Sanders' influence on the Democratic Party will continue to be felt even after he endorsed Clinton

The Takeaway
Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders stand together during a campaign rally where Sanders endorsed Clinton in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Brian Snyder/Reuters

The Democratic Primary finally ended this week, 28 days after the last vote in the contest was cast.

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are now on a path toward unity after the senator from Vermont formally endorsed the former secretary of state at a rally in New Hampshire — a state where Sanders beat Clinton by 22 points. It was the first time the two appeared together during for an event this election cycle, and Sanders used the meeting to make one thing clear: He's with her.

"Our job now is to see that platform implemented by a Democratic Senate, a Democratic House and a Hillary Clinton president — and I am going to do everything I can to make that happen," he said at the rally.

Though he didn’t secure enough votes to win the nomination, Sanders won many victories on Democratic Party platform positions, such as calling for a higher minimum wage, opposition to the death penalty, and Wall Street reform. Additionally, in recent days, Clinton has unveiled a broader policy agenda on higher education and healthcare that blend together the proposals put forth by both candidates.

Nomiki Konst, the host of "The Filter" on SiriusXM Progress, a member of the Democratic Platform Committee and a Bernie Sanders surrogate, says the senator’s efforts have started “a hardy debate over the soul of the Democratic Party,” particularly as it relates to the party’s official platform.

“We saw that even some Hillary supporters started to break away from their leader” during the platform drafting, Knost says. “But the biggest issue that I think is not being reported on is campaign finance reform. While in the platform there is a call to end Super PACs, multiple amendments were just voted down unanimously on Hillary Clinton’s side.”

Though Knost believes Sanders’ endorsement is a “good step towards unifying the party,” she says some tension still exists between the two campaigns.

“I don’t know if all of the Bernie Sanders supporters, especially the more active and vocal ones, will be on board just yet,” she says. “I think that’s up to Hillary, I don’t think it’s up to Bernie. Symbolism hasn’t worked so far — Elizabeth Warren didn’t bring in Bernie Sanders supporters, and Katy Perry didn’t bring in millennial women. It’s up to Hillary to go out there and listen and put her ear to the ground on the Progressive Party.”

Part of Sanders’ popularity — and his legacy in shaping the Democratic Platform — is derived from the 2008 recession, Knost says.

“I think the recession was really the point when the Democratic Party went back to the party of FDR,” she says. “At the platform meetings, over and over and over again, that is where I heard where the divide was — among the Wall Street Democrats and the more fiscally progressive, FDR populist Democrats.”

The Sanders camp was unable to get clear opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership into the Democratic Party platform. Knost says this is a major failing.

“I think it's the biggest mistake that we made at the platform meeting,” she says. “There was a major discussion [about opposing TPP].”

“The major argument on the Sanders side was that Donald Trump and the RNC are taking TPP out of their platform because they want to win Rust Belt states,” Knost says. “To go against TPP as a party, with that you not only have an edge over Donald Trump in getting those Rust Belt, blue collar white voters, but you also are able to engage the Sanders supporters that you so desperately need.”

Knost says Sanders and his “surrogates” will still be active throughout the remainder of the 2016 election, but she reiterated that it’s up to Hillary Clinton to make a difference now.

“I really do hope that Secretary Clinton has her ear on the ground and is listening to these movements because it’s not about symbolism and it’s not about politics right now,” she says. “I don’t really think that Bernie Sanders supporters really care if they show up at a rally [together], I think they just want their issues addressed.”

This story first aired as an interview on PRI's The Takeaway, a public radio program that invites you to be part of the American conversation.