Bernie Sanders has become allergic to the words “I will support Hillary Clinton if she wins the nomination.” While the Vermont senator has already pledged to support the Democratic nominee in the general election, he refused to reiterate that pledge in three separate interviews over the past 24 hours. In all three appearances, the Vermont senator argued that he couldn’t deliver his supporters to Clinton even if he tried. Rather, Sanders suggested that the Democratic front-runner will need to earn their support … by adopting all of his policy positions.
Speaking at an MSNBC town hall in Philadelphia Tuesday night, the democratic socialist gave Clinton the following instructions for stealing the hearts of Sandernistas:
It is incumbent upon her to tell millions of people who right now do not believe in Establishment politics or Establishment economics, who have serious misgivings about a candidate who has received millions of dollars from Wall Street and other special interests, she has got to go out to you and to millions of other people and say, you know, "I think the United States should join the rest of the industrialized world and take on the private insurance companies and the greed of the drug companies and pass Medicare for all."
Sanders repeated this point on MSNBC’s Morning Joe Tuesday, dismissing the idea that he could “snap his fingers” and get all of his supporters to back Clinton.
That same morning, CNN’s Chris Cuomo asked Sanders if he would commit to supporting Clinton unconditionally, even if his preferred policies on health care and climate change did not make it into the Democratic platform.
“Well, then, we’ll see what happens. We’re going to have a lot of delegates there, fighting the fight,” Sanders said. “The winner, whether it is Secretary Clinton or myself, our job is then to go out to the American people on a platform that makes sense to the working families in this country.”
Assuming Clinton doesn’t spontaneously combust between now and July, she will be the Democratic nominee. But Sanders has maintained a firm grip on the party’s millennial voters, winning the cohort by 30 points in last week’s New York primary. The senator’s overwhelming popularity with one of the Obama coalition’s key demographics has heightened the stakes of when and how he makes his eventual endorsement. In media interviews and opinion polls, a substantial minority of Sanders supporters express deep reservations about casting their ballots for Clinton in November.
Sanders hopes to leverage his influence with these skeptical lefties for all it’s worth — which is to say, for some symbolic platform concessions. But if the Republican Party nominates its pseudo-fascist front-runner, Clinton may feel less pressure to throw Bernie-lovers a bone: In a race where Charles Koch is a swing voter, Clinton might not need the #BernieorBust crowd to carry her into the Oval Office.