Bernie Sanders didn't get the Democratic nomination. The Democratic platform is another story.
The Vermont senator endorsed former secretary of state Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee on Tuesday, appearing alongside her at a campaign event in Portsmouth, N.H. The event marks a formal close to his own presidential bid and sets up a general election race between Clinton and presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump. And with Sanders's camp hailing a series of revisions to the Democratic policy platform draft, it could redefine the terms of future battles in Congress.
Sanders had refrained from endorsing Clinton for more than a month after an Associated Press count indicated that he was mathematically out of contention for the nomination. Not so, the Sanders campaign countered, insisting that "super-delegates" who had pledged their vote to Clinton could change their mind at the Democratic convention in late July. But in recent weeks, it became increasingly clear that the campaign had turned its attention to reshaping the scripture of until-recent party orthodoxy, using Sanders's endorsement as leverage.
On Sunday, Sanders lauded “enormous strides” after the platform’s authors met to hash out a final, though non-binding, agenda. Alterations to the platform included a “reasoned pathway for future legalization” of marijuana; increased regulations on fracking and a toughened carbon tax (although not the fracking ban Sanders has urged); a $15-an-hour minimum wage, which would rise over time in tune with inflation; and a commitment to "crack down on the revolving door" between the private and public sectors, particularly Wall Street.
“Thanks to the millions of people across the country who got involved in the political process – many for the first time – we now have the most progressive platform in the history of the Democratic Party,” said Sanders.
Those victories followed an agreement by Clinton to adopt three significant proposals associated with Sanders. One plan would make public universities tuition-free for students whose families earned less than $125,000 per year. Another would expand access to Medicare and community health centers. And Clinton also put her weight behind a $15-an-hour minimum wage.
One key loss for Sanders during platform negotiations came in his failure to secure Democrats' opposition to the Trans-Pacific Trade Pact, a massive trade accord pushed by President Barack Obama that would further intertwine the economies of the US and 11 other nations in the Americas and the Pacific. Sanders also lost a push to “end the occupation” of Palestine, as well as his proposed fracking ban.
But on Monday, Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver championed the changes to the platform, telling The Washington Post that the campaign had gotten “way over 90 percent of what we wanted” in negotiations.
Sanders's endorsement of Clinton may help ease Democratic operatives' fears that the party would be sundered during what has become one of the most polarized election seasons in recent memory.
"We have to keep moving the ball forward, and the ball will continue to move forward," Weaver said. "Electing Donald Trump would set that back tremendously."