Sanders supporters have a point
© Greg Nash

Why is it such a mystery to mainstream Democrats that supporters of Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersFive takeaways from the Democratic debate As Buttigieg rises, Biden is still the target Leading Democrats largely pull punches at debate MORE's (Vt.) bid for the nomination might not be willing to roll over? Do these Democrats have doubts about their candidate? Is it possible that in this post-racial world, where we are all warm and fuzzy about moving from the first African-American president to our first female president, it doesn't feel like her appeal alone is enough to fend off a scary demagogue? The reason for Sanders staying until the very last vote is so he can insure that the presumptive candidate "pays" for his support and his endorsement. His doing so and likely nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonAs Buttigieg rises, Biden is still the target Harris rips Gabbard over Fox appearances during Obama years Steyer, Gabbard and Yang shut out of early minutes of Democratic debate MORE's concessions, when they come, will be an essential element in her election.

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Anyone who knows the lore of presidential politics knows candidates play to the extremists in their party during the primaries and move to the middle in the general election. So the professional political class has seen presumptive Democratic nominee Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpFive takeaways from the Democratic debate As Buttigieg rises, Biden is still the target Leading Democrats largely pull punches at debate MORE start his vacillation on a variety of issues since his win in the Indiana primary and the polls show that 84 percent of Republican Party loyalists intend to vote for him. As Trump starts his mudslinging at Clinton and begins wooing anyone he can think of from the Democratic side of the ledger, mainstream Democrats are faced with polling that shows Trump narrowing the gap with Clinton. No wonder the sweat beads are starting to form on their collective brow.

So why not criticize Sanders? He surely deserves it. Given the current and prospective delegate count, he has no chance of winning the nomination. And, according to pundit thinking, the fact that "rigged" primary selection procedures place the candidate selection in the hands of the party elites might seem unfair but they "were the rules he accepted when he entered the race," so the argument goes. Plus, he trails Clinton by almost 3 million votes when all primaries are tallied. So what is Sanders's problem? Clinton has already acknowledged the progressive agenda. She has 112 reasons listed on her website as to why she is a "progressive who gets things done." Most of her positions mimic, if not mirror, the progressive agenda.

Indeed, whatever might be the problem? The problem is that she is a DINO (Democrat in Name Only). The problem is that she, along with her husband, trashed the core values of the Democratic Party in the 1990s and threw the American workers under the proverbial bus. They essentially became more Republican than Republicans. Perhaps it was a slip of the tongue while campaigning in Kentucky, but she offered up her husband as the person who would carry the flag on the economy once she is in office. Really?

An example is in order. We know she decided that she was against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) after she was for it. Is her plan to turn the issue over to the godfather of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)? Is there any question in anyone's mind that a candidate who has wrapped herself in the cloak of the incumbent president (whose team negotiated the TPP), will not, upon victory, become "pragmatic"? It's unlikely she will continue to oppose what Sanders has described as "part of a global race to the bottom to boost the profits of large corporations and Wall Street by outsourcing jobs; undercutting worker rights; dismantling labor, environmental, health, food safety and financial laws; and allowing corporations to challenge our laws in international tribunals rather than our own court system."

You would have to be as dumb as a post to think that Clinton might not lean in to the middle and change positions and support the TPP. And that is only one issue. There are literally a score of issues where you can give odds that workers will lose to the pragmatism of a "progressive who gets things done."

So the distrust is manifest and the party convention looms. It can go two ways. The convention can be disruptive and rowdy beyond belief, especially if Sanders is close or wins California and superdelegates maintain their commitment to support Clinton. Or, the pressure and support of Sander's remarkable candidacy is given some sway in the form of "assurances," commitments or concessions. The talking heads would have us believe that Sanders will get his hour for a speech and the party will grant him verbiage on the party platform which, by the way, they assure us is non-binding on the candidate.

That dog won't hunt. So what concessions would be required for his support and willingness to stump for Clinton and the down-ballot contestants? He must demand a progressive vice presidential choice like Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenFive takeaways from the Democratic debate As Buttigieg rises, Biden is still the target Leading Democrats largely pull punches at debate MORE (D-Mass.) and a signed pledge to support the major components of his agenda: a minimum wage increase, tax reform, student loan relief, educational supports, campaign finance reform, antitrust legislation, trade policy and support for renewable energy, reduced military spending and a restraint on foreign wars. Why wouldn't she sign? It would be a pledge like the Grover Norquist and the Americans For Tax Reform pledge for Republicans to shoot themselves before ever voting for increased taxes. The Sanders pledge can be routed to down-ballot candidates. The Democratic Party would then be pledged to support its core constituents. It could be used as a challenge to Trump and the misplaced support white middle-class wage earners have given for hollow promises of a new and great America.

Being forced to sign will drive Hillary Clinton crazy, but with all the disruption that Bernie Sanders can cause by not supporting her, she will have no choice. Sanders can then return to the Senate, organize the Progressive Caucus and start pounding out the needed legislative reforms.

Russell is managing director of Cove Hill Advisory Services.