Sec. Hillary Clinton has been named the presumptive Democratic nominee, but Sen. Bernie Sanders has renewed his promise to stay in the race through the Democratic National Convention. While some Sanders supporters still hold onto the hope that he can somehow, some way win the nomination, Sanders' own rhetoric has shifted to focus on influencing the Democratic Party platform. This shift, along with his promise following the disappointing June 7 primaries to work with Clinton to defeat Donald Trump in November, signal what may be a cataclysmic event on the political horizon: Sanders will likely endorse Clinton, whether after Tuesday's final primary or after the convention. And I'm concerned this will break some of his supporters' spirits.
My fears are well-grounded in light of the intense backlash against Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who endorsed Clinton after she was named the presumptive Democratic nominee. At first, this backlash was surprising to me mostly because Warren's endorsement wasn't surprising to me — she hadn't endorsed anyone throughout the primaries for a reason, and she's been launching a prolonged verbal assault on Trump for the past month, indicating that her focus is on beating Trump rather than on who does so.
But my surprise turned into fear as I asked myself: What will happen when Sanders does the same thing as Warren, and for the same reason? Sanders has said repeatedly since the beginning of his campaign that he would back the eventual nominee if it wasn't him in an effort to keep a Republican out of the White House. But this seems to be a blind spot for some of his supporters, and I'm worried about what they will choose to do, or not do, if they are taken aback by his endorsement as they were by Warren's.
The sense of shock, betrayal, and heartbreak will likely be more intense when the endorsement comes from Sanders, who is not just any progressive pillar, but the one who kickstarted the "political revolution" that mobilized so many people who have never seen themselves as part of the political process before.
I understand why many people will be disappointed in the likely event that Sanders endorses the candidate and the party against which he has railed for the past year. For some of us feeling an all-too-rare affinity with a political
candidate, having that candidate make a decision that we can't or won't
make ourselves may cut deep.
But I want to ask my fellow Sanders supporters not to allow any sense of betrayal they feel to break their political will. Bernie Sanders is a lot of things — he's a man, politician, voter, presidential candidate, and the person who reinvigorated and broadened a progressive movement. But he is not that movement. And no matter who he backs or how he votes in November, the passion and the positions and the mobilization are no less real or genuine. Their value is not destroyed even if Sanders' decision to back Clinton destroys his progressive cred in the eyes of some of his supporters.
Even if Warren and Sanders aren't quite progressive enough for some of us, they have contributed monumentally to progressive politics. What they do now doesn't have to undo what they've already done. It's up to us to keep mobilized, to turn out for mid-term elections, to get involved in local and state politics to work for social and economic and climate and foreign policy justice, and to work for an elections process that better represents us all.
Let's not let one man's endorsement decision — even if he's been our most influential man up to this point — stop the ball he set rolling. It's our responsibility, as it always has been, to work for a world we want to see, and Sanders' likely endorsement of Clinton won't change that for a second.