Behind the scenes, Sen. Bernie Sanders is delivering a different personal message to Democrats than some of his campaign’s public statements. Sanders is personally calling Democrats to reassure them that he will unite with the party and work to defeat Donald Trump.
Bloomberg reported on a call between Sen. Sanders and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL):
Durbin, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, came away from the conversation on Wednesday convinced that Sanders, who has all but lost the presidential nomination battle to Hillary Clinton, understands the need for party unity and will do his part to defeat presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump.
“We talked about the demonstrations and such,” Durbin said Thursday in an interview. “I am convinced, as Bernie has said repeatedly, he is going to be on the team to defeat Donald Trump. I don’t have any question in my mind.”
Sanders also called Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) after the chaos at the Nevada Democratic convention. Here is how Boxer characterized their conversation, “He did phone me back last night and he was very distressed about it. It was a very warm conversation, and I told him, he expressed shock that his people would do it. I did tell him the vast majority of those Bernie supporters were sitting in their chairs, they were fine, But there was this group of 50-100 people, they were not young people, they were older people and he ought to check out and see, who these people are, and he said he would. In my mind when he says he does not support any type of violence, I believe him. And he’s got to make sure it doesn’t happen. People will follow his lead.”
Privately, the Sanders campaign has been sending signals for weeks that they understand that they can’t win the race for the Democratic nomination. When Sen. Sanders discusses building a movement, he is serious. The heart of the Sanders campaign has always been a burning desire to build a grassroots movement to give a voice to the voiceless, and power back to the people.
The scope of the success of the Sanders campaign was a surprise, but it also created a dilemma. Sen. Sanders needs to keep his supporters engaged through the primary process. There is a legitimate fear that many of the people who voted for Bernie Sanders won’t stick around and be as active in a movement if he admits that he is not going to be the nominee. Sen. Sanders would also lose leverage in influencing the Democratic Party’s platform if he stopped working to accumulate delegates.
Bernie Sanders is not going to tear the Democratic Party apart. Sen. Sanders will endorse Hillary Clinton, and fight to defeat Donald Trump. What Sen. Boxer pointed out was important. Much of the disruption that is being caused is coming from older progressives who are the same crowd on the left that has been opposed to the Clintons since the 1990s. They are nothing new, and may not represent the position of Sen. Sanders or his campaign.
Sen. Sanders is going to be a team player, so Democrats need to stop worrying and let the final weeks of the primary do their thing. Bernie Sanders knows the score, and he isn’t going to burn down the Democratic Party to the ground.