If you told me before I left on vacation two weeks ago that when I returned Senator Bernie Sanders would have secured huge Democratic platform concessions—a commitment to a $15-an-hour minimum wage, a death-penalty ban, a financial-transaction tax, a modernized version of “Glass-Steagall” banking regulations, a surtax on multimillionaires, Social Security expansion, among other priorities—I’d have expected to see Sanders out campaigning with Clinton this week, having enthusiastically endorsed her.
Instead, Clinton campaigned with progressive icon Elizabeth Warren on Monday, while Sanders continues to say he’ll withhold his support until the Democratic National Committee grants him even more platform wins. My Sanders supporter friends have told me, over the last two months, that their candidate has to hold out to secure the best platform when the party gets to Philadelphia. That may have been true until the last week. But I think Sanders risks weakening his negotiating position by delaying to endorse Clinton, while insisting she and the party accept his every campaign plank, including a single-payer health-care system, a fracking ban, and an aggressive promise by Democrats not to vote for the Trans-Pacific Partnership. (Clinton, like Sanders, opposes the TPP, as do the majority of the DNC platform committee. But the committee voted not to demand a no vote on the trade deal, in order to avoid embarrassing Obama, who is still pushing Congress to approve the TPP.)
Clearly, Sanders’s influence on the platform, and the party, has already been huge. “It would be great if he would just take yes for an answer,” says one pro-Clinton Democrat close to the platform committee. Representative Keith Ellison, a Sanders appointee to the committee, released a statement praising the draft as “the most progressive party platform in years,” while saying he would continue to fight to toughen its language on TPP and the $15-an-hour minimum wage.
“Look, we asked for things that have never been in any platform before,” Ellison told me. “We got Glass-Steagall in there. The death-penalty ban. Four years ago I was running around [the Democratic convention in] Charlotte in a green Robin Hood hat, talking about a fringy weirdo idea of a financial-transaction tax—and we got a financial-transaction tax!” Ellison says he’ll keep pushing his priorities in Orlando, but he thinks progressive Democrats should be proud. “We got a lot of things through.”
So why isn’t Sanders boasting about his platform wins—and taking steps to endorse Clinton, and bring his voters on board? On Sunday he told CNN’s Jake Tapper that Clinton has to make more concessions. “We have made some good gains. We have more to do,” he said. Where Ellison was ebullient about the platform process, Sanders looked dour. He told Tapper: “I think, right now, what we are doing is trying to say to the Clinton campaign: ‘Stand up, be bolder than you have been,’ and then many of those voters in fact may come on board.”