Post-primaries, Clinton and Sanders try to come together
WASHINGTON >> For Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, getting to that Unity, New Hampshire, moment might take some time.
That's where Clinton joined rival Barack Obama in 2008 for a splashy endorsement — the two rivals had literally split the vote in the town in the primary. But now, more than a week after Clinton clinched the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, Sanders has still not called Clinton the presumptive nominee, has not conceded the race and people close to both campaigns say a formal endorsement is not imminent.
That has some Democrats agitated.
"The sooner Bernie Sanders comes on board and activates his supporters, the easier it will be to drive the message," said Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, a Clinton supporter. "If we're fiddling over the party platform, we're tripping over dollars to pick up pennies. The potential is having a governing majority next year. To me, that is going to bring about more gain than a tweak to the party platform."
Sanders has indicated the coming weeks could give him his best opportunity to get Clinton's imprimatur on a number of policy positions and election reforms that formed the basis of his insurgent campaign. Their face-to-face meeting at a Washington hotel on Tuesday night was an initial step in the process, in the shadow of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. Eight years ago, it took Clinton about three weeks before she joined Obama in the joint event in New Hampshire.
Asked during a Tuesday news conference when he would endorse Clinton, Sanders demurred, telling reporters that his fight had always been about "transforming America. It is standing up for working people. It is fighting for a progressive agenda which serves the needs of working people and not powerful corporate interests."
Sanders was speaking to his supporters Thursday in an online address from his hometown of Burlington, Vermont. He was expected to talk about the future of the "political revolution" he has helped create during the past year. He was not expected to end his presidential bid.
Following Tuesday's final primary in the District of Columbia, Clinton and Sanders are trying to piece together a truce that will allow the Vermont senator's supporters to unite around the former secretary of state and ensure that Sanders' message about an economy rigged against American workers, and big money in politics, is carried into the general election and beyond.
Many Democrats, including some of Sanders' supporters, want a public endorsement of Clinton to present a united front against Republican nominee-in-waiting Donald Trump.
"My preference is sooner rather than later. It's pretty clear that Hillary is the nominee," said Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., on the timing of a Sanders endorsement.
Welch, who attended a meeting at the senator's home last weekend, said acknowledging that Clinton will be the party's standard-bearer might strengthen Sanders' position in negotiating policy commitments and electoral changes.
"There's heartbreak in politics when you work as hard as you do and you come up short. Yes there will be disappointment but we've got to work through it," he said.
Sanders often says he cannot simply "snap my fingers" and make his millions of supporters, many of them millennials, march in line behind Clinton.
And some Sanders' supporters still hold Clinton in low esteem. Sanders' mere mention of her name at rallies often elicited boos from the crowd and a quick endorsement might make them feel as if he simply capitulated to Clinton without getting anything in return.
For his part, Sanders has outlined a wish list of sorts. During Tuesday's news conference before the Clinton meeting, he said the Democratic National Committee needs new leadership. His campaign's latest public critique of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, the party's chair, called for the elimination of superdelegates. He also advocated for a "progressive platform" that would cement his policy positions on curtailing the role of Wall Street in the economy and campaigns, free tuition at public colleges and universities and taking bold steps to curb climate change.
"What we're going to see is an ongoing conversation between the two campaigns. There is a huge win-win opportunity," said Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley, a Sanders' endorsee.
Clinton's upcoming schedule and moves could send Sanders the message that she gets his concerns.
In an interview Wednesday with USA Today, Clinton said if Congress fails to act, she would ask the Treasury Department to use its regulatory authority to eliminate the so-called carried interest loophole allowing hedge-fund managers to pay a lower tax rate than other taxpayers. That's a move that would be welcomed by Sanders' loyalists.
Clinton is expected to present her economic vision for the nation next week in Ohio, giving her a platform to address one of Sanders' prime concerns: That the economy has largely benefited the wealthiest Americans as the nation has recovered from the recession. Banking regulations and tax policies, Sanders says, make it more difficult to working families to get ahead.
But so far, she hasn't committed to making any concessions to her former rival — at least not publicly.
"I'm not going to get into the specifics on the platform," she told The Associated Press in an interview last week. "The discussions about that are just getting underway and we have a lot to talk about."
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