[Background and quotes for this are based on Politico reporting.]
Sen. Bernie Sanders was booed by some members of the House Democratic Caucus when he met with them Wednesday. It came after he said this: "The goal isn't to win elections, the goal is to transform America."
As the Politico article observed: that's a line that "plays better on the campaign trail than in front of a roomful of elected officials." I understand both sides of this growing controversy, I think. But it's getting tense, and elected officials are naturally concerned about winning the election. At this point, they don't see Sanders as helping. He hasn't endorsed Clinton and won't say when he will, even though he says he will "do everything I can to help defeat Donald Trump."
But here's his position. He really didn't enter this election expecting to win the presidency. He had a message and wanted to start a political revolution to change the country and to change the Democratic party. He wanted to excite the electorate, mobilize idealistic young people to get involved, keep people thinking about reforming our economic system that results in such inequality; to reform Wall Street regulations, push for universal health care, insist on campaign finance reform and a free college education.
He is continuing to hold out, because he's still hoping to make the party platform more progressive, especially on commitment to a $15 minimum wage and opposing TPP. The platform is by far the most progressive we've ever had -- at least since FDR. And Sanders had a lot to do with making that happen, since they gave him 1/3 of the delegates on the Platform Committee. But he wants more, like ending the superdelegate system for future elections.
Those who are frustrated with him feel, as one senior member said of the meeting: "It was frustrating because he's squandering the movement he built
with a self-obsession that was totally on display." The concern is that, by not officially ending his campaign and endorsing Clinton so as to help unite the party, especially by encouraging his supporters to come aboard, he is hurting the chances to win in November.
Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT), a friend of Sanders, explained: What he said very clearly is we’ve got to beat Trump
and the way he believes we’re going to do it is by having a commitment
to an agenda that excites people, including the younger people. And he’s
working on that."
Sanders himself added this as he left the meeting: "We got to get people involved in the
political process, we got to get a large voter turnout, and if we have a
larger voter turnout, Democrats will regain control of the Senate and I
believe they’re gonna take the House back.”
So that's it. The glass is half full, or it's half empty. It's the old argument about idealism vs. pragmatism. He's pretty clear that he's going to support Clinton. But he's going to do it his way and keep working to get as much of his agenda accomplished as he can. I honestly don't think he believes he's hurting her chances by waiting. He thinks the best way he can help is by pushing Clinton and the party platform to be more appealing to more people.
That's what he has already done. When is the time to join hands and keep pushing together? Clinton's latest campaign motto is: "We're Stronger Together."
PS: Since I wrote this, Sanders has acknowledged that he and Clinton have scheduled a meeting for next Tuesday, and he didn't discourage the implication that this will be about endorsing her and when to do it.