Hillary Clinton has all but locked up the Democratic Nomination. According to the Associated Press, the former Secretary of State has the votes, and now she has a powerful ally on the campaign trail. President Obama begins campaigning for Clinton this week in Wisconsin. But will it be enough to woo defiant Sanders supporters?
Sanders Show No Signs of Backing Down
Democratic leadership seems to think – or perhaps hope – so, but up to now, that hasn’t been the message from the Sanders camp. The candidate has vowed to fight on until the convention, and he seems to have enough support from his base to keep that fight going, futile or not.
This inconvenient truth marred what was supposed to be a celebration of unity for the Democratic party. Obama’s enthusiastic support for Clinton, announced in a pretaped video broadcast last Thursday, would have sparked a massive celebration for the Clinton organization. They did celebrate, but the revelry was more subdued than it may have been otherwise.
There was no doubt Obama’s endorsement was meant to telegraph a concession speech from Sanders, but that didn’t happen. The Independent firebrand revisited a stump speech he has made time and again: he will “fight on” for what he believes, and his supporters love him for it.
Polarized Opinions Among Democrats
Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, there was more than grudging acknowledgment of the race Sanders has run. Top Democrats, including VP Joe Biden, went so far as to actively publicly praise Sanders. An olive branch or an indication of just how split the party is? That’s a question many party leaders are desperate to answer as the national election begins in earnest. They want to assume Trump v. Clinton will be a traditional party line and ideals contest, but the groundswell of support from those outside the party base and others crossing both political lines to vote for perceived outsiders has added a chaotic factor to this campaign.
Democrats would be wise not to summarily dismiss these divisions. Sanders has run an effective grassroots campaign, perhaps one of the best in the nation’s history. He has leveraged social media better than even President Obama did, and built a coalition of disaffected, many of whom can’t stomach the idea of either a President Trump or a President Clinton. It won’t be enough for DEM leaders to simply assume Sanders voters will move over to Clinton at crunch time. They need to begin winning hearts and minds now. As with the Republicans, this rift won’t heal itself.
Elie Hirschfeld is a real estate developer from NYC.