The Cook Political Report's Amy Walter discusses why President Biden's popular policies haven't translated to popularity among voters.
Guest Host: David Gregory
Following Tuesday’s primaries Hillary Clinton has become the Democrat’s presumptive presidential nominee, the first woman to do so in U.S. history. In her remarks that night she noted that the “vigorous debate’ lead by her Democratic opponent, Bernie Sanders, had strengthened the party overall, but there’s a hitch: Senator Sanders has vowed to press on. At Sanders’ request, he will be meeting with President Obama today. Whether and to what extent Clinton and Sanders can reconcile to present a unified front for the race ahead remains to be seen. Please join us to discuss what’s at stake for the Democratic Party.
- Margie Omero Democratic strategist; co-host of the podcast "The Pollsters"
- Jonathan Tasini President,the Economic Future Group, and author of "The Essential Bernie Sanders and His Vision for America"
- James Hohmann Reporter, Washington Post
MR. DAVID GREGORYThank you for joining us. I'm David Gregory of CNN and host of the David Gregory podcast sitting in today for Diane Rehm. Diane is visiting WMFE in Orlando. The Democratic Convention is less than seven weeks away and Hillary Clinton is the party's presumptive presidential nominee. But the path to party unity remains a little bit murky.
MR. DAVID GREGORYJoining me to talk about the prospects for reconciliation within the Democratic party, Margie Omero, Democratic strategist, Jonathan Tasini of the Economic Future Group and James Hohmann of The Washington Post. We'll be taking your calls and comments and questions throughout the hour. You can call us at 800-433-8850. Send us your email, email@example.com -- or .org, excuse me, firstname.lastname@example.org.
MR. DAVID GREGORYAnd join us on Facebook or on Twitter. Welcome all of you. We are --
MS. MARGIE OMEROGood morning.
GREGORYWe are monitoring this morning a stakeout of the meeting between Senator Sanders and President Obama at the White House. James, what should we expect from this meeting?
MR. JAMES HOHMANNThe president is not going to formally endorse Hillary Clinton today. I think he's trying to ease Bernie out of this race, David, and I think it's going to be gentle. It's going to be talking about how they can advance their shared priorities, how Obama knows it's really hard for him and I think it's -- the president is going to lend a sympathetic ear and try to give some weight to what Bernie is talking about.
MR. JAMES HOHMANNThis is the beginning of a whirlwind day for the senator. He's going to go from the White House to a meeting with Harry Reid, the Senate minority leader.
GREGORYWho has called on him to...
HOHMANNWho has called on him to drop out.
GREGORY...get out, yeah.
HOHMANNIt's funny, there's been a real shift in tone. On Monday, everyone was saying Bernie really needs to get out. This is hurting the party. And now, post-Tuesday, everyone is kind of taking a step back. Joe Biden telling CNN yesterday, you know, Hillary's won the nomination, but let's give Bernie a couple days. And that's sort of the new message that the Clinton campaign is pushing and the White House is pushing.
HOHMANNYou mentioned there's less than seven weeks until the Democratic Convention, but seven weeks is a very long time where if Bernie wants to stay in and continue to fight this out, it could be sort of a problem for the Clinton campaign or if he wants to use the next couple days to sort of compose himself and figure out a way to exact some leverage, but then get behind Clinton beforehand.
GREGORYJonathan Tasini, as they say in the trade, this is a process and it's a process because Senator Sanders more than deserves his due. He spoke to President Obama a couple of days ago, indicated that he wanted to meet with him at the White House and is being accorded the respect and the standing that his performance in this primary certainly deserves. Where do you think he is right now about this race and whether to press on?
MR. JONATHAN TASINIWell, I want to start with a little bit of context, having now travelled for -- with the campaign since it began to dozens of cities and towns and seen thousands and thousands of people flock to this political revolution. Bernie has come close, and I still believe he has a chance, and we can talk about that. I understand that the media wants to call this over, but he can take it to the convention...
GREGORYLet me just stop you 'cause I really don't think -- no, no, no. That is not fair that the media wants to call this over.
TASINIYes, it is.
GREGORYThere are rules that the Democratic party established with regards to pledge delegates and super delegates. We're interpreting the rules.
TASINIPrecisely. No, you're not because in fact, the Democratic National Committee explicitly has said super delegates should not be counted prior to the convention indicating who is the nominee or not. Now, it's fine, I say, to say presumptive nominee, that the hill is steep, but the media, in my view, did an outrageous and mal -- simply media malfeasance, many of them, calling this over and using the word clinched, which is very, very different.
TASINISuper delegates do not count until they stand on the convention floor. It is fine for the media to say, look, Hillary Clinton seems to have support. They've indicated support. But the reason Bernie said the struggle continues in his speech in California was -- for two reasons. One is, as I said, there's a chance that we can still win this. Very, very, very steep hill. We've actually campaigned against the establishment. In some ways, those are super delegates, for a year.
TASINIBut the second thing is that this really is about a political revolution. One of the things I'm excited about, very positive, whatever the outcome of this nomination is that we've acknow -- we've framed the debate about the future of the Democratic party and the future of the country. The Clintons may win this nomination, but it's over for them in terms of the control of the party if we keep this political movement together because basically in one year -- let me just finish one -- in one year, Bernie Sanders and this movement has come very close, and may still do it, but at least very close to toppling the most powerful political machine in my lifetime.
GREGORYCan I just -- the question I asked, do you think he's preparing to leave the race?
TASINIWell, I answered that in those two ways, which is I think he sees this political revolution as part and parcel of that process. And he wants to make any decision connected to that. If he thinks he can advance the political revolution by taking it to the convention floor, he will do that. If he doesn’t, then he may exit in some other way.
OMEROI mean, I think that the Sanders campaign and Sanders supporters can declare victory in the sense that this is -- they so far exceeded expectations. I mean, about, you know, over a year ago, he was at, you know, single digits, right, in the vote. 3 percent, right? And without years of visits to Iowa, without Democratic establishment help, without large contributions, he came quite close. And in fact, now you've seen polls that this hasn't actually been harmful to the party. It's been energizing to the party.
OMEROThis is what Democrats say. I know Democratic insiders say something else, but Democratic voters in poll after poll after poll say this has been helpful. More say it's been helpful to the party than said in 2008. That they say that the party is more united now than said at the same time in 2008. And you actually had some -- a majority of voters in California, Democratic primary voters saying, Sanders shouldn't go all the way to the convention.
OMEROSo they're, you know, I think there's some nuance in what Democratic voters think. And the last point I'll make is, the issues that he's raised, he's demonstrated there is candidacy, that there's widespread support for a lot of these issues. I mean, Vox and Morning Consult asked a poll question, are you open to the idea of a political revolution to redistribute wealth, which is kind of amazing that that was a poll question. And a majority said, yes, I'm open to it.
OMEROSo I think there's a lot of success, there's a really good story and good outcome here no matter what happens with today's meeting or over the next few days.
GREGORYJames, just -- I want to come back to something that Jonathan talked about. I don't want to be defensive of the press. I'll let you be defensive of the press. And Sanders supporters, like Trump supporters, frankly, attack the media. It's tried and true and there's not a lot of sympathy for the media so everybody can have at it. Let's just talk about the facts. I mean, super delegates even an issue here in the...
HOHMANNNo. That's the reality.
GREGORYSo you're arguing on super delegates. They're not the issue. She won on pledge delegates.
TASININo, wait a minute. She is not -- I'm sorry. Let's get the facts right. She has not won anything. She has the majority of pledge delegates, that's correct. Nobody has enough delegates at this point to win the nomination. Those are the facts.
HOHMANNThere are -- she has enough pledged delegates that she won -- she's won 3 million more votes than Bernie Sanders did.
TASINIBut James, she has not won the nomination. That's a different -- yeah.
HOHMANNShe beat Bernie Sanders by more than half a million votes in California.
TASINIYou're repeating the talking points of their campaign. But the point is...
HOHMANNI'm repeating math.
GREGORYThat's not fair. That's not -- I'm not...
TASININo, but listen. She cannot win the nomination based on these pledged delegates. Neither can Bernie Sanders.
GREGORYJonathan, let me ask one question. Has -- Bernie Sanders and his supporters have been talking for months about making a case to super delegates, that it was premature to support her. He won a number of contest in the past, what, month and a half. Has he flipped any super delegates?
TASININot many. And, okay, so that's...
GREGORYNot many. Has he flipped any?
TASINII think that there have been a few, maybe two or three and that's a fair point. Now, if we want to shift the conversation, which is how steep that hill is, I think that hill has gotten even a little bit steeper in the last several weeks. I totally acknowledge that. And, in fact, it has always been difficult to say that the super delegates would switch at the convention because, as I said before, frankly, they're part of the establishment that we've been campaigning against for a whole year so that would not surprise me.
TASINIBut I do think, to kind of just -- if I can touch on that along with Maria -- your excellent points before, she made some excellent points about the issue about issues, which is one of the pitch to the super delegates would be we've defined the campaign. We've defined the issues that people care about. We forced a relatively centrist moderate corporate Democrat to adopt all our positions and we're stronger against Donald Trump.
TASININow, they can buy that or not. That's the pitch. But I acknowledge it's a very, very, very steep hill.
GREGORYSo all of this gets -- it's a little bit of context -- is it Margie or Margie?
GREGORYMargie, yeah. I was saying, I think, Margie before.
GREGORYSo now we've all got it straight. It's Margie. But Margie, so let's get back into President Obama. This is a unique circumstance because we have a sitting president, a president who's at 50 percent in the polls, by the way, who has the ability to affect unity in a way that, obviously, a Republican sitting president could not. He was also in this position with Hillary Clinton back in 2008. So talk about the process. We understand that Senator Sanders has now and wants to continue to use the influence that he has built. So just block out how you think it happens from here.
OMEROSo I think there are a few pieces to this. One is making sure that folks in the Clinton camp are using very generous open welcoming opening language to Senator Sanders and his supporters. I think there's been a lot of talk about Sanders supporters and what they do online, but folks who are in the Clinton camp who have been, you know, worried or critical of the Sanders team should really be opening, have their arms open to those voters. Some of them are newer voters.
OMEROSome of them are less experienced voters. Some of them are maybe newer to the party or have less experience with some of the issues 'cause they younger or what have you. And they're still part -- we want them in the party. We want to include them. We want to reach out to them. We want to understand what issues drive them. And I think that's an important first step. I think there's also some specifics -- and, you know, this is for all the different camps to discuss. What is Sanders involvement going forward in terms of reaching to millennials and reaching to his base voters and making sure they feel part of the process to defeat Donald Trump?
GREGORYWhat does he want, what influence does he want to have, what role does he play and what is his future? All of this part of the mix here as we move forward. The question is, the future of Democratic unity as the race winds down. More of our conversation when we continue. This is "The Diane Rehm Show."
GREGORYWelcome back to "The Diane Rehm Show." I'm David Gregory sitting in for Diane Rehm today. I'm the host of the David Gregory podcast. We are talking about Bernie Sanders and the future of the Democratic Party now that Hillary Clinton is the presumptive Democratic nominee. Joining me this morning is Margie Omero, Democratic strategist, co-host of the podcast, "The Pollsters," Jonathan Tasini, president, the Economic Future Group, author of "The Essential Bernie Sanders and His Vision for America," and James Hohmann, reporter for The Washington Post.
GREGORYA couple of interesting emails, as our conversation is underway. One, this is from Jim Conrad writing in, one North Carolina super delegate has flipped from Hillary Clinton to Bernie. Cannot remember his or her name at the moment but it was in our Winston-Salem Journal on Sunday. And also this, from Shane Stahl. How much will the rumored upcoming endorsement of Clinton by Elizabeth Warren have an effect on party reconciliation and bringing Sanders and Clinton supporters together. James, do we know whether Sanders is going to endorse?
HOHMANNWarren, you mean?
GREGORYWarren going to endorse Hillary Clinton.
HOHMANNShe is going to endorse. The question is when and how. And that has not been worked out. People close to Warren tell us she's been having more and more back-channel conversations over the past several weeks with the Clinton campaign. She's helped carry the message against Trump. She was assertive before Hillary really was. And the Clinton campaign appreciated it. The Clintons are looking at her potentially as a vice presidential option. She's said to be interested in that. And so there's sort of been a dance back and forth between the Clinton folks and Warren. Warren has also had conversations with the Sanders campaign, people close to Sanders and I believe Sanders, himself.
HOHMANNSo the reports over the last 12 hours are that she'll endorse sometime in the next week or two, not that it's imminent or coming today.
GREGORYMargie, one of the calculations in all of this is what is it that Hillary Clinton can do to bring Bernie Sanders into her tent? Because there's a danger here. She is not -- if she starts appropriating aspects of his agenda, it's going to seem totally disingenuous for her -- whether it's free trade, whether it's universal health care, a single-payer system. She can have the appearance of twisting herself in knots, which would only reinforce the criticism against her that she is politically expedient. So how does she manage that?
OMEROWell, I would say a few things. I mean, first, I think that a lot of folks who have, you know, most of the folks who participate in a Democratic primary, you know, vote Democratic. They're going to see, one, that the differences between Clinton and Sanders are not nearly as great as the differences between a successful America and President Trump, right? I mean, President Trump is so dangerous, he's unqualified, he's, you know, unpredictable. I mean, there's just everything. You know, he's completely unacceptable. So I think even the most strident Sanders supporters who parse some of these differences between those candidates and the left, they're going to see -- they're going to come on board.
OMEROAnd some of that's a matter of tone and outreach and V.P. pick and the organization less so than about one policy here or there, where some folks are going to be single-issue on things like trade and maybe that'll be important to them. But I think ultimately people are looking for -- looking at the whole package. And I think, when they look at the whole package, they're going to see that some of these differences are really not so great.
TASINII'll make a prediction here, first of all, and bet anybody that Elizabeth Warren will not be the vice presidential candidate for either Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton. She has too much power in the Senate. She doesn't want to be the, if you will, have second chair. That's my own view.
TASINIBut three quick points on excellent points my colleagues made. The first thing is, in some way I don't think that it's a problem for, if Hillary Clinton is the nominee, she has already adopted Bernie Sanders' positions. Throughout the whole primary it was a me-too, I'll-follow-you. For example, on trade, Hillary Clinton has always been for so-called free trade, going back to Bill Clinton's NAFTA, and she flipped on the Trans-Pacific Partnership because Bernie defined that issue and has been opposed to those trade agreements.
TASINIAnd that's one of the dangers, by the way, just on trade quickly, for the Democratic Party. I don't doubt that we can defeat Donald Trump because he is very dangerous. But one of the things he -- probably the only thing that he's said that's correct is that NAFTA has been a disaster. And that could be a little bit of a danger for Democrats going into states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, where that's very, very -- people really understand that.
TASINIAnd so I believe that at the convention -- this goes to the question of unity -- the convention, we're going to have to take on that issue of particularly of trade, have a very strong position against free trade, which unfortunately will bring us in -- somewhat in conflict potentially with the President of the United States.
TASINIBut on the unity -- and then my last point -- I think we're overstating this a little bit and thinking that we're looking for some Kumbaya moment, where people are going to be swaying at the convention, you know, singing these wonderful songs, "We Are the World." I think that we should not expect that. This convention, there are very deep ideological differences about the direction of the party and the direction of the country between all the Sanders delegates and the Clinton delegates. There's some crossover.
TASINIWhat I think we can look for is unity of purpose to defeat Donald Trump. And I think that will join, as Margie said, that would join us together, whether we're a Sanders person or a Clinton person to defeat Donald Trump.
GREGORYJames, I was just going to say, I mean, one of the points about that is that there is a little bit more of a rush to unity here to get everybody to fall in line and the argument being, look, we can have these divisions. We can talk about the progressive wing of the party. But Donald Trump, got to beat Donald Trump. It seems like that's going to bring everybody together.
HOHMANNDavid, it's hard to overstate how much that's already bringing people together. And the -- I think that that's going to ultimately bring the Bernie folks on board. In think the scope and the scale of Hillary's victories -- she won four of the six states that voted on Tuesday -- really helped kind of make the case that she should pivot to the general election. I don't think this is going to be a base election. You know, in 2004, the George W. Bush reelection strategy was, let's turn out as many of our conservative based voters as we can. And then the liberals can try to turn out their base voters.
HOHMANNThis time, Hillary has surmised that she wins this election by moving toward the middle. She's already...
HOHMANN...yesterday, launched a Republicans for Hillary effort as part of her campaign. Her speech on Tuesday, she briefly nodded to Bernie, praised him, called him. But then spent much of her speech making the case against Donald Trump as a way to, again, bring progressives who may not love her on board. And I think that this is an election where Hillary really can appeal to middle-of-the-road people, center-right people who are alarmed by what Trump represents.
OMEROI think we can have a Kumbaya moment and appeal to Republicans in the center. I think we can do all of those things. I feel proud, as a Democrat, that we have such an inclusive party, that we have policies that are appealing to the center and to Republicans and to non-Democratic women. At the same time, we have, you know, historic candidates, one after the other, and including Sanders. I mean, including Sanders, Clinton and Obama. I think all of that is really inspiring and something we should be proud of as Democrats.
GREGORYI want to go to the phones. Shaun is calling from Cleveland, Ohio, with an argument about how this primary has gone. Shaun, good morning. You're on the air.
SHAUNGood morning. I'm calling about the fact that the backers of the -- of Hillary have been stating time and time again that she has by far many more votes than Bernie Sanders. But the fact of the matter is, many of the primaries were closed primaries, which cut out many of the supporters of Bernie Sanders. And quite frankly, she may not have even been ahead if Independents and Republicans who wanted to switch could vote for Bernie Sanders.
GREGORYIn fact, Jonathan, two points. If you want to become the Democratic nominee, you probably need to win Democrats. Hillary Clinton did that. Bernie Sanders trailed. He did do well among Independent voters. But there was an open primary, say, in Virginia, right? And she beat him soundly there. So the frustration is real because his support is more broad based. But you have to concede that point about Democrats.
TASINIYeah, let me put it -- this is a very important call, not necessarily because I agree with entirely the analysis, but you hit right on a very important point, which I have tried to appeal throughout the party that we address, which is our voting system is a shambles and is broken. And across the -- if you looked at what happened in caucuses and primaries -- and this is not accusing either campaign or some deep, dark conspiracy, in my opinion -- it was broken. I mean, people stood in line for hours, that, you know, you had to photocopy ballots. It was crazy.
TASINIWhat happened, and this is very -- to what Margie pointed out -- lots of new voters wanted to come into the process and they couldn't get in. They couldn't vote. And they interpreted that as suppression, as somehow disenfranchising when the system is deeply broken. So I'll give a great example in my own state of New York. If you were a member of another party, in order to vote for Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton, you had to switch going back to October...
TASINI...your party registration.
GREGORYDonald Trump's kids didn't even register to vote.
TASINIThat is completely insane. I have made the argument that if somebody -- and I'm going to use the example of the -- my -- the other side. If somebody walked by a rally for Hillary Clinton a week before election day and got inspired by her, he or she should be able to walk in, the day of the election, same-day registration, and vote for Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders or anybody.
GREGORYAnd actually, Margie, I think this is an area, if you're Hillary Clinton, one of the things you could do right away is say, you know what, Senator Sanders?
GREGORYLet's commit to campaign finance reform.
GREGORYLet's commit to changing the super delegate process. That's where maybe there's some reconciliation.
OMEROExactly. Things that, you know, I mean this stuff has been going on for a long time. This is not a Clinton conspiracy to have voting and registration and primaries work differently from state to state. That's something that's a reality. And it is a strange system and the super delegates, all of these things are mercurial, right? And I think it's very reasonable to have a conversation about, how do we fix this? I mean, the Republican side, let's not forget, had an incredibly strange primary process in terms of how their different states varied. So, you know, this is just part of...
GREGORYThat's a whole separate show, their issues.
OMERO...the fabric of America how our voting works.
TASINIAnd there are still 3 million provisional ballots that have not been counted in California. That's completely astounding, that's -- and so when Sanders voters -- and I'm just referring to all new voters who he brought in who have never voted before, particularly younger people -- see that, their interpretation of that is something untoward is happening, which one could argue sometimes that happens. But it's more about, we have a terrible system that does not encourage people to participate.
GREGORYRight. Well, James, one of the things I like to point out to Sanders supporters is, they argue two things -- the system is rigged against them, they're not wrong, I mean, it's certainly rigged to help the insider, and that Clinton is in control of the party. Well, the Clinton's controlled the party back in 2008 and Barack Obama still beat him.
HOHMANNAbsolutely, David. There's a couple of things. We crunched the numbers yesterday. Hillary Clinton actually got fewer votes in 2016 than she received in 2008 during the primaries, which is interesting. The -- I don't want to talk too much about Republicans, because that is a whole other show. But Republicans might not have Donald Trump as their nominee if they had super delegates.
HOHMANNIf it wasn't entirely democratic and there were establishment people who were guaranteed delegate slots, they might have been able to stop Trump. And...
OMEROI've heard lots of Republicans say, we would easily, gladly switch if we could have super delegates. We'll take them off your hands.
GREGORYRight. In an interview yesterday Hillary said, let's look at super delegates. I'm willing to talk about that and potentially getting rid of them. So I think that that is totally room for potential agreement. I'm David Gregory. You're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." We welcome your comments and questions this morning. You can call 1-800-433-8850. Or send an email to email@example.com. Find us on Facebook or send us a tweet.
GREGORYJonathan, what's different about Bernie Sanders, I mean, our recent history is instructive, right? Hillary Clinton, back in 2008 by the way, needed some time. I did an interview with David Axelrod, a former chief strategist and adviser, of course, to President Obama, for my podcast about that moment when he met with Hillary Clinton and said, oh, you know, you did a great job in the campaign. We really respect you. And she apparently gave him a look like she wanted to throw up, you know, because he was being so nice. She wasn't ready yet to concede. But she was in a different position.
GREGORYBack in 2008 it was likely she was going to run for president in eight years if not sooner. And then there was the prospect of her coming into the administration. Senator Sanders is in a different position, don't you think?
TASINIYes. And before I go -- just over our shoulder here on the television we saw Barack Obama ushering Bernie Sanders into the Oval Office. So, something that...
GREGORYBy the way, a very important image, right? Walking into the, you know, outside the Oval Office and, again, elevating Bernie Sanders after this campaign to say, look, you need to be heard before I put my thumb on the scale here.
TASINIYeah. And I'll just say on that, you know, the president and Bernie Sanders have a very good relationship. Throughout the campaign, Bernie Sanders has said, look, I don't agree with the president all the time, but I like him and I have supported him many times. So I think that that conversation, although it may not go where the president wants it, it will be a very cordial one and a fruitful one and substantive one.
TASINILook, I'll just make the point, I do think that Bernie could still be the nominee. But, but, I think there's two things probably on his mind. One is that he does want to continue this political revolution. I know people sometimes sort of toss that off. And so anything he thinks about is, what's going to be my place in this and how are we going to advance that?
TASINIAnd the second thing is, I think there's a good shot, probably growing every day given the fact that Donald Trump is tearing up the Republican Party, that the Democrats will recapture the Senate and have the majority in this. And Bernie, potentially then, will have a huge place in the Senate both as either the chair of the Budget Committee, which he's now the ranking minority member, or the chair of the Banking Committee.
GREGORYI cannot believe, Margie, that Senator Sanders, who I think sounds -- has struck a different tone than some of his ardent supporters...
GREGORY...among whom I would put Jonathan -- I can't believe that he would want to risk whatever scenario would have to take place to try to wrest the nomination from Hillary Clinton at this point and create a space for Donald Trump to capitalize. Do I have that totally wrong?
OMEROYou know, it's hard to know from where I sit. But I think that, you know, I think it's really too soon to come to some kind of assessment of where he's going or what he's thinking. I mean, this is a tough, raw moment. This is a tough, raw time. And, you know, as Jonathan was saying, right now, they're meeting right this minute, and that's probably what's in it -- what he's thinking is probably going to change in the next hour or two. So I think the Sanders movement is thinking about how to keep these issues on the forefront. And that, ultimately, when he announced and said what was really important to him.
HOHMANNThere's an internal divide within the Sanders inner circle. Tad Devine, his strategist, has been very conciliatory in public, in private, saying, you know, Bernie, think about the movement. Let's kind of move forward. And then...
GREGORYRight. More of a Washington insider, Tad Devine.
HOHMANNMore of a Washington insider.
GREGORYWorked for Al Gore.
HOHMANNHe did. Right. Exactly. And then Jeff Weaver on the other side is former chief of staff who left his comic books business here in the D.C. suburbs to go become the campaign manager, a lot more defiant, a lot more of a dead-ender. And then Jane Sanders, by all accounts, is also sort of in the Weaver camp of, you know, let's fight for this. Those...
HOHMANN...they're not thinking about future jobs or future campaigns. They're thinking about Bernie Sanders.
GREGORYAnd by the way, the Clinton people and the Obama people didn't get over this for years.
TASINISo just to quickly get to your point, James, it's -- that's a good point. And what's backing up Jane's -- Jeff Weaver and Jane Sanders are tens of thousands of people out there...
TASINI...who want to carry this forth. And if you had all these people just evaporate and the fundraising stopped and all these grassroots people say, forget it. That'd be different. But I tell you, my social media is filled with this stuff to support. But the point I wanted to make was really about this rush to wrap this up. The great gift that we have is Donald Trump. I mean, every day we see Donald Trump is tearing apart the Republican Party. Forget the issue of unity here, which is relatively small. There are, as you -- we all know, there are senators walking back, every day there's a new ticking bomb with Donald Trump, the racist stuff he spouts.
TASINIThe great gift we have, we have plenty of time for this general election because Donald -- the Republican Party seems close to imploding. And I don't see where he goes in terms of votes, either among Latinos, women and so on. I think we're in a very well positioned place.
GREGORYAnd Senator Sanders, as you say, has a great responsibility to these millions of followers, to honor their views and to manage whatever he's going to do and not just wrap this up quickly. We're going to continue this, more of your calls and questions and our conversation. You're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." We'll be right back.
GREGORYWelcome back to the Diane Rehm Show. I'm David Gregory, host of the David Gregory podcast, sitting in for Diane today. We're talking about Senator Bernie Sanders, who is meeting this morning with President Obama and his future in the party. Now that Hillary Clinton is the presumptive Democratic nominee, what role will he play? How will reconciliation within the Democratic Party come about?
GREGORYHere with me is Margie Omero, Democratic strategist, co-host of the podcast "The Pollsters." Jonathan Tasini is the president of the Economic Future Group and author of "The Essential Bernie Sanders and His Vision for America." And James Hohmann, reporter from the Washington Post. I want to go to the phones now and take a call from Indiana. Molly is calling from Indiana. Molly, good morning, you're on the air.
MOLLYGood morning. I was just wondering about just civility between Bernie Sanders supporters and Hillary Clinton supporters. I'm a Hillary Clinton supporter myself, but there seems to be, like you said, a disconnect between Bernie supporters and Hillary supporters, specifically the Never Hillary voters. And I...
GREGORYWhat about that, Jonathan? What about that Never Hillary camp? Do they stay there? Is there something unique about their opposition to Hillary Clinton? Or does unity happen here?
TASINIWell, it's -- there's a little bit of a complicating -- the short version is look, let's remember that in 2008 there were the famous Pumas, who basically declared they were Hillary supporters who said they would never, ever vote for Barack Obama. And that became a non-issue. They were very inconsequential in the actual vote. I have a lot of respect for the Never Hillary voters even though I don't -- I'm not in that camp, and here's why.
TASINIAgain, it's sort of what we started from. What they're expressing is not a negative feeling about Hillary Clinton as a person but what she represents in terms of representing the status quo and the establishment. And the tons of people that I've met, again throughout the country over the last almost year, most of them have been energized by the notion that this is a political revolution to change the system.
TASINIAnd they see Hillary Clinton as part of the system. And that's I think what's motivating it, not personal animosity towards the secretary.
GREGORYMargie, we have this email to the program. I would love it if Bernie would encourage his followers to take their fight to the states. If we can turn red to blue, we safeguard reproductive rights, and poverty can be addressed, just two important issues moving forward, which again goes to the point of what role will Senator Sanders play at the Democratic convention.
OMEROThat's such an excellent point because obviously the -- who we elect as president matters enormously, but who controls Congress, who controls the Senate, who controls state legislative chambers, which is -- you know, it doesn't always get a lot of attention but is massively important, especially when it comes to things like abortion rights. Those -- even who wins local county council and county executive races, these things matter enormously. If Sanders supporters can be influential in those races, that will pay huge dividends for years.
HOHMANNAnd she has in fact -- he has -- this is an excellent point. He has energized people. I was in San Luis Obispo, California, campaigning, and a woman who's been very active there, her first name is Heidi, I don't want to give her full name on the radio, she stood up and saying I want to run for mayor of San Luis Obispo. She's been a very strong Bernie supporter, and there are thousands of those people out there who potentially then mobilize to change things at the local level.
OMEROAnd this is the kind of thing that campaigns and candidates can do after there isn't a candidate running for office is to have trainings and, you know, pipeline movements to get people part of the process and run for office and get them trained to be field operatives and so they stay part of the community, of the political community, and continue to influence the system and make sure that their voices are heard.
GREGORYIt's interesting, James, not only what he's going to do at the convention, but what about this notion of some of his top advisors maybe going into the administration? That seems like it could be a tough road.
HOHMANNIt would be a tough road. I think that there's -- there is all this energy, and it's how do you translate it into action and something long-term and I think, you know, something that's verifiable, where I think Hillary has come to the left on a bunch of issues, but once she's president, what's to say she won't go right back. And there's I think a lot of people close to Sanders who -- you know, I think that there could be a liberal tea party in 2017 if Hillary Clinton gets elected, and it will -- to some degree be because Donald Trump is so unpopular that a lot of progressives will feel frustrated or let down for various reasons, and we'll see emerge in 2017 what Republicans had to deal with in some ways.
GREGORYYou know, that is such an important point, Margie and Jonathan, because part of the history of the Tea Party is that the Republican establishment did not take them seriously, and they don't give credit to the fact that it was under President Bush and the bank bailout that the Tea Party first came into being. And here you have Bernie Sanders coming on the scene, in part because of disappointment in President Obama.
GREGORYSo it seems to me the negotiation of this moment right now becomes very important to prevent a future unraveling of the Democratic Party that we're now seeing in the Republican Party.
OMEROYeah, I think a couple things are important. I mean, one this reminder that a lot of the issues that folks on the left have been talking about in this primary are actually popular across the board. They have general election strength. They are not fringe Democratic issues. They are issues with broad support. That's a lesson from this primary.
OMEROAnd I think that -- and talking about that and demonstrating that I think will help kind of minimize the risk that you're talking about. I think the other thing to note is that people are so fed up with Washington, they're so fed up with the dysfunction of a Congress that can't do anything, I think a lot of people are not looking at the Tea Party and saying, oh, you know what, we need some of that because what we need is a caucus that fights amongst itself and, you know, primaries its own leaders and, you know, has incredibly gridlock that makes it the least productive Congress in history. I mean, that's not a model that I think a lot of Democrats are looking at.
HOHMANNThe reason I'm so excited about this moment in politics, and the reason I think I'm so optimistic about what's -- what we're looking at in the future is there is already a party. It's a movement. It's not a structure yet. There is already a movement that's been inspired, ignited and fired up by Bernie Sanders by this campaign. Now how we move that from electoral to a movement that holds, you know, if Bernie Sanders is the president, we have to hold him accountable and also anybody else, that's a great challenge.
HOHMANNBut the difference I want to emphasize is that this movement actually believes in government. It's not like the Tea Party that's anti-government. In fact, we believe in single-payer health care. We believe in activist government. The government is a good force for change and that it should be very powerful to help the people. The problem is not the government, it's that it's been controlled by lobbyists and by a corrupt system.
GREGORYCan I make then, can I then push back on the movement that Bernie Sanders represent, James? There is a danger in any political party or in any -- for any leader in giving too much room to a part of the movement that doesn't have majority support. Hillary Clinton is head of the Democratic Party, and if she's president, she will absolutely be in control of the Democratic Party. And there was majority support for who she is as a Democrat within the Democratic Party. She won Democrats. She won the most votes.
GREGORYHow does she manage not having the party move too far to the left, farther than she is or what's good for the party or where the party or the country wants to go?
HOHMANNAnd a lot of it, absolutely David, is completely true, and it depends on who the Democrats are in the Congress, and that's -- it's a reality that only one member of the Senate endorsed Bernie Sanders, Jeff Merkley from Oregon, and, you know, Elizabeth Warren didn't endorse Sanders during the long process, and the fact is, you know, it's a center-left party, and it's a center-left coalition.
HOHMANNAnd so this is -- it's going to be a pressure point, and there are going to be issues coming up where people feel like Clinton's too close to Wall Street, or she's too close...
GREGORYAnd that's a great -- but why didn't Elizabeth Warren endorse him? I mean, do you consider her a sellout of the progressive movement?
TASININo, of course not.
GREGORYWell, she's going to endorse Clinton now, and she didn't help Bernie before. That's a fair question because in the end does she then side with the centrist part of the party?
TASINIWell, I think it's one reason that if Bernie is not the nominee, and Hillary Clinton becomes president, that Elizabeth Warren, as I said before, is not going to be the vice presidential candidate because she will not want to support policies that I think will be far more centrist than what they've been represented to be in the primary.
TASINIBut I think that there...
GREGORYBut that's a distinction. If she endorses her but doesn't want to be the VP, I assume she'd be asked, you're saying she is not on board for what Clinton is advocating?
TASINII think the endorsement thing is we're making a little bit too much out of it. I mean, it's typical that people fall in line, they endorse. I don't want to overstate that. Elizabeth Warren is a force on her own in terms of change in the country, particularly on financial issues and banking. But what I think is really interesting is the points we've made before. Number one, I think we're not going to be talking about this traditional political spectrum of right, left, center going forward.
TASINIMassive amounts of people, as Margie pointed out, in terms of polling, want single-payer health care. They believe health care should be a right. We are -- our positions are the majority of what the country believes in. We only had one year to prosecute this campaign. Bernie Sanders, to repeat, has come close to defeating the most powerful political machine in my lifetime in under one year, that is astounding, and raised staggering amounts of money and potentially unlocked the key to how we fund this movement going forward.
TASINIThat to me is just such a positive outcome, and it really is, if I can just give thanks to the thousands of people all around the country who have really come out of their homes, and it's really because of you that we've done this.
GREGORYWhat does it say, Margie, about the future of the Democratic Party that legions of supporters flock to Senator Sanders, who embodied principles and ideals and an idealism that transcended the possible? In other words, single-payer has very little chance of, you know, taking hold. But -- or free college education. But he had supporters who said you know what, we don't care whether it can be accomplished in Congress. The fact that he's saying it and standing up for it, that's what matters to us. It's not what's possible, it's what's desirable. That reached a lot of people in the Democratic Party.
OMEROIt did because ultimately for some folks, it wasn't so much the path or the process or the legislative battle, it's the -- it's the value that these concepts represent, and in that respect a lot of folks really -- that resonated with folks. I mean, obviously people feel miserable about the way Washington is going and about government's ability to make people's better, about bickering, about our culture.
OMEROAnd I think some of these ideas really help to -- you know, provided a real counter to how people feel about Washington.
TASINIBut it's because he wanted -- it's because we want to think big, and that's why Bernie inspired people. But if we had that attitude, David, we would not have civil rights for African-Americans. If we had the attitude that things could not be done, gay and lesbian men and women would not be able to marry today. If you had told five, six, seven years ago that it would be the law of the land that anybody could marry anybody they wanted to, you would say you must be smoking something.
TASINIBut it's because we thought big. We marched in the streets, we said no, we're going to change something, we're going to end this injustice, that's how we changed America. And what all those people said is we're fed up with the status quo. We want to embrace something that, by the way, on single-payer, makes sense economically. Yes, it's going to be hard work, but this is what America should be about.
HOHMANNSenator Sanders didn't believe he could win early on, and I think that that is relevant here, the fact that he was trying to be a protest candidate, to make a point, to hold Secretary Clinton's feet to the fire early on changed the kind of campaign that he ran. Early on he wasn't going and building relationships with African-Americans in South Carolina or Latinos in Nevada when that would've been really helpful down the road.
HOHMANNAnd I do think the fact that he didn't go as negative on Secretary Clinton early on is something that a lot of people regret right now, they wish they had. But if he had, I think the Clinton campaign would have come back very hard, Clinton's super-PACs would have come back hard.
GREGORYI'm David Gregory, you're listening to the Diane Rehm Show. Go ahead, Margie.
OMERONo, I think that was an excellent point. I mean, I think that makes a lot of sense. And obviously, I mean, you know, lots of people were surprised at how much ground Sanders made up in, you know, really a very short period of time. And I guess Jonathan's point, I mean, saying, well, dreaming big is how we make change, I think, you know, the fact that Clinton seems likely to be the nominee doesn't negate that. That can still happen.
OMEROYou know, there are still, you know, millions of people who voted for Sanders, there's still widespread for a lot of these ideas, and that change can continue.
TASINIWell, I think James made a really good point about -- I think when Bernie started, I think you're right. Even though he told me and said to others I'm in it to win, but there's an anecdote of him going, I think it was to Minneapolis for a rally, and he came -- he drove around the corner, and there were people lined around the block. And Bernie remarked to his people, he said, oh, there must be a rock concert here. And people said no, they're here to see you, and he was astounded. This was early on. Now it's not as astounding.
TASINIBut he was absolutely astounded by the reaction, although it goes to what I think he said to me several years ago, he believed that what he espouses is where the majority of Americans are.
GREGORYAnd yet he wasn't able to prevail. So he can believe that, but it's not clear that just based on the voting in the Democratic primaries that that's where the majority of Democrats are.
TASINII disagree, and I just want to come back to two points. One point that Margie made on the values and what polling says is that the American people, where we are on the issues, and second, again, this has been a campaign of one year, starting from three percent in the polls with no money and no...
HOHMANNRight, but that's what you do. So -- but this is the time you had, so...
TASINIBut we were running against -- all I'm saying is if you're evaluating and compare to why didn't we win, if we don't win, which I still think we can, why did that not happen. I think there are some practical things that you just have to build relationships with communities, African-American communities, that take time.
TASINIThe Clintons have been running for 15 years, ever since they left the White House, whatever they say. Bernie ran a campaign of one year. This is the most astounding, successful campaign, and I feel -- it's been a privilege to be part of that campaign because of what we've done.
HOHMANNWhen Bernie came into this race, he was talking about economic inequality. That was the issue that motivated the beginning of the campaign. At a certain point he realized that he had to be more than a single-issue candidate, and I think he realized that probably too late. I should say that, you know, Bernie has changed Hillary and the party, but the party, Bernie joining the Democratic party, frankly, has also changed Bernie. He's moved on immigration. He voted against the 2007 immigration bill, he helped torpedo it. He sided with labor unions over Latinos, and he's changed his position on that.
HOHMANNYou saw him absolutely shift his rhetoric in California, and I think that's a reflection of him moving to where the majority of Democrats are.
TASINIBut just for factual -- he opposed -- he opposed that immigration because of a guest worker program that would've abused workers, that would've allowed corporations to abuse workers. He is totally for overall immigration reform. But there was a very important part there that would have allowed the exploitation of workers, and Bernie has...
HOHMANNThat's not how people who were involved in the process remember.
TASININo, but okay...
HOHMANNI think that's selective remembering.
HOHMANNHe's changed his position, and I think that that is a reflection of how Sanders has sort of entered the Democrats fold. He was -- he didn't consider himself a member of the Democratic Party until six months ago.
TASINIBut he was a solid member of the caucus and provided very important votes to the president on many important legislative issues, and I respectfully disagree about your interpretation of the immigration issue.
GREGORYMargie, do you think once we get through this period -- describe how you think Bernie Sanders will become a surrogate for Hillary Clinton. And will he fall in line? And how effective will he be if and when he does that?
OMEROI think he could be very effective at doing what he's been doing in terms of talking to large crowds, going to college campuses, you know, rallying his supporters. I think that's something that he could be really effective at. You know, I mean I think that's probably a good role for him that I think would be -- you know, that both sides might find appealing.
HOHMANNI can't imagine that Bernie Sanders or his supporters think it's so important to take down Hillary Clinton that they're willing to have a President Trump.
TASINIBernie Sanders has said himself, multiple times, in public debates, on her worst day, Hillary Clinton is 1,000 times better -- I'm almost quoting it -- 1,000 times better than Donald Trump. Whoever is the nominee coming out of the convention, there is no doubt in my mind, not a shred of doubt, that there will be a desire to defeat Donald Trump. Donald Trump is a dangerous man, unqualified to be president, and relative to Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump represents everything, underscore everything, that Bernie Sanders has fought for his entire life.
HOHMANNIt'll be fun to watch Philadelphia because I don't know to the -- to your question, David, is Bernie going to stand up like Hillary Clinton did in Denver and give a really moving speech that got people on board? I think that's what the next seven weeks will determine.
GREGORYAnd that's what we will be chronicling every moment of every day. (laugh) Margie Omero, Jonathan Tasini and James Hohmann, thank you all very much.
GREGORYIt's going to be very interesting to watch. I'm David Gregory, sitting in for Diane Rehm. Thanks so much for listening.
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