Democrats begin the dance of party unity

Maybe some of Bernie Sanders most ardent supporters should take a cue from Bernie Sanders himself, who met with President Obama on Thursday. Bernie Sanders Meets President Obama and Pledges to Work to Defeat Donald Trump:

ObamaSandersSenator Bernie Sanders met with President Obama on Thursday and said afterward that he would do everything within his power to stop Donald J. Trump from becoming president — and would work closely with Hillary Clinton to make that happen.

After the meeting with Mr. Obama, which lasted more than an hour, Mr. Sanders gave no indication that he was ready to leave the race just yet, insisting that he would compete in next week’s primary contest here in Washington, D.C. However, he made clear that party unity was on his mind.

“I will work as hard as I can, to make sure that Donald Trump does not become president of the United States,” Mr. Sanders told reporters, saying the Manhattan businessman “makes bigotry and discrimination the cornerstone of his campaign” and would be a “disaster” as commander in chief.

As Greg Sargent of the Washington Post writes, It’s over: Bernie Sanders begins winding it down:

[A]fter his meeting with President Obama, Sen. Sanders started with this:

Let me begin by thanking President Obama and thanking Vice President Biden for the degree of impartiality they established during the course of this entire process. What they said in the beginning is that they would not put their thumb on the scales, and in fact they kept their word. And I appreciate that very very much.

Sanders continued:

These are the issues that we will take to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia at the end of July. Donald Trump would clearly to my mind — and I think the majority of Americans — be a disaster as president of the United States. It is unbelievable to me — and I say this in all sincerity — that the Republican Party would have a candidate for president who in the year 2016 makes bigotry and discrimination the cornerstone of his campaign….

Needless to say, I am going to do everything in my power, and I will work as hard as I can, to make sure Donald Trump does not become president of the United States. I will of course be competing in the D.C. primary, which will be held next Tuesday. This is the last primary of the Democratic nominating process….

I spoke briefly to Secretary Clinton on Tuesday night, and I congratulated her on her very strong campaign. I look forward to meeting with her in the near future to see how we can work together to defeat Donald Trump, and to create a government which represents all of us, and not just the one percent.

The fact that Sanders acknowledged the impartiality of the process is potentially a key tell. Sanders no doubt will continue to criticize the DNC’s handling of the process — with some justification — but his criticisms of the DNC are very specific, oriented towards the handling of the debates and other procedural matters. If he is willing to say that the overall process was impartial, that may signal that at the end of the day, he may prove willing (depending on how negotiations over the platform proceed) to do all he can to reassure his supporters later that the overall outcome was and is legitimate.

It’s also notable that Sanders did not repeat his vow to continue to flip super-delegates to his side. Instead, he said he would be taking his “issues” to the convention, which isn’t the same thing. I don’t know if Sanders will or won’t continue to woo the super-delegates. But it seems unlikely he’ll do it in any seriously robust way. This statement about the convention points generally towards a recognition that the time has come (after the voting in D.C., which, tellingly, he cast as more a chance to make the case for D.C. statehood than anything else) for Sanders to produce actual concessions on the process and platform, rather than to continue seriously contesting the outcome of the nomination.

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Finally, Sanders said he is set to “work together” with Hillary Clinton to defeat the common enemy of Donald Trump, whose election to the presidency he cast as simply unthinkable. And even here the tell is clear: Sanders suggested he would work to boost Clinton’s candidacy and continue to work to create a government for the people and not for the one percent, which means those things are not mutually exclusive. The big outstanding question here is whether Sanders will do all he can to persuade his supporters that a Clinton presidency would endeavor to move the country in the direction of his moral vision, albeit not as dramatically or ambitiously as he would.

Shortly after their White House meeting, President Obama endorsed Secretary Hillary Clinton in a video for her campaign in which he also praised the campaign of Bernie Sanders. Obama Endorses Hillary Clinton, and Urges Democrats to Unite:

President Obama told Senator Bernie Sanders in an Oval Office meeting on Thursday to channel the energy of his presidential campaign’s millions of supporters behind Hillary Clinton, and said that Mr. Sanders would play a central role in shaping the Democratic agenda if he did.

Less than an hour and a half later, Mr. Obama, who had tried to remain neutral in the race between Mr. Sanders and Mrs. Clinton, formally endorsed her.

Moving swiftly to unite his party after a primary campaign that has left many of Mr. Sanders’s supporters bitter and disillusioned, Mr. Obama, according to his aides, tried to mollify the maverick senator while prodding him to reorient his efforts against Mrs. Clinton into a broader bid to help Democrats in November.

There was no hint after the meeting that Mr. Sanders intended to challenge Mrs. Clinton for the nomination at next month’s convention, but hours later at a rally in Washington he urged voters there to go to the polls in their primary on Tuesday and to keep pushing for a political revolution.

After the White House meeting, Mr. Sanders vowed to take the ideas that have animated his campaign — addressing poverty and income inequality, increasing Social Security benefits, and reducing the role of money in politics — to the convention.

But he also announced plans to meet soon with Mrs. Clinton to discuss ways they could work together to defeat Donald J. Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.

The meeting was the set piece of a day of choreographed political theater in which Democrats treated Mr. Sanders to a visit only slightly less elaborate than that of a head of state. The White House made sure that cameras were positioned to capture the president and the vanquished Vermonter strolling animatedly along the White House colonnade to the Oval Office for their meeting. Later, Mr. Sanders met with the Senate Democratic leadership before zooming up Massachusetts Avenue for an audience with Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. at his residence at the Naval Observatory.

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ObamaIn a video posted on her campaign’s Facebook page shortly after Mr. Sanders departed the White House grounds to visit the Capitol, Mr. Obama described Mrs. Clinton as the most qualified candidate to seek the White House, and implored Democrats to come together to elect her after a divisive party primary.

“I don’t think there’s ever been someone so qualified to hold this office,” Mr. Obama said in the three-minute statement.

Mr. Obama has made no secret of his desire to play an active role in the race to succeed him. “I’m with her, I am fired up, and I cannot wait to get out there to campaign for Hillary,” Mr. Obama said in the video.

Mrs. Clinton immediately announced that she and the president would hold their first joint campaign appearance of the 2016 race on Wednesday in Green Bay, Wis., the start of what White House officials said would be an intense campaign push for Mr. Obama that will culminate in near-daily appearances as the November election draws nearer.

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The president had been circumspect about declaring the race finished, even after Mrs. Clinton captured sufficient delegates in primaries on Tuesday to clinch the Democratic nomination. On Thursday, he congratulated her on “making history” and said he had personally witnessed her qualifications for the Oval Office.

“She’s got the courage, the compassion and the heart to get the job done,” he said. “I have seen her judgment, I’ve seen her toughness, I’ve seen her commitment to our values up close.”

Mr. Obama also praised Mr. Sanders for what he called an “incredible campaign.” He said the Vermont senator’s emphasis on addressing income inequality, reducing the influence of money in politics and bringing young people into the political process would strengthen the party.

In their Oval Office meeting, White House officials said, Mr. Obama told Mr. Sanders that he could play a valuable role in re-energizing the party by supporting Democrats in races across the country this year, and use the influence he has amassed in his campaign to press his agenda forward in the Senate.

Mr. Sanders, speaking to reporters as he left the West Wing with his wife, Jane, said that “we will continue doing everything that we can to oppose the drift which currently exists toward an oligarchic form of society where a handful of billionaires exercise enormous power over our political, economic and media life.”

“Needless to say,” he added, “I am going to do everything in my power and I will work as hard as I can to make sure that Donald Trump does not become president of the United States.”

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On Capitol Hill, Democratic leaders tried to balance their desire to be respectful of Mr. Sanders and give him room to exit the race on his own terms while firmly conveying to him that the contest has essentially ended. Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the minority leader, said he had invited Mr. Sanders to address the Democratic caucus on Tuesday.

Mrs. Clinton “has enough delegates,” Mr. Reid said after meeting with Mr. Sanders in his Capitol office. “I didn’t hear a single word about him wanting to change the fact that she’s the nominee.”

Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, who will most likely succeed Mr. Reid as Democratic leader next year, echoed his colleague, telling reporters after his own meeting that he knew Mr. Sanders to be “constructive.”

Privately, Senate leaders breathed a sigh of relief. Mr. Reid told Mr. Sanders during their 40-minute conversation that he was entitled to wind down the campaign on his own time. And Mr. Sanders implied to Mr. Reid that he would begin that process after the final primary next week and not take his campaign to the convention floor, according to an aide briefed on the meeting who requested anonymity to discuss a private conversation.

But Mr. Sanders is going to try to put his stamp on a party that he adopted only when he began to seek its nomination. He told Mr. Reid that he wanted a say on both policy and process, an indication that he intends to push for a robustly liberal platform and an overhaul of the Democratic presidential nominating system that could eliminate superdelegates.

Later in the day, liberal icon Senator Elizabeth Warren Endorsed Clinton. On Friday, Clinton, Warren held a strategy session about running against Trump:

ElizabethWarrenThe woman who will presumably lead the Democratic ticket in the fall had the woman who has become the Democrats’ fiercest attack weapon against Donald Trump over for coffee Friday.

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There was no immediate word on what was covered during the 66-minute meeting of Democratic minds, but Democrats had said ahead of time that they would talk about how to defeat Trump, Clinton’s presumptive GOP opponent.

The session came one day after Warren had endorsed Clinton amid heightened discussion among Democrats of the possibility that Warren could be Clinton’s choice for vice president.

* * *

Asked if she discussed “vice presidential possibilities with Senator Warren,” Clinton held up an iced drink and said:  “You guys have got to try the cold Chai, it’s delicious, isn’t it?”

Clinton has said she would not rule out an all-woman ticket. She has also said the most important criterion for her will be whether her vice president could be ready to be president in a heartbeat.

* * *

Clinton thanked Warren for her support at the start of a midday address before the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, but did not give details of their meeting.

Despite all the previous media hype about a “contested” Democratic convention in Philadelphia, the adults in the room are well on their way towards a unified Democratic Party Convention so that the party can focus on the critical task of defeating this “extinction-level event” to democracy, Donald Trump.

7 responses to “Democrats begin the dance of party unity

  1. Democrats need to get smarter. Obama has done a lot of good, important things in his presidency, but he has not been a very strategic thinker in terms of strengthening the Democratic party.
    He made three cabinet appointments that were devastating. He picked Janet Napolitano, Kathleen Sibelius and John Salazar to serve. At the time, Napolitano was the popular governor of Arizona, and was polling ten points ahead of John McCain in a potential 2010 senate race. By picking Napolitano, Obama decimated Arizona and the Democratic party has still not recovered. Very similar story in Kansas, Sibelius was a popular governor and was also trending for a senate race. John Salazar was the most popular politician in Colorado and a real Hispanic leader in the US Senate. Since then, Colorado has devolved politically, with Mark Udall losing the senate race in 2014. And Salazar’s successor may have a tough race this year.
    Now there is talk of Vice President candidates like Elizabeth Warren. It cost Democrats almost $100 million for Warren to defeat Scott Brown, and we want to give seat up?
    Folks, we need to get smarter. Bernie Sanders is the very, very obvious choice for Vice President. He is by far the most dynamic candidate we have this year. With him on the ticket, the Democrats will draw energetic crowds from now until election day. Bernie is supremely qualified to be President, in case that arises. He has executive experience as mayor, a very capable mayor, and many years experience in Congress.
    And if Clinton-Sanders wins in November, do not make the same mistake in 2016 that Obama made. Do not poach strong Democrats from red or purple states to serve in the Cabinet. Build the party, don’t tear it down.

  2. Debbie Collazo

    No matter which Democratic candidate you are backing, you probably have friends and family members who are backing the other candidate. I am backing Hillary Clinton, and proudly. I will not be offering reasons to my friends and family members as to why they should consider voting for Hillary Clinton. These are smart, passionate, wise people who have a lot invested in Bernie Sanders. They will come to their own conclusions. I have been through the pain of George McGovern, Howard Dean and Al Gore. I don’t know exactly how Bernie Sanders’ supporters are feeling right now, but I have an idea. If any of them decide to vote for Hillary Clinton, it will be for their own reasons.

  3. If I were trying to get Hillary elected, I would probably begin to focus on independent voters in key states like Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, etc… Florida is the big prize among the swing states and right now I fully believe Trump could take it.

    “Trump is a Monster” and blathering about party unity will not win this election for the Democrats. Fear mongering as a strategy just isn’t that effective. A lot of folks, particularly those registered with no party preference in swing states are not going to get off the couch and into a voting booth if they have to listen to that from now until November. And the hell of it, they can decide the who is going to be the president by their action or inaction.

    Give them a few reasons to vote for Hillary other than the doom of mankind as we know it if they FAIL to do so. For a lot of people, this is the equivalent of turning a sow’s ear into a silk purse, but the Democrats wanted her I am told, so it is what it is.

    • For Sure Not Tom

      What Liza said.

      Please start telling me what Clinton will actually do as POTUS.

      That way I have a reason to vote “for” her and not just against Trump.

  4. “Maybe some of Bernie Sanders most ardent supporters should take a cue from Bernie Sanders himself…”

    Sorry, you lost me in your first sentence.

    I supported Sanders’ campaign, but I think for myself. He has reasons to support Clinton, political, inside the Senate reasons, that in no way apply to me. So, even if his thinking made sense for him, it wouldn’t necessarily make sense for me. And, although I admire Sanders, if I’m going to follow another’s lead, there are others I would follow before Sanders: Chris Hedges, Noam Chomsky, Andrew Bacevich, Glenn Greenwald, Naomi Klein, to name a few.

    • For Sure Not Tom

      That’s the thing, Sanders supporters don’t have to give up their leverage.

      She wants my vote she needs to tell me why.

      I was downtown a few times back in 2011, I did the mic check and sparkle hands, donated to those whose stayed 24/7, and when Occupy was no longer on the front page the media said it had died.

      But everyone to this day talks about the 99%, or at least the 1%.

      Occupy is still around.

      Sanders may not be President, but his supporters and ideas are going to be around a long time.

  5. captain*arizona

    it better be brake dancing on their heads.