Bernie Sanders is cutting dead weight and heading West. Less than 24 hours after dropping four of five Northeastern primaries Tuesday night, the Vermont senator told the New York Times that he plans to lay off hundreds of staffers and shift most of his remaining resources into winning California.
“We want to win as many delegates as we can, so we do not need workers now in states around the country,” Sanders told the paper. “We don’t need people right now in Connecticut. That election is over. We don’t need them in Maryland. So what we are going to do is allocate our resources to the 14 contests that remain, and that means that we are going to be cutting back on staff.”
Barring an indictment or medical calamity, Sanders will not be the Democratic Party’s 2016 nominee. And in his concession statement Tuesday night, the Vermont senator indicated an awareness of this fact.
“The people in every state in this country should have the right to determine who they want as president and what the agenda of the Democratic Party should be,” Sanders declared. But he proceeded to give much greater weight to the latter question:
That is why this campaign is going to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia with as many delegates as possible to fight for a progressive party platform that calls for a $15 an hour minimum wage, an end to our disastrous trade policies, a Medicare-for-all health care system, breaking up Wall Street financial institutions, ending fracking in our country, making public colleges and universities tuition-free and passing a carbon tax so we can effectively address the planetary crisis of climate change.
In other words, the Sanders campaign has returned to its original impetus: to push the Democratic Party left on issues of economics, the environment, and social welfare, even as the party anoints Hillary Clinton as its standard-bearer. Sanders indicated an awareness of this new purpose in his interview with the Times. His new strategy is not designed to engineer the world historical comeback it would take to dethrone Clinton, but rather to maximize the democratic socialist’s clout at the convention.
“California will have the most staff,” Sanders told the Times. “Symbolically and in terms of delegates, if we can win the largest state in this country, that will send a real message to the American people and to the delegates that this is a campaign that is moving in the direction it should.”
Winning California won’t make Sanders president. But it would earn him a fresh round of triumphant headlines on the very last day of the Democratic primary, while giving him a hefty new batch of single-payer-loving delegates. For Democrats who sympathize with Sanders’s policy vision but fear a prolonged campaign will damage the Party’s inevitable nominee, these are encouraging signs.