Sanders backs Clinton, but not everybody’s convinced

As always in politics, it’s what isn’t said that’s the real story.

Sen. Bernie Sanders ended his campaign for the presidency on Tuesday, formally endorsing Hillary Clinton in a New Hampshire speech that purported to extol their agreements, but ended up revealing once again their differences.

When it came time for him to mention the minimum wage, he said he and Clinton agree it should be a “living wage,” without noting the $15-per-hour figure he’s used in his stump speech for months. (Clinton favors a $12-per-hour wage, while encouraging local communities to go higher.)

He mentioned an infrastructure program, but not its cost; Sanders favors a $1 trillion program, while Clinton favors a much smaller effort.

He said he and Clinton want to move the United States toward universal health care, but didn’t note that he favors a single-payer system. Clinton favors a public option in the existing Affordable Care Act and dropping the Medicare eligibility age to 55.

He praised Clinton for embracing free college tuition, but had to add it would be free only for “middle class and working families,” since Clinton opposes a free ride for rich kids. Sanders’ plan originally would have made public college and university tuition free for everybody.

But Sanders had already uttered the money line, the words Clinton has waited months to hear and the ones Sanders supporters hoped he’d never say: “I am endorsing Hillary Clinton.”

It’s not entirely unfair for his supporters to ask “why?” especially given that those differences still exist. For that, Sanders and Clinton warned of the depredations of a Donald Trump presidency, including the potential elimination of the minimum wage, the return of trickle-down economics and the abolishing of the Affordable Care Act. Trump himself Tweeted that Sanders’ endorsement of Clinton was the equivalent of Occupy Wall Street endorsing Goldman Sachs.

Not quite; despite their differences, Sanders and Clinton are philosophically closer than Trump and Sanders. A Tweet inviting Sanders supporters to jump aboard the Trump train because the Republican, too, opposed bad trade deals was ham-handed, at best.

But still, on Team Sanders, the timing of the endorsement came as a blow. “This is kind of catching us all off guard,” said Angie Morelli, a high-profile Sanders supporter in Las Vegas. “This is kind of a big shock for many people who worked for him for so long.”

Morelli said she wasn’t satisfied that the party’s non-binding platform reflected more liberal ideas, or Sanders’ clear attempt to show how Clinton was better than Trump. For her, and doubtless many others, it’s about the ideas that animated Sanders’ bid, not the man himself.

Throughout the campaign, Morelli said, she knew there may come a day when Sanders volunteers would have to stop representing his campaign, and switch to representing the movement that it championed. “That day may just have come,” she said.

Meanwhile, progressive state Sen. Tick Segerblom, an early backer of Sanders, was nonplussed at Tuesday’s endorsement, but comforts himself with the knowledge that Clinton is far more progressive than the alternative. “Hillary Clinton’s going to be the third term of Barack Obama, and I think Barack Obama is the best president in history,” Segerblom said.

Segerblom said he’ll be doing his part to bridge the gap between Sanders and Clinton forces by hosting a unity barbecue on Sunday with fellow progressive Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani. He added that the pragmatic Clinton-because-not-Trump way of thinking will sway a lot of people after the convention, and even more as the campaign stretches toward November.

“The contrast is just too great,” he said. “Trump is just too evil.”

Steve Sebelius is a Review-Journal political columnist and co-host of “PoliticsNOW,” airing at 5:30 p.m. Sundays on 8NewsNow. Follow him on Twitter (@SteveSebelius) or reach him at 702-387-5276 or SSebelius@reviewjournal.com.

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