The formal answer to the question of whether Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders would endorse former secretary of state Hillary Clinton was answered Tuesday morning in New Hampshire. He did. With the presumptive nominee of the Democratic Party at his side, the insurgent contender announced that “Secretary Clinton has won the Democratic nominating process, and I congratulate her for that. 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.”
“I have come here today not to talk about the past but to focus on the future. That future will be shaped more by what happens on November 8 in voting booths across our nation than by any other event in the world. I have come here to make it as clear as possible as to why I am endorsing Hillary Clinton and why she must become our next president.,” the senator told a crowd in which a number of Sanders backers were still waving their “a future to believe in” signs.
What Sanders said Tuesday, and how he said it, was watched closely by political insiders who have for more than a year struggled to understand where the independent senator who entered a Democratic presidential race has been coming from. Fair enough. With that said, however, the announcement was not exactly a shocker.
Sanders spoke well of Clinton on Tuesday—telling the crowd in New Hampshire: “I have known Hillary Clinton for 25 years. I remember her as a great first lady who broke precedent in terms of the role that a first lady was supposed to play as she helped lead the fight for universal health care. I served with her in the United States Senate and know her as a fierce advocate for the rights of children.” But Sanders has a history of speaking well of Clinton. In 2014, when he was only pondering a candidacy, the senator told The Nation, “Look, I am not here to be attacking Hillary Clinton. I have known Hillary Clinton for a number of years; I knew her when she was first lady a little bit, got to know her a little bit better when she was in the Senate. I like Hillary; she is very, very intelligent; she focuses on issues.”
The point of a Sanders candidacy was never to attack Clinton. It was to take on status-quo politics in general, and to argue for “an alternative set of policies that says to the American people: with all of this technology, with all of this productivity, the truth of the matter is that the average person in this country should be living better than ever before—not significantly worse economically than was the case thirty years ago.”
Sanders proved to be dramatically more successful as a presidential contender than his detractors, or most of his supporters, anticipated. On Tuesday, he observed: “Our campaign won the primaries and caucuses in 22 states, and when the roll call at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia is announced it will show that we won almost 1,900 delegates. That is a lot of delegates, far more than almost anyone thought we could win. But it is not enough to win the nomination. Secretary Clinton goes into the convention with 389 more pledged delegates than we have and a lot more super delegates.”