Jeff Merkley has joined the socialist insurgency. The Oregon senator endorsed Bernie Sanders for president in a New York Times op-ed Wednesday morning, becoming the first member of the upper chamber to pledge allegiance to the political revolution.
“It is time to recommit ourselves to that vision of a country that measures our nation’s success not at the boardroom table, but at kitchen tables across America,” Merkley writes. “Bernie Sanders stands for that America, and so I stand with Bernie Sanders for president.”
Merkley frames his endorsement around the need for sweeping reforms to combat the threat that economic inequality poses to the living standards of the middle class and the legitimacy of our democracy. While conceding that Hillary Clinton has a “remarkable record” and would make a “strong and capable president,” Merkley argues that Sanders’s crusades against unfair trade deals, corrupt campaign finance, and America’s reliance on fossil fuels make him the superior candidate.
On one level, the timing of Merkley’s endorsement makes sense: We are a little over a month away from Oregon’s May 17 primary. But it’s also a rather late hour for a sitting senator to feel the Bern. Before today, every Senate Democrat had either declared themselves ready for Hillary or maintained neutrality. And at this point, Sanders has no real chance of winning the nomination, barring an unprecedented surge of support (or an indictment). Merkley tips his hat to this reality in the op-ed, writing, “It has been noted that Bernie has an uphill battle ahead of him to win the Democratic nomination. But his leadership on these issues and his willingness to fearlessly stand up to the powers that be have galvanized a grass-roots movement.”
Merkley would rather be in the good graces of that movement than in those of his party’s likely standard-bearer. Even if Clinton is crowned in Philadelphia this summer, the “Sanders Democrats” will remain.