Bernie Sanders Endorses Joe Biden, Setting Aside Rancor of Primary 

(Bloomberg) -- Bernie Sanders endorsed Joe Biden on Monday in an effort to persuade his loyal supporters to support the presumptive Democratic nominee, saying that Americans of all political affiliations should back the former vice president to defeat President Donald Trump.

“Today I’m asking all Americans, I’m asking every Democrat, I’m asking every independent, I’m asking a lot of Republicans to come together in this campaign to support your candidacy,” Sanders said on a livestream organized by Biden’s campaign, which had been billed as an update on the candidate’s plans to tackle the coronavirus crisis.

“We’ve got to make Trump a one-term president and we need you in the White House,” Sanders told his former opponent, side-by-side on a split screen from their homes in Burlington, Vermont, and Wilmington, Delaware. “I will do all that I can to see that that happens.”

The surprise announcement came less than a week after Sanders dropped out of the presidential race, a reflection of the urgency that many Democrats feel to begin the general-election fight against Trump and of the goodwill that he shared toward his longtime Capitol Hill colleague Biden.

The camaraderie the two men displayed, lobbing praise back and forth and planning a virtual chess match, stood in stark contrast to four years ago, when Sanders continued in the race through the full primary calendar, even as Hillary Clinton held a nearly insurmountable delegate lead for months, and Sanders made no secret of his efforts to exact policy concessions from her.

The two candidates have agreed to launch six policy task forces to work through their differences on key issues, but it was not immediately clear how the groups will work and whether their conclusions will be binding as part of Biden’s platform. The groups will examine the economy, health care, climate change, immigration, criminal justice and education. When Sanders ended his campaign, he said he would continue to appear on primary ballots so that he could exert more influence at the Democratic National Convention in August.

“I think people are going to be surprised that we are apart on some issues but we’re awfully close on a whole bunch of others,” Biden told Sanders, who in a staged question-and-answer session asked Biden to affirm his support for a $15 federal minimum wage and a plan for eliminating tuition for low- and middle-income students at public universities, which tracks closely with a bill Sanders proposed a few years ago though does not go as far as the proposal Sanders made as a presidential candidate.

Biden pledged that his administration would be “one of the most progressive administrations since Roosevelt” and that Sanders help shape its direction. “I’m going to need you. Not just to win the campaign, but to govern,” he said.

Sanders’s endorsement is a first step toward uniting the party ahead of the general election, but some prominent Sanders supporters weren’t buying it.

“With the utmost respect for Bernie Sanders, who is an incredible human being & a genuine inspiration, I don’t endorse Joe Biden,” Briahna Joy Gray, who served as Sanders’s national press secretary, wrote on Twitter minutes after Sanders announced his endorsement. “I supported Bernie Sanders because he backed ideas like #MedicareForAll, canceling ALL student debt, & a wealth tax. Biden supports none of those.”

A number of high-profile progressive groups, most of which backed Sanders’s bid, wrote a letter to Biden last week, imploring him to adopt more progressive policies, including Medicare for All and the Green New Deal, that were part of Sanders’s agenda. Biden is unlikely to move that far to the left, but as he looks to unite the Democratic Party behind his candidacy, he has begun adopting versions of some of Sanders’s and Elizabeth Warren’s policy proposals.

Last month, Biden backed Warren’s plan to give more protections to Americans who file for bankruptcy and the public university tuition proposal he discussed Monday. After Sanders dropped out of the race, Biden added two more policy concessions to Sanders, saying he supported lowering the age of Medicare eligibility to 60 and forgiving student debt for low- and middle-income Americans who attended public institutions.

Trump campaign’s pounced on the endorsement as a sign that Sanders has pulled Biden to the left and will continue to do so.

“This is further proof that even though Bernie Sanders won’t be on the ballot in November, his issues will be,” Brad Parscale, Trump’s campaign manager, said in a statement. “Biden had to adopt most of Bernie’s agenda to be successful in the Democrat primaries.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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