Apr 14, 2020 - Politics & Policy

How top Sanders surrogates feel about his endorsement of Joe Biden

AOC and Bernie Sanders. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Some of Sen. Bernie Sanders' top campaign surrogates spoke to the New York Times about what it means that their former candidate, the leader of a massive grassroots movement, has endorsed the presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

Why it matters: Convincing progressives to support Biden is viewed as key to building the coalition needed to defeat President Trump in November.

  • Biden himself has acknowledged this reality, appearing on a livestream with Sanders on Monday to announce six task forces that the two former rivals will form to work toward compromise on big issues.
  • Biden also announced new policy positions on Medicare and student debt last week, but those steps alone may not be enough to draw in many of the voters that make up Sanders' energetic base.

What they're saying: Some of Sanders' most visible surrogates have declined to immediately throw their support behind Biden, including Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.).

  • Jayapal, co-chair of the House Progressive Caucus, told the Times that Biden will have to "step up" to win support from progressives.
  • "This is a party that very much wants to be unified, but that will not be as easy as turning a switch and Bernie Sanders says vote for Joe Biden or Pramila Jayapal says vote for Joe Biden and everybody votes for Joe Biden," she said.
  • "We have the potential to move this country to unity and to move Democrats to unity. But it will require not only progressives saying, ‘OK, we’re ready.’ It will require Joe Biden stepping in and saying, ‘I welcome you and here’s what I’m doing to inspire you.’”

Ocasio-Cortez said in a previous interview with the Times that the Biden campaign has not reached out to solicit her support.

  • "There’s this talk about unity as this kind of vague, kumbaya, kind of term. Unity and unifying isn't a feeling, it's a process," she told the Times.
  • She added that the process of coalescing around a nominee "should be uncomfortable for everyone involved," and that "if Biden is only doing things he’s comfortable with, then it’s not enough."

The bottom line: “The progressive movement has never been about one individual," said Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), another Sanders backer. "It is about issues.”

Go deeper: Biden and Sanders work toward truce on big issues

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