More than a month after she secured the Democratic nomination for president, Hillary Clinton finally got a much-needed, long-sought endorsement Tuesday from her onetime rival Bernie Sanders.
The endorsement came after Clinton and her allies shifted their positions to accommodate Sanders, most recently announcing support for tuition-free enrollment in public in-state colleges, a $15-an-hour federal minimum wage and expansion of the Affordable Care Act.
“This campaign is about the needs of the American people and addressing the very serious crises that we face,” Sanders said at a rally in New Hampshire. “And there is no doubt in my mind that, as we head into November, Hillary Clinton is far and away the best candidate to do that.”
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Sanders and Clinton appeared together – hugging and waving – on a Portsmouth stage adorned with a sign that said “Stronger together” in front of a crowd that was waving both Clinton and Sanders signs.
“We are joining forces to defeat Donald Trump, win in November and, yes, together build a future we can all believe in,” Clinton said.
Her supporters expect the independent senator from Vermont to help push new, younger and more liberal voters to Clinton in a general election against Republican Donald Trump.
The 74-year-old self-described democratic socialist surprised most people, including himself, by tapping into anger brewing in the country to galvanize a new crop of voters as a champion of the underpaid, overworked American. In a year when Clinton was expected to walk away easily with the nomination, Sanders received 12 million votes and won contests in 22 states.
“Sen. Bernie Sanders’ candidacy invigorated our primary and engaged millions of young people to participate in this campaign,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
Trump, who has been trying to woo Sanders supporters to his own campaign, criticized the senator’s decision on Twitter and in a flurry of statements.
“Bernie’s endorsement becomes exhibit A in our rigged system: the Democrat party is disenfranchising its voters to benefit the select and privileged few,” said Stephen Miller, Trump’s senior policy adviser.
Sanders had vowed to push for the most liberal agenda, including reining in Wall Street, lowering college costs and raising the minimum wage. Clinton repeatedly moved to the left in her long campaign against him, reversing her positions to oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal and the Keystone XL pipeline.
“With the Democratic Party on track to ratify the most progressive platform in recent history, and Clinton continuing to campaign on progressive ideas, Sanders supporters can feel good that they helped to transform the future of the Democratic Party and America,” said Kait Sweeney, a spokeswoman for the Progressive Change Campaign Committee.
During the battle for the Democratic nomination and especially since the conclusion of primary voting, Hillary Clinton has demonstrated a real willingness to listen and respond favorably to the big, bold, populist progressive ideas that inspired the political revolution.
Charles Chamberlain, executive director of Democracy for America, a liberal group that backed Sanders
Sanders allies lost their fight to add opposition of the Trans-Pacific Partnership to the Democratic Party platform, in part because President Barack Obama supports the agreement. Instead, the platform committee approved language that is critical of “trade agreements that do not support good American jobs” but not specifically the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Ross Baker, a political science professor at Rutgers University, said Sanders’ endorsement delay came in part because he was trying to gain as much as he could in the way of policies.
“Clearly, he wanted to get as much as he could in the platform,” Baker said. “A certain amount of deference was paid to him.”
The elusive endorsement came just two weeks before Clinton is expected to be nominated at the Democratic convention in Philadelphia as the first woman chosen to lead a major party into the general election contest for the White House.
Democrats will nominate Clinton to be their nominee at their national convention July 25-28 in Philadelphia
Since clinching the nomination last month, Clinton has earned the endorsements of many party leaders including Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, a favorite of the liberal wing of the Democratic Party.
But Sanders had refused to end his campaign, holding occasional rallies and pushing for a more liberal agenda, even as many Democrats wanted to launch a general election campaign against Trump. Polls found that the sooner Sanders embraced Clinton, the more quickly her tight lead over the presumptive GOP nominee would jump.
The endorsement came after Sanders and Clinton, who served together in the Senate, met privately and their campaign managers held regular meetings over the last weeks.
While Sanders may have pushed the Democrat party even further to the extreme left, his supporters must rightly be wondering if their candidate has all of a sudden sold out to the same rigged system he so strongly campaigned against.
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus
Tuesday’s event ended Democratic fears that Sanders might sit out the general election or run as a third-party candidate. Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein had recently offered to step aide if Sanders would take her place.