Bernie Sanders was just endorsed by Jeff Merkley, the junior senator from Oregon. Why is this newsworthy? Because for Sanders, this is the first endorsement from one of his colleagues in the Senate. I think this is great.
No, I haven’t become a Bernie Bro. I still feel exactly the way I have from the beginning. I like Bernie Sanders, I agree with much of what he says, and I think him being in the primary mostly helps Democrats. On the other hand, I still think Hillary Clinton will make a better president (because she is more pragmatic, and Sanders is too ideological). Although that doesn’t really matter, because barring some huge unforeseen event, she will be our next president (whether I like it or not).
No, I like Merkley’s endorsement because it lends legitimacy to the Sanders campaign and promotes progressive policies, while at the same time eliminating some of the more annoying aspects of Sanders being an “insurgent candidate”. It doesn’t matter that Merkley is, as the Washington Post puts it, the senator most likely to endorse Sanders. Or that his endorsement could be viewed as a political expediency for a very liberal senator in a state that will almost certainly vote for Sanders in the primary. The fact that until now, no senator had endorsed Sanders fed the myth that Sanders is an outsider who is fighting a corrupt Democratic establishment that is “in the bag” for Clinton. This demonstrates that Democratic politicians are free to endorse anyone they please.
Merkley gave the best endorsement possible. He explicitly acknowledged that Sanders’s chances are small (because math), but that Sanders represents a re-imaging of the Democratic party that reaffirms its progressive ideals. And that is something that all progressives can get behind. This allows Merkley to act as a uniting force. Despite our differences, Democrats are largely fighting for the same thing. Our tactics may differ but our goals are virtually identical, especially compared to the goals of the Republican candidates.
In order to win – not just at the ballot box but in changing America for the better – we must be strong, and we must be united.