In video, Sanders doesn’t drop out, but says he’ll work with Clinton to ‘transform’ party

Sen. Bernie Sanders told his supporters in a video address Thursday night that he would work with Hillary Clinton to “transform” the Democratic Party and to pass the “most progressive platform in its history” at the Democratic convention in July.

Sanders did not concede nor endorse Clinton, as many Democrats have urged him to do now that she is the presumptive presidential nominee. But the senator from Vermont made no mention of trying to win the nomination, and clearly shifted his message to changing the party at the Democratic National Convention in July and defeating Donald Trump.

“I also look forward to working with Secretary Clinton to transform the Democratic Party so that it becomes a party of working people and young people, and not just wealthy campaign contributors: a party that has the courage to take on Wall Street, the pharmaceutical industry, the fossil fuel industry and the other powerful special interests that dominate our political and economic life,” Sanders said.

Sanders and Clinton met for nearly two hours Tuesday night to discuss the end of the Democratic primary. By this point in 2008, Clinton had already thrown her support behind her rival, Barack Obama. But Sanders has vowed to his supporters to fight until the convention and appears to be staying that course.

Sanders wants to win key concessions at the convention before endorsing Clinton and formally suspending his campaign. He did not, however, bring up some of his earlier demands in Thursday’s speech, such as making all Democratic primaries open to independents and replacing Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz as head of the Democratic National Committee. Sanders’ campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, said on MSNBC earlier Thursday that it was a “positive step” that Clinton had installed her own pick to run the day-to-day operations of the DNC, a move that shifts responsibility for the general-election campaign away from Wasserman Schultz and allows the party and the Clinton campaign to begin their coordinated efforts for the fall.

By not conceding, Sanders may be counting on buying some time to continue to negotiate for what he wants. “I think he’s calculating that once he concedes, his influence proceeds to drop precipitously,” said Matthew Dickinson, a political science professor at Middlebury College in Vermont. “That doesn’t mean he thinks he’s going to win the nomination.”

Clinton has been careful not to say Sanders should concede, but many of her surrogates and even some Sanders supporters have said it’s time for him back her and focus the party on defeating Trump. Sanders, however, made clear in his speech that he will begin to focus on Trump, even though he is not formally conceding. “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 said. “And I personally intend to begin my role in that process in a very short period of time.”

In his address, Sanders blamed “current Democratic Party leadership” for statehouse and local losses to Republicans in many states. “Here is a cold, hard fact that must be addressed. Since 2009, some 900 legislative seats have been lost to Republicans in state after state throughout this country,” he said.

He encouraged his supporters to run for local office in their cities and states. “I hope very much that many of you listening tonight are prepared to engage at that level,” he said, directing them to his website to find out more.

Bernie Sanders kisses his wife, Jane, as he prepares to speak for a video to supporters. (Photo: Matt McClain/Pool/The Washington Post via AP)
Bernie Sanders kisses his wife, Jane, as he prepares to speak for a video to supporters. (Photo: Matt McClain/Pool/The Washington Post via AP)