WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Bernie Sanders discussed the state of his presidential campaign in an interview with The Washington Post on Wednesday, relaying that he still thinks he has a shot at becoming the Democratic nominee but that he has also started to focus on pushing the party to embrace “the most progressive platform in the history of this country.”
Besides advocating for many of the issues he has championed during the campaign, such as a $15 minimum wage and universal health care, Sanders said he would push some political reforms.
He would like to see fewer superdelegates, the elected Democratic officials and party insiders who have a major say in the presidential nomination and are not bound by the results in their states. And he would like the Democratic National Committee to lean on all states to open up their primaries to independent voters, who have been a bedrock of Sanders’s coalition in states where they are allowed to participate.
Sanders also shared during the interview that he plans to return to his full-time work as a senator from Vermont if his presidential bid falls short. And he hinted that he has started thinking about how to leverage his enhanced national profile after the November election if he’s not in the White House.
The interview took place while Sanders was campaigning in Indiana on the day after losing four of five primaries in Eastern states to Hillary Clinton. Here are some excerpts:
On whether he can still win the Democratic nomination
“We’re in this race to win. We understand the arithmetic. We understand that our path toward victory is narrow, but we also understand that we’re living in a pretty crazy political world, especially in the last year, and so long as we have a path toward victory, no matter how narrow it may be, we’ll pursue it.”
“If you ask me, 'Are the odds against you?' I would be a fool and dishonest if I said otherwise. Of course the odds are against us. We have a very steep hill to climb. But I do think we have a narrow path and we can win.”
On what his priorities will be if he doesn’t win
“If we do not win this nomination, we are going to make certain that we do everything we can, have as many delegates as we can at the convention, to make certain that the platform that comes out of that convention is the most progressive platform in the history of this country, a platform that includes many of the ideas that we have been fighting for throughout this campaign.”
On how he thinks he could gain support among Democratic superdelegates
“I think you’ve got many hundreds of superdelegates who came on board Hillary Clinton’s campaign probably before I even got into the race, before our campaign became a serious one. I think that some of these delegates may be asking themselves the most important question that can be asked, and that is, ‘Given that it is imperative that we defeat Donald Trump or whoever the Republican nominee will be — because we all believe it would be a disaster to have a Republican president — who’s the strongest candidate?’ That’s a pretty fair, simple question: ‘Who is the strongest candidate to defeat Donald Trump?’ And I think what a lot of delegates will tell you, maybe off the record, if not now on the record, if we look at it objectively, if you look at virtually all the polling out there, state polling, national polling, Bernie Sanders defeats Donald Trump, in almost every instance by a larger margin than Hillary Clinton.”
On his advocacy to open all Democratic primaries to independent voters
“Clearly the final decisions will be made by the states, but ... I think clearly the convention and the Democratic National Committee can change the rules and can create a scenario that makes it clear that we want open primaries in 50 states in this country.”
On whether the party should continue to have superdelegates
“Superdelegates, I think, we’ve got to rethink as well. It’s a fair question. I don’t know the answer. I’m not against the idea of superdelegates. … Right now, one-fourth of [Clinton’s] entire delegate count is superdelegates. That’s too much. … It’s a huge advantage. It is really very hard for a candidate who does really well among ordinary people, who wins primaries and caucuses. You’re starting off with the establishment candidate having 20 percent of the delegates.”
On whether his campaign will look any different going forward
“We are going to do what I’ve tried to do from Day One: run an issue-oriented campaign, not a personal campaign, differentiating my point of view on issues compared to Secretary Clinton, maybe talking a little bit more about Donald Trump, not only the degree to which he insults people but his economic agenda of giving hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks to billionaire families like his own, not willing to raise the minimum wage. ... I think you’ll see more of that, but I will continue to differentiate my record from Secretary Clinton’s. I will continue to talk about my vision for my country.”
On whether the Democratic platform is a meaningful document
“If you’re saying does the platform, that piece of paper, have a profound impact, I’m not going to tell you it has a profound impact, but it has some impact. But change comes about from grass-roots activists and millions of people, and to the degree that we can get affirmation from the national Democratic Party that we need to break up the Wall Street banks, that gives energy to the activists on the ground. ... To the degree that we can pass a resolution calling for a Medicare-for-all single-payer health-care program, that gives energy to the Physicians for a National Health Care Program. To the degree that the Democratic Party rejects Secretary Clinton's idea of a $12 minimum wage and supports my idea for a $15 minimum wage, that we come on board on ending fracking, all of these things — they’re not ends in themselves. They’re not automatically going to translate into policy. I understand that. But they are part of an overall grass-roots effort to transform this country and create a government that works for all of us and not just a few."