- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 9, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Vermont Sen. Bernard Sanders is holding all the cards in the Democratic Party.

Even though Hillary Clinton claimed the title of Democratic presidential presumptive nominee this week, the press narrative has been when, and if, Mr. Sanders will capitulate.

“It’s time for him and his followers to stop sniping and start uniting,” wrote New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof on Thursday. “Sanders has said he will ultimately support the Democratic ticket, and I’m sure he intends to. But for now he’s still dividing more than coalescing.”

But why should he give up?

Mr. Sanders is not a Democrat, he’s a self-described socialist. His Senate and press materials label him as an “independent,” and in his home-state he has no registration. He lobbied to get into the Democratic caucus in his first year in Congress so he could get committee assignments and votes for bills, but he was denied entry because he refused to become a Democrat. Therefore, he founded the Progressive Congressional Caucus.

He’s called the Democratic Party “ideologically bankrupt” and in an op-ed in the New York Times I 1989 called the two-party system “tweedle-dee” and “tweedle-dum.” Although he mostly votes with the Democrats in the Senate, he doesn’t have many friends there, or has built much loyalty with its members.

“Bernie is a Democrat ‘some days,’” California Sen. Barbara Boxer, who supports Hillary Clinton, tweeted on Feb. 3.

So why should Mr. Sanders care what Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid has to say when he meets with himThursday afternoon? Mr. Reid has no leverage – he hasn’t been running a national presidential campaign where he’s raised hundreds of millions of dollars from small-dollar donations and scored millions of votes. Where he started on the national scene with little to know name recognition, to be doubted and questioned by pundits, only to take the nomination to June.

Mr. Reid hasn’t contributed much, if anything, to Mr. Sanders‘ political revolution and Mr. Sanders has shown he doesn’t care much for the Democratic Party in Congress. So Mr. Sanders is going to be the one demanding thingson Thursday – not the other way around. If he’s not satisfied, he can walk away.

And the Party will come back to him – because they need him to win.

Mr. Sanders pummels Mrs. Clinton with the youth vote, receiving more votes from young people than Mr. Obama did in 2008. He also scores big with independents and white, working class men – two demographics Mrs. Clinton must win in order to secure her path to the White House. Then there’s the honesty and trustworthiness issue. About four in 10 Democratic voters simply don’t trust Mrs. Clinton, and of those who make this their No.1 issue, Mr. Sanders beats Mrs. Clinton by more than 90 percent.

She needs his authenticity – his support to make her more likable.

He knows this. That’s why he didn’t get out of race after he met with President Barack Obama – a meeting he requested.

In a press conference after the meeting, Mr. Sanders‘ highlighted his stump speech, pledging to stay in the race until after the District of Columbia votes next week.

He declined to answer reporters’ shouted questions about whether he would leave the race, saying he would work on issues pivotal to his campaign, like increasing social security benefits, college affordability and restoring the nation’s failing infrastructure.

“These are the issues that we will take to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia in July,” Mr. Sanders said.

Mr. Sanders‘ already got to choose one-third of the people on the Democratic National Committee’s platform drafting committee. Who knows what else he’s gaming for. A speaking spot at the convention? Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s resignation as DNC chairwoman? The abolishment of super delegates? A vice presidential nomination? A seat in Mrs. Clinton’s cabinet?

Whatever it is – Mr. Sanders‘ shouldn’t settle until he gets it.

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