With The Nomination All But Decided, Clinton's And Sanders' Goals Change

Apr 27, 2016
Originally published on May 23, 2016 12:13 pm

Hillary Clinton hasn't won the nomination, yet. And Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders hasn't technically lost. But in a statement released after the results were in, Sanders' rhetoric took a notable turn.

"[W]e are in this race until the last vote is cast," he said, with no mention of winning the nomination.

Instead, "[T]his campaign is going to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia with as many delegates as possible to fight for a progressive party platform."

Clinton's primary victories in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Connecticut and Delaware — Sanders won Rhode Island — all but ensure her of the nomination. She tacitly acknowledged this in her victory speech in Philadelphia by spending a lot of time talking about party unity.

"I applaud Senator Sanders and his millions of supporters for challenging us to get unaccountable money out of our politics," Clinton said, "and giving greater emphasis to closing the gap of inequality and I know together we will get that done."

Her message to Sanders supporters: there's much more that unites us than divides us.

But based on social media posts many Sanders supporters aren't yet, and may never be ready to line up behind Clinton. Just search #BernieOrBust on Twitter.

Achieving Party Unity After A Bitter Contest

The Democratic Party has been here before. In 2008, it faced a similarly contentious and extended primary battle - you could argue it was more contentious - between then-senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

By the end, many of Clinton's supporters were left with hard feelings. Some even called themselves PUMAs, Party Unity My...you get the idea.

"I spent an enormous amount of time convincing my supporters to support [Obama]," Clinton said this week. "And I am happy to say the vast majority did. That is what I think one does. That is certainly what I did and I hope that we will see the same this year."

Clinton — on the convention floor in Denver — even stopped the roll call vote and called on delegates to nominate Obama by acclamation.

Clinton had many reasons to heal the rift. She was and is a true-blue Democrat and didn't want to be blamed for damaging her party's nominee. And she had aspirations - maybe to be part of the Obama administration, perhaps to run for president again.

This Time The Story Is More Complicated

Sanders has never been a registered Democrat and has long prided himself on his independent status. His convention goals are likely to be different. Sanders was asked by one of his supporters whether, if he lost the nomination, he would encourage his backers to vote for Clinton. He pointedly said it's not up to him.

"You know we're not a movement where I can snap my fingers and say to you or to anybody else what you should do," Sanders said. "'Cause you won't listen to me. You shouldn't. You'll make these decisions yourself."

The decisions facing Sanders going forward may well be more challenging than Clinton's in 2008. He's been running against the political establishment, against what he calls a corrupt campaign finance system. It's a system Clinton says she opposes but still operates in.

So, how would Sanders then endorse the establishment candidate and not leave his supporters feeling as though he sold out? Only, he suggested, if Clinton buys in to his campaign's message.

"It is incumbent upon Secretary Clinton to reach out, not only to my supporters but to all of the American people," Sanders said, "with an agenda that they believe will represent the interests of working families, lower income people, the middle class, those of us who are concerned about the environment and not just big-money interests."

Sanders has also said he will do everything in his power to make sure a Republican doesn't win the race for president in 2016. Clinton's camp is counting on a common foe to help bring the party together.

Tamara Keith's radio piece was featured in a conversation with Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep; Clinton supporter Neera Tanden, president and CEO of Center for American Progress; and Sanders supporter Charles Chamberlain, executive director of Democracy for America.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

DONALD TRUMP: I consider myself the presumptive nominee, absolutely.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

That's how Donald Trump described himself after winning all five Republican primaries last night. Today he strikes a presidential pose with a foreign policy speech here in Washington.

LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

The math still leaves Trump well short of the delegates he needs to win, though. But in a victory speech, Trump turned to Hillary Clinton, the Democrat he expects to face this fall.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRUMP: Frankly, if Hillary Clinton were a man, I don't think she'd get 5 percent of the vote. The only thing she's got going is the woman's card. And the beautiful thing is, women don't like her. OK?

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: And look how well I did with women tonight. OK.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Clinton actually scored dominating wins in four states last night. Bernie Sanders took one. But he vowed to stay in the race.

INSKEEP: Well, let's talk through the Democratic race with two Democrats. Neera Tanden is president of the Center for American Progress. She supports Secretary Clinton. She's in our studios. Good morning, Neera.

NEERA TANDEN: Good morning.

INSKEEP: Also, Charles Chamberlain, executive director for Democracy for America. He supports Senator Sanders and joins us from Burlington, Vt. Good morning, sir.

CHARLES CHAMBERLAIN: Thanks for having us.

INSKEEP: And let me ask you both to sum up the Democratic results last night, if you would, in a sentence. Charles, you can go first.

CHAMBERLAIN: I would say big win for Bernie in Rhode Island. Millions of votes, hundreds more delegates for the political revolution, very excited as we head into the 14th as we go ahead.

INSKEEP: First time I've ever heard big and Rhode Island in the same sentence. But we'll talk about it some more. Neera Tanden, what's your sentence?

TANDEN: I had a slightly different take. It was a great victory for Hillary. And she solidified her lock on the Democratic nomination, meaning she will return to Pennsylvania as the nominee.

INSKEEP: OK. So we will be talking more about this in a moment. Stay with us, both of you. First, NPR's Tamara Keith has been listening to the Democratic candidates.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Hillary Clinton hasn't won the nomination yet. And Bernie Sanders hasn't technically lost. But in a statement released after the results were in, Sanders made a noticeable shift. He said he would stay in the race until the last vote is cast but didn't say anything about winning the Democratic nomination.

Sanders instead said he would try to win as many delegates as possible to fight for a progressive party platform at the convention. And Clinton, in her victory speech in Philadelphia, spent a lot of time talking about party unity.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

HILLARY CLINTON: And I applaud Senator Sanders and his millions of supporters for challenging us to get unaccountable money out of our politics and giving greater emphasis to closing the gap of inequality. And I know together we will get that done.

(APPLAUSE)

KEITH: Her message to Sanders supporters, there's much more that unites us than divides us. But based on social media posts, many Sanders supporters aren't yet, and may never be, ready to line up behind Clinton. Just search the hashtag, #BernieOrBust.

In 2008, the Democratic Party faced a similarly contentious and extended primary battle. You could argue it was more contentious between then-Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Many of Clinton's supporters were left with hard feelings. Some even called themselves PUMAs - Party unity my - You get the idea. Clinton told MSNBC this week she worked hard to get them to switch to Obama.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CLINTON: I spent an enormous amount of time convincing my supporters to support him. And I'm happy to say the vast majority did. That is what I think one does. That is certainly what I did, and I hope that we will see the same this year.

KEITH: In 2008, Clinton stood on the convention floor in Denver and called on delegates to make Obama's nomination unanimous.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECODRING)

CLINTON: I move Senator Barack Obama of Illinois be selected by this convention by acclamation as the nominee of the Democratic Party for president of the United States.

(APPLAUSE)

KEITH: For Clinton, there were many reasons eight years ago to heal the rift. She was and is a true-blue Democrat and didn't want to be blamed for damaging her party's nominee. And she had aspirations, maybe to be part of the Obama administration, perhaps to run for president again.

For Sanders, who's never been a registered Democrat and long prided himself on his independent status, the goals are likely to be different. He was asked by one of his supporters during an MSNBC town hall whether, if he lost the primary, he would encourage his backers to vote for Clinton.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BERNIE SANDERS: You know, we're not a movement where I can snap my fingers and say to you or to anybody else what you should do - Because you won't listen to me. You shouldn't. Now, you make these decisions yourself.

KEITH: The way forward may well be more challenging for Sanders than it was for Clinton in 2008. He's been running against the political establishment, against what he calls a corrupt campaign-finance system. It's a system Clinton says she opposes but still operates in. So how would Sanders then endorsed the establishment candidate and not leave his supporters feeling like he sold out? Sanders told MSNBC it would be up to Clinton to win them over.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SANDERS: It is incumbent upon Secretary Clinton to reach out, not only to my supporters but to all of the American people with an agenda that they believe will represent the interests of working families, lower-income people, the middle class, those of us who are concerned about the environment and not just big money interests.

KEITH: Sanders has also said he will do everything in his power to make sure a Republican doesn't win the race for president in 2016. Clinton's camp is counting on a common foe to help bring the party together.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Tamara Keith. We're still here with Clinton supporter Neera Tanden and Sanders supporter Charles Chamberlain. And Mr. Chamberlain, I got to ask. Bernie Sanders had a tough night last night, other than Rhode Island, as you mentioned. He is saying he will stay in the race to the end but not quite saying as forcefully that he's going to win. Is the major decision already made here?

CHAMBERLAIN: Well, I think the key is that we have to recognize that we still have 14 states that are left to vote. And every single person across this country this wants to ought to be able to have a chance to have their voice be heard in this primary process. So that means that we need to have both candidates stay in. We need to be able to get every single vote counted. And I think that's what the focus is going to be as we move ahead.

We've got to go to Indiana. We've got to go to California. We've got to go to Washington, D.C. And we've got to give every single person a chance to vote for this political revolution and send a message about the fact that we're standing against disastrous trade policies and for Medicare for all and, you know, for breaking up Wall Street and making it so that our economy works for everyone. That's what every single one of these votes is saying. And we need to give everybody a chance to make it.

INSKEEP: Neera Tanden.

TANDEN: You know, I wouldn't disagree. I think that we should have everyone vote in the process. And I don't think anyone's calling on Senator Sanders to get out of the race. I worked for Hillary Clinton eight years ago. She went through the end of that primary process, a very hard-fought process.

So I think the question really is, is what kind of campaign, what kind of message Senator Sanders will be offering over the next few weeks. And, you know, if it's one that's focused on issues of rising inequality, the challenge of climate change, issues around our campaign finance system, you know, I think there's a broad agreement on a lot of those issues. So I think that is a helpful, robust debate.

INSKEEP: But - Is there a but there? Are you warning that she should not be attacked by Sanders? Is that what you're saying?

TANDEN: I would just note that Donald Trump, yesterday, used some of Senator Sanders' language against Hillary Clinton last night. I think that's a concern going forward. So - But again, it seems to me the Sanders campaign is saying it's going to focus on issues going forward. And I think that's really important.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So Charles, will the Sanders campaign focus on issues and not focus so much on Hillary Clinton?

CHAMBERLAIN: Well, I think, you know, I think it's a really interesting point we're at in this campaign where there's no reason for Sanders to stop advocating for exactly what it is that he's fighting for and what it is this political revolution is looking for. And so he's going to need to continue to push for the issues that matter. Some of those issues are fantastic and, as just was being said, we agree with Clinton campaign and with Hillary Clinton over and over again.

But there are other issues where there is some differences. And that's part of the point of the political revolution is to continue to make it clear we can't start a rush to the middle. We need to make sure that we continue to inspire Democrats across this country with bold ideas. And what I'm going to be looking for the next several weeks as we move ahead is I want to see the Clinton campaign reach out to our supporters and embrace that message and embrace what we're trying to do.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's an interesting point, actually. To both of you, just briefly, we spoke yesterday to former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell. And he said he felt many voters who would seem natural Sanders supporters, former steel workers and coal miners were instead supporting Donald Trump. This is clearly going to be an issue for whomever is the Democratic nominee. Does it worry you?

TANDEN: You know, actually listening to Donald Trump yesterday, I appreciate there are folks that he's reaching out to. Democrats he's reaching out to in some ways. But fundamentally, his campaign is one that's really targeting different groups, I think, is a very negative message from most Democrats. But it, you know, after the nomination process, I hope we'll have Democrats from the Sanders campaign as well as Hillary's campaign uniting around us.

INSKEEP: Charles Chamberlain, just about 10 seconds. Is it possible that Sanders voters would go to trump?

CHAMBERLAIN: I don't think that you're going to see the political revolution that's fighting against the billionaire class going and getting behind a billionaire.

INSKEEP: OK. Charles Chamberlain of Democracy for America, thanks very much to you. And Neera Tanden of Center for American Progress, thanks for coming by very early this morning.

TANDEN: Thanks so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.