Bernie Sanders Finally Accepts Reality, Admits He Won’t Be The Nominee

Bernie Sanders admitted, finally, that he likely won't be the nominee.

Bernie Sanders Speaking

He has yet to concede the race officially, endorse Hillary Clinton, or suspend his campaign, but Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders finally seems to be admitting reality:

Senator Bernie Sanders came one step closer to accepting defeat on Wednesday, telling C-SPAN in an hourlong interview that he most likely would not be the Democratic presidential nominee.

For weeks, Mr. Sanders has insisted that he is still running against Hillary Clinton, though she clinched the number of delegates needed to secure the nomination on June 6. But when C-SPAN’s Steve Scully asked Mr. Sanders about speaking at the Democratic National Convention next month, the senator acknowledged that he was unlikely to best Mrs. Clinton, who has already been endorsed by a number of Democratic leaders, including President Obama.

“It doesn’t appear that I’m going to be the nominee, so I’m not going to be determining the scope of the convention,” Mr. Sanders said, adding that he has reached no agreement to endorse Mrs. Clinton but has been negotiating with her campaign. “What our job is now is to have her listen to what millions of people in this country who supported me want to see happen. We’ll see how that evolves.”

Mr. Sanders did not acknowledge that Mrs. Clinton was going to leave the convention as the nominee, or that she would become the first woman presidential nominee of a major party. He did say she was “very, very intelligent” and has faced challenges, but he focused mainly on their policy differences.

“She has clearly had to fight her way through a lot of sexism and unfair attacks over the years,” he said. “But there are areas where we have strong disagreements. She is more or less an establishment Democrat. It’s kind of hard to deny that. And I think we’ve got to move beyond that.”

The senator also said he was not being vetted to become Mrs. Clinton’s running mate. He did weigh in on who that person might be, without naming anyone specific. “I think she should select, clearly, the most progressive candidate that she can find,” he said. “It would be a terrible mistake for her to go to a candidate who has roots from Wall Street or has been backed by Wall Street.”

Mr. Sanders also said his campaign had been in regular contact with Mrs. Clinton’s campaign and planned to push for “the most progressive platform in the history of the Democratic Party,” including planks on campaign finance, health care, higher education and the minimum wage.

The senator also said he expected to address the crowd gathered in Philadelphia next month. “I’ve given a few speeches in my life,” he said. “It would be nice to speak at the Democratic National Convention. If they, for whatever reason, don’t want me to speak, you know, so what? But by the way, I expect that I will speak.”

Of course, Sanders is smart enough to realize that if he wants to have influence over the party platform, much less address the convention in prime time, which is presumably what he’s talking about, then there’s a price of admission that he’ll have to pay. That price, of course, is the formal end of his campaign and an endorsement of the party nominee. No official from either party is going to let someone who refuses to endorse the party nominee get the national attention that a speaking slot at the convention conveys, and they’re not going to give a slot to someone who still has an active campaign for President going. That’s why Rand Paul spoke at the 2012 Republican National Convention, and will likely speak in Cleveland as well, and his father did not. Unlike his son, former Congressman Ron Paul refused to endorse Mitt Romney.

In Sanders case, I really don’t doubt that he will eventually endorse Clinton and join her on the campaign trial, especially when it comes to the attack on Donald Trump. What’s puzzling, to be honest about it, is what’s taking him so long to get around to facing reality. It’s generally the case in these situations, for example, that the longer one waits the less influence they end up having over whatever it is they want to influence. This is especially true with regard to things such as the party platform, which isn’t exactly drawn up at the last minute. Sanders does have people at the table where the platform is being debated at the moment, of course, but one has to imagine that their influence is limited to the extent of the influence of their sponsor, and that is arguably diminishing day by day. In any case, this latest statement at least appears to be a sign that Sanders recognizes all of thi. The fact that his actions, or lack thereof, say one thing, while his words say another, though, is rather puzzling.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Grumpy Realist says:

    Still hoping for the asteroid, I see.

  2. Facebones says:

    He has to take baby steps. For the last two months, he stopped talking about policy and instead screamed about how everything was RIGGED against him and how super delegates should ignore what the voters wanted and support him instead. This riled up his base to the point where if he just accepted reality and endorsed Hillary, they would probably think he had been forced to do so at gunpoint.

    So, step one is say he will do whatever it takes to prevent Trump from being president. (Last week)

    Step two, admit he won’t be the nominee. (Yesterday)

    Step three, before the convention accept that Hillary will be the nominee and tepidly kinda sorta endorse her in exchange for a speaking spot at the convention.

    Step four, on the first day of the convention, he will give a speech that will list all the issues he pushed Hillary to the left on, commend his base of young voters, and endorse Hillary and encourage his supporters to vote for Hillary and defeat Trump.

    If he hadn’t encouraged his more wild-eyed true believers to go all in on the conspiracy train, this would be a much easier process.

  3. HarvardLaw92 says:

    Prozac sales will be spiking here shortly …

  4. Kylopod says:

    Jerry Brown spoke at the 1992 convention despite not endorsing Bill Clinton.

  5. Todd says:

    I still stand by my original worry that nominating Clinton could be a risk precisely because a substantial number of Sanders supporters should probably be believed when they say they are never voting for her.

    That being said …

    I’m almost embarrassed to have ever been associated with some of these conspiracy believing, petulant, childish morons who say ridiculous things like “four years of Trump wouldn’t be so bad, and it would teach the DNC a lesson”.

    Oddly enough, in a group of freethinkers (atheists and agnostics) that I belong to on FB, due to my rational based pleas to stop attacking Clinton, I am now viewed by many of my Bernie supporting friends with the same level of contempt as I sometimes felt here in this comments section over the past 6-7 months when I was arguing against Clinton.

    Democrats should be thanking their lucky stars that the Republican party just happens to be even more screwed up and divided than they are … otherwise they’d be in real trouble.

  6. Kylopod says:

    @Todd: What’s amazing to me is that I remember the 2000 election when the Naderites kept saying how there was no difference between Bush and Gore. The argument was delusional, but at least it had a certain marginal plausibility. Both candidates were playing to the center, and whatever Bush’s faults (which were immense), he did not come off as a racist crypto-fascist.

    Now, whatever one thinks of Hillary Clinton, it has never been clearer the vast differences between her and Donald Trump, and the idea that he would be the preferable of the two from a progressive standpoint is utterly insane; it doesn’t even have the faintest whiff of plausibility. Yet that’s exactly what the hardcore Sandernistas are saying. They’ve managed to out-Nader Nader.

  7. Todd says:

    @Kylopod: I absolutely agree, some of the most hard core “Bernie or Bust” folks are just straight up nuts.

    Where I suspect I still have some disagreement with a few people here though, is who’s “fault” it will be if by some (very unlikely) chance Clinton loses in the fall. I won’t blame the hard core Bernie people … they have consistently said that they would Never vote for Clinton. The majority of Democrats just chose not to believe them … or think it won’t matter. They will probably (hopefully) be correct on the last point. Trump (fear of) will bring enough people around in the end.

  8. Gustopher says:

    @Kylopod: There’s no difference between Clinton and Trump — they’re both mostly made up of water. Sanders too!

    It’s time we had some kind of plastic president.

  9. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Todd: The only circumstances where I can see a clear Hillary loss are related to security issues. There may be others, but I don’t follow politics thoroughly enough to guess what they might be. If security becomes the driving force in the election, my take is that Trump will win, but I have never believed, do not now, will not tomorrow, that a loss by Hillary will come from disenfranchised Sanders supporters. I don’t think there are enough of them, Trump is no W, and there is no credible third party candidate to siphon off progressive voters in sufficient numbers–Jill Stein is also no Ralph Nader, who captured the largest 3rd party vote in my lifetime after Ross Perot (maybe only the second largest, I forgot John Anderson, but am too lazy to look that up).

    I cannot speak for anyone else, but I will never blame you or Berniebots if Hillary loses.

  10. Kylopod says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’rant cracker: I don’t know how old you are, but Anderson in 1980 got 6% of the vote–more than three times what Nader got in 2000.

    The spoiler effect of third-party candidates is real but overrated. There are many cases where it’s happened in Congressional and gubernatorial races. In presidential elections, however, it’s a lot less common than most people think. One of the big myths of modern politics is that Perot handed Clinton the presidency in 1992. It isn’t true–all the available evidence indicates that Perot drew about equally from Clinton and Bush, and that Clinton would have defeated Bush easily in a two-person race.

    There’s some evidence Anderson drew more from Carter than from Reagan in 1980–though it was close. But it hardly mattered, because Reagan’s lead over Carter was much wider than all of Anderson’s support combined.

    Earlier elections with third-party candidates of note are harder to gauge, because we don’t have enough data. It’s not clear what effect George Wallace had in 1968, if any. He was the candidate of the Dixiecrats who were politically in flux, and he won four of the five Goldwater states in the South (plus Arkansas), which had traditionally been Democratic states and which would return to the Democrats eight years later before becoming solidly Republican in the following decades.

    Most historians believe Teddy Roosevelt cost Taft the presidency in 1912 by splitting the GOP vote. But it was a weird election, with the so-called “third-party candidate” getting the second-most votes while the incumbent president barely got anything.

    That brings us to Nader. The 97,000 votes he received in Florida was quite a bit more than the 537 votes separating Bush from Gore in the final (aborted) count, and there’s no question he drew more votes from Gore than from Bush. It’s a fairly safe bet that if he hadn’t been on the ballot in Florida, Gore would have clearly won the state, and the public would have been spared not only eight years of Bush but all memories of the phrase “pregnant chad.”

    So there you have it–the one unambiguous example of a third-party presidential candidate with a spoiler effect just happened to be in literally the closest presidential election in US history.