Why Bernie Sanders Will Be a Significant Force at the Democratic Convention

The Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia in July seems set to continue the fierce nomination battle—and launch a major debate about what the party stands for.


Senator Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont, won the Oregon primary handily on Tuesday and was barely edged out in Kentucky. Last week, he took West Virginia by almost 16 percentage points. Yet, supporters of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are already calling for him to stand down.

The Clinton team is intent on putting on a tightly scripted convention show that displays unity behind Clinton and focuses the attack on presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump. But an early exit by Sanders remains unlikely. He has defined his campaign as building a movement to transform the Democratic Party and change the direction of the nation. He has stated repeatedly that he will carry that argument into the convention.

With many polls showing him beating Trump by greater margins than Clinton, Sanders can assert that pressing her to embrace more of his ideas will strengthen rather than weaken the former secretary of state in the general election.

From the start of his campaign, Sanders has argued that the issues on his agenda go to the heart of what Democrats stand for. He wants the Democratic Party platform to include: support for a federal minimum wage of $15 an hour; the right to form unions; changes in national trade policies, including opposition to the Trans-Pacific Trade Agreement; Medicare for all; break-up of the big banks; tuition-free public college, and robust policies to combat climate change that include a ban on fracking and a carbon tax.

Sanders has also championed more progressive taxation to pay for public investment in infrastructure, an end to mass incarceration, comprehensive voting reforms and curbs on big money in politics.

On party rules, Sanders is ready to question the role and number of super delegates, those on campaign debates and their consistency in open and closed primaries.

The question is how Clinton and her campaign will respond. One option is that she can demonstrate confidence in her leadership by celebrating the energy of Sanders’ youthful supporters and supporting some of his signature reforms. This would show, as she has said repeatedly, that there is “much more that unites us than divides us.”

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