Rarely has a vanquished opponent offered such full-throated support for a rival as Bernie Sanders did for Hillary Clinton on Monday night. At a convention whose first hours were marked by incipient rebellion among die-hard Sanders delegates, the democratic socialist from Vermont did far more than merely utter an endorsement; he delivered a long and passionate speech that was designed expressly to move his supporters to Clinton’s side.
He began by listing the premises of his campaign: the “immorality” of income inequality, the inadequacy of traditional liberal programs, the corruption of politics fueled by corporate money.
Then, in a striking turn, he said Clinton – whom he had excoriated for months as an exemplar of those problems – now qualifies as the solution.
“Hillary Clinton must become the next president of the United States,” he said. “The choice is not even close.”
Notably, he didn’t cast the choice as the lesser of two evils. He praised Clinton at length on issues from raising the minimum wage and expanding Social Security to health, education and the Supreme Court.
And he said, accurately, that Clinton had moved in his direction over the course of the campaign – including in the last few weeks when she allowed convention delegates to adopt a platform that includes such Sanders policies as breaking up the biggest financial institutions and opposition to President Obama’s trade deal with Asia, the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
“I am proud to stand with her tonight,” he concluded. No caveat, no hint of reservation there.
It sounded like the preview of speeches Sanders could deliver on Clinton’s behalf in the months to come – a factor that could help her win the votes of die-hard Sanderistas, and of the less-than-enthusiastic young voters she needs as well.