In a live-streamed speech, the Vermont senator made it clear he is no longer actively challenging Clinton and that the goal is to ‘defeat Trump badly’
Bernie Sanders has urged his supporters to look beyond the Democratic presidential nomination in a speech that stopped short of fully endorsing Hillary Clinton but made clear he was no longer actively challenging her candidacy.
In an anticlimatic speech that signalled the effective end of a 14-month campaign odyssey, the Vermont senator insisted his “political revolution continues” despite Clinton’s effective victory in the delegate race.
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But crucially, he implied he would soon be working with her campaign to help defeat Donald Trump.
“The major political task that we face in the next five months is to make certain that Donald Trump is defeated and defeated badly,” Sanders told supporters in a live-stream video. “And I personally intend to begin my role in that process in a very short period of time.”
The Vermont senator also thanked his supporters and volunteers, suggesting other ways they could continue to press for the issues that drew them toward his campaign.
“Election days come and go but political and social revolutions that attempt to transform our society never end,” he said.
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How Bernie Sanders changed America
“Let me conclude by once again thanking everyone who has helped in this campaign in one way or another,” he added. “We have begun the long and arduous process of transforming America, a fight that will continue tomorrow, next week, next year and into the future.”
The somewhat mixed messages of the speech may frustrate some Democrats who had hoped Sanders would swiftly encourage his supporters to back Clinton before the party’s national convention.
But the cryptic language may also reflect ongoing negotiations between the two campaigns over which of several demands made by Sanders at a meeting on Tuesday the Clinton team would be willing to accept.
“I look forward, in the coming weeks, to continued discussions between the two campaigns to make certain that your voices are heard and that the Democratic party passes the most progressive platform in its history and that Democrats actually fight for that agenda,” said Sanders in his speech on Thursday.
Bernie Sanders supporters in Washington DC.
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Bernie Sanders supporters in Washington DC. Photograph: Molly Riley/AFP/Getty Images
Earlier on Thursday, his campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, conceded that he was no longer seeking to change the Democratic superdelegates – something that had previously allowed Sanders to maintain there was still a theoretical path to victory in the nomination race.
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“We would like to get to a place where we could very actively support the nominee,” Weaver told Bloomberg Politics, insisting that “we’ll have a unified party coming out of” the national convention in July.
Officially, the Clinton campaign has appeared patient with the process, issuing a statement after the talks on Tuesday saying they had “agreed to continue working on their shared agenda, including through the platform development process for the upcoming Democratic National Convention”.
“Clinton again congratulated Sanders on the campaign he has run, and said she appreciated his strong commitment to stopping Trump in the general election,” added her statement.
But pressure has been mounting on Sanders among other Democrats in Washington, where he was criticised on Thursday for not taking part in a Senate filibuster on gun control.
Sanders began his campaign last April with little expectation of winning more than a handful of delegates or states, let alone seriously challenging the former secretary of state for the nomination, and primarily viewed the process as a way to raise awareness of progressive issues.
But his surprisingly strong performance in early states like Iowa and New Hampshire and a series of record-breaking rallies had seen the movement evolve into a proud insurgency that some felt could go all the way.
Sanders will almost certainly remain a powerful force on the progressive wing of the party but is now likely to call on his supporters to throw their weight behind Clinton in the face of a historic threat from Trump.