls of Congress and state houses.”
On the failed amendment to oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which Sanders had listed as his top priority on an e-mail to his supporters, Kleeb said too many committee members feared going against President Obama, who is still trying to push Congress to approve the massive free trade deal. “Everyone in the room agreed they did not want to see this version of the TPP pass,” she said. “But there was obviously politically concern about making sure Obama was not thrown under the bus. The advocates knew that, but it was certainly frustrating.”
While Sanders’ team did pass an amendment promising that a Democratic administration would only appoint regulatory officials “who are not beholden to the industries they regulate,” they lost a vote on much stronger ban on the “revolving door,” which would have read: “Democrats will support laws that will prohibit public officials from working for the industries they regulate for at least four years after they leave office. We will also support prohibiting lobbyists who work for Wall Street or corporate interests from serving on public boards and regulating agencies that previously regulated them.”
Sanders’ delegates also failed to push through a platform amendment calling for “an end to occupations and illegal settlements” in Palestinian territories. After this vote, many people stormed angrily out of the room, shouting at the platform committes members.
An uncertain unity
After Sanders’ and Clinton’s joint rally on Tuesday, many Sanders supporters called for party unity, stressing the importance of defeating Donald Trump in November. And the vast majority of Sanders backers recently polled by Pew — an overwhelming 85 percent — say they will cast their ballot for Clinton.
But many others said they will never support Clinton, and plan instead to vote third party, abstain from voting altogether, or write in Sanders’ name. Many gathered outside the Portsmouth, New Hampshire event on Tuesday to protest, worrying some Democratic officials.
“It’s absolutely essential we find a way to come together,” said Clark. “I’m hopeful his supporters will join him in this endorsement so we can turn our attention 100 percent to the general election. Even if people are disappointed that Sanders didn’t win, I find it quite unsettling that they’re not recognizing the threat of Donald Trump to this country and world.”
— M. Scott Mahaskey (@smahaskey) July 12, 2016
The Democratic Party platform still needs to be ratified at the Democratic National Convention in late July, and Sanders delegates could still bring up their failed amendments for floor votes. Yet Kleeb and others Sanders delegates do not believe this is likely.
“I just can’t see Senator Sanders bringing forward a minority report,” she said. “Instead, he will turn to his base of support and say that now that we have a strong platform, let’s go elect people at the top and bottom to implement it. It’s one thing to get our values recognized by the party in writing, but now we have the responsibility to prove that our movement can show up and win elections.”
Sanders’ policy director confirmed on Tuesday that Sanders will not file minority reports for his failed party platform amendments, calling it a “difficult decision.”