As one of the hosts and warmup acts at Portsmouth High School, in New Hampshire, on Tuesday morning, Senator Jeanne Shaheen seemed a bit unsure what to say, at least initially. “Go, Bernie, and go, Hillary, right?” she asked the crowd. Then she recovered, saying, “I am so thrilled to have Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders come together in New Hampshire so we can defeat Donald Trump.”
The crowd cheered. Some people held up banners that read “Stronger Together.” After Shaheen had finished, there was a rustling backstage and the two principals emerged. They weren’t holding hands or joshing with each other, but they didn’t look uncomfortable. They looked businesslike: Bernie in a dark jacket and tie, Hillary in one of her trademark pantsuits.
When they reached the lectern, Sanders gave Clinton a half hug, acknowledged the event’s hosts, and said, “Let me begin by thanking the thirteen million voters who voted for me during the Democratic primaries, and thank you, New Hampshire, for giving us our first great victory.” For a few minutes, it sounded like he had accidentally brought one of his old campaign speeches. “Together, we have begun a political revolution to transform America, and that revolution continues,” he intoned. “Together, we will continue to fight for a government which represents all of us and not just the one per cent.”
As Clinton applauded gamely, Sanders got down to brass tacks. He noted that his opponent would be going into the Democratic Convention with three hundred and eighty-nine more pledged delegates than him, and “a lot more superdelegates.” Then, for the first time, he publicly acknowledged what has been obvious for weeks: “Secretary Clinton has won the Democratic nominating process,” he said, turning to place a supportive hand on her shoulder, “and I congratulate her for that. She will be Democratic nominee for President, and I intend to do everything I can to make certain she will be the next President of the United States.”
As more cheers rang out, Clinton smiled. No—she beamed, and for good reason. To the chagrin of some of Sanders’s supporters, but to the surprise of no one who has followed the process closely, he wouldn’t be playing the role of general-election spoiler, after all. “I have come here today not to talk about the past but to focus on the future,” he went on. “I have come here to make it as clear as possible as to why I am endorsing Hillary Clinton, and why she must become our next President.”
One of the reasons Sanders laid out was obvious: Clinton isn’t Donald Trump. But rather than confining himself to this utilitarian argument, which many of his supporters will surely invoke when they pull the lever for Clinton on November 8th, Sanders also made a number of positive statements about a candidate who, not so long ago, he deemed unqualified to occupy the Oval Office:
Hillary Clinton understands that we must fix an economy in America that is rigged, and that sends almost all of the new wealth and income to the top one per cent.
Hillary Clinton understands that if someone in America works forty hours a week, that person should not be living in poverty. . . .
Hillary Clinton knows that something is fundamentally wrong when the very rich become richer while many others are working longer hours for lower wages. . . .
Hillary Clinton believes that we must substantially lower student debt, and that we must make public colleges and universities tuition-free for the middle class and working families of this country.
Actually, Clinton didn’t advocate for free tuition until last week, but this wasn’t a day for quibbling over details. Sanders, having delayed this moment since the California primary, on June 7th, and having extracted a number of significant policy concessions from the Clinton campaign (including the free-tuition pledge for students at in-state public universities), was keeping his side of an old-fashioned political deal. And he was doing it with an enthusiasm that was either genuine or impressively faked. At times, Clinton seemed to be so pleased that she didn’t know whether to nod or applaud, so she did both.
Toward the end of his speech, Sanders did briefly acknowledge that he and Clinton still disagree on some issues. But then he pointed to the Democratic Party platform that the two sides have agreed upon, describing it as “the most progressive platform in the history of the Democratic Party.” He continued, “Our job now is to see that platform implemented by a Democratically controlled Senate, a Democratically controlled House, and a Hillary Presidency—and I intend to be in every corner of this country, to make certain that happens.”
“I have known Hillary Clinton for twenty-five years,” Sanders said, in conclusion. “I remember her as a great First Lady, who broke precedent, in terms of the role that a First Lady was supposed to play, and as she helped lead the fight for universal health care. I served with her in the U.S. Senate, and know her as a fierce advocate for the rights of children.” Sanders then delivered his sign-off: “Hillary Clinton will make an outstanding President, and I am proud to stand with her today.”
As more cheers rang out, the two of them hugged properly. Then they adopted the traditional pose for the cameras: shoulder to shoulder, one arm aloft. Eventually, Sanders moved aside, examined his tie, and clasped his hands in front of him to listen as Clinton spoke. “It is such a great privilege to be here with Senator Sanders,” she said. “I can’t help but reflect how much more enjoyable this election is going to be now that we are on the same side. Because, you know what, we are stronger together.”
There was that phrase again. Perhaps nobody had informed Clinton that “Stronger Together” echoes the slogan of the Remain side, which lost the recent Brexit referendum in the U.K. Or perhaps she didn’t care. With Sanders behind her and on message, one of the big challenges facing her campaign had been overcome. Now the task was to make sure that Sanders’s supporters received the message, even if that meant laying it on thick.
The compliments came quickly and abundantly: “Bernie is right: seven dollars and twenty-five cents an hour is a starvation wage.” “As Bernie reminds us so powerfully, we owe it to future generations to work together to combat climate change.” “As Bernie Sanders and his supporters have argued so eloquently, we won’t get anywhere unless we overhaul our campaign-finance system.”
Clinton also addressed Sanders’s supporters directly, saying that her campaign, the Democratic Party, and the country badly needed their voices and their involvement. “Let’s open the doors to everyone who shares our progressive values,” she said. Winding down, she added, “Please join this campaign and make it your own.”
If my social-media feeds are anything to go by, some of Sanders’s die hard followers weren’t overly impressed by this appeal. But Sanders himself seemed fully reconciled to his position. When Clinton said, “We accept twenty-seven-dollar donations, too, you know,” he smiled broadly. And after Clinton finished her speech, he again mugged for the cameras, then shook hands with some of the local dignitaries and people who had been standing on the risers. In the background, Bruce Springsteen could be heard singing, “We take care of our own.”
Contributed by John Cassidy