What is Bernie Sanders really saying?

Photo: Scott Olson, Getty Images

Hillary Clinton has enough delegates to win the Democratic nomination, but Bernie Sanders won’t go away. Does he think he can win? Nah. But the spotlight — and the negotiating leverage that comes with it — are too much fun to give up.

As Hillary Clinton and Democratic leaders see it, it’s time for Sanders to go away — Democrats need to “unite” behind her, and Sanders is a distraction from the real opponent, Donald Trump.

But Bernie Sanders is not a Democrat, he’s a Democratic Socialist, and he has no interest in his future role in the mainstream Democratic party. Lindsey Graham poetically compared choosing between Ted Cruz and Donald Trump as like “being shot or poisoned.” For Sanders, the choice between Trump and Clinton, a mainstream, hawkish, establishment Democrat with a superPAC, is akin to being shot or being repeatedly hit on the head. He’d rather get hit on the head, but he’s not going to love it.

Regardless of what you think Sanders “ought to” do, he’s got a bargaining chip. He’ll trade his endorsement — and it will come — for a bit more shouting and campaigning (DC votes next week), policy concessions, and visibility at the convention and in a potential Clinton administration. In the meantime, he has to pretend that he has a chance, even though he doesn’t. So let’s take a look at Sanders’ final speech in California after Tuesday’s primaries and see what he was really saying.

Thank you. Thank you, LA! . . .  Let me thank all of you for being here tonight. And let me thank all of you for being part of the political revolution. I especially want to thank the tens of thousands of volunteers here in the state of California. And I want to thank the people of California for their incredible hospitality. It has been one of the most moving moments of my life to be out throughout this state in beautiful evenings and seeing thousands and thousands of people coming out. People who are prepared to stand up and fight for real change in this country.

Translation: You like me. You really like me!

All of you know, all of you know, that when we began this campaign a little over a year ago we were considered to be a fringe campaign. But over the last year, I think that has changed, just a little bit. By the end of tonight, we’ll have won, I believe 22 state primaries and caucuses. We will have received well over 10 million votes. And what is most extraordinary to me is that in virtually every single state, we have won in big numbers, the votes of young people. Young people understand that they are the future of America, and they intend to help shape that future. And I am enormously optimistic about the future of our country when so many young people have come on board and understand that our vision, a vision of social justice, economic justice, racial justice, and environmental justice, must be the future of America. Our vision will be the future of America.

Translation: I got a lot of you to listen. So I’m not done talking.

Our campaign from Day 1 has understood some very basic points, and that is first, we will not allow right-wing Republicans to control our government. And that is especially true with Donald Trump as the Republican candidate. The American people in my view will never support a candidate whose major theme is bigotry. Who insults Mexicans, who insults Muslims and women and African Americans. We will not allow Donald Trump to become president of the United States.

Translation: This is my version of “unifying the party” — agreeing on the enemy.

But we understand that our mission is more than just defeating Trump, it is transforming our country. The vast majority of the American people know that it is not acceptable that the top tenth of 1 percent owns as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent; we’re going to change that. And when millions of Americans are working longer hours for lower wages, we will not allow 57 percent of all new income to go to the top 1 percent. And we will end a corrupt campaign finance system.

Translation: Income inequality is my issue. Campaign finance is my issue. And I’m never going to shut up about them, whatever the delegate numbers say.

Democracy is not about billionaires buying elections. And we will end a broken criminal justice system. And we will break up the major banks on Wall Street. And we will join the rest of the industrialized world and guarantee health care to all people as a right. And we will bring about real immigration reform and a path toward citizenship. And we will tell the billionaire class and corporate America that they will start paying their fair share of taxes. And what we understand, and what every one of us has always understood, is that real change never occurs from the top on down, always from the bottom on up.

Translation: I could never do all of these things, any more than Hillary can, with the government split between Democrats and Republicans. But you have to aim high if you want to get anywhere interesting after you fall short.

That is the history of America, whether it is the creation of the trade union movement, the civil rights movement, the women’s movement, the gay movement. And that is what OUR movement is about.

Translation: I’d like to still have a voice even after the election. Because I like having a voice.

But you all know it is more than Bernie. It is all of us together. It is what this movement is about. Is millions of people from coast to coast standing up and looking around them and knowing that we can do much, much better as a nation. That whether Wall Street likes it, whether corporate America likes it, whether wealthy campaign contributors like it, whether the corporate media likes it, we, together, together we know what our job is. And that is to bring the American people together to create a government that works for us, not the 1 percent.

Translation: Maybe somebody who comes after me will see that they can win with more populist ideas than cash. And maybe if I say this enough, loud enough, Hillary’s VP will be more like me than like her.

Next Tuesday, we continue the fight in the last primary in Washington, D.C. We are going, we are going, we are going to fight hard, we are going to fight hard to win the primary in Washington, D.C. And then we take our fight for social, economic, racial, and environmental justice to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania!

Translation: I’ve got my media time and I’m not giving it up!

I am pretty good at arithmetic, and I know that the fight in front of us is a very, very steep fight, but we will continue to fight for every vote and every delegate we can get. Tonight I had a very kind call from President Obama and I look forward to working with him to ensure that we move this country forward. And tonight, I had a very gracious call from Secretary Clinton and congratulated her on her victories tonight. Our fight is to transform our country and to understand that we are in this together. To understand that all of what we believe is what the majority of the American people believe. And to understand that the struggle continues.

Translation: Doing math is not in my best interest right now, so I choose not to do it.

I want to thank the people of North Dakota. It appears that we will likely win Montana as well. I don’t think anybody knows where we’ll end up in California, but I suspect the gap will significantly diminish. And if this campaign has proven anything, it has proven that millions of Americans who love this country are prepared to stand up and fight to make this country a much better place.

Translation: This is the year of loud minorities controlling the microphone. Just look at the Republicans if you don’t believe me. So I’d like to trumpet the desires of the very loud minority who gave me this opportunity.

Thank you all, the struggle continues.

Translation: I’ll keep fighting until Clinton and Obama give me what I want.

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