Sanders supporters plan to hold Clinton accountable if she's elected

WASHINGTON — Sen. Bernie Sanders and his supporters are making one thing clear to Hillary Clinton if she is elected president on Nov. 8: There will be no honeymoon.

Building on lessons learned from 2008, progressives say they won’t idly watch another Democratic administration name executive branch appointees backed by Wall Street, as they say President Obama did. And though Sanders is actively campaigning to help his former rival for the Democratic nomination defeat GOP nominee Donald Trump, he says he’s with them — grass-roots activists — the day after the election.

"We’ve got to do everything that we can to elect Secretary Clinton," Sanders said at a Thursday rally in Raleigh with the former secretary of State. "And on the day after the election, we’re gonna go back to work to make this country what we know it can become."

Progressive groups say “personnel is policy” and their first test for Clinton if she wins will be whether she appoints officials who will carry out the agenda Sanders fought for in the Democratic Party platform, one he calls "the most progressive agenda of any major political party" in the country's history.They are already focused on the types of appointees they will accept — or oppose.

“If President Hillary Clinton wants to cause a huge and enduring rift inside the Democratic Party, all she'd need to do is make the kind of Wall Street appointments that Obama did back when he came into office,” Norman Solomon, coordinator of the Bernie Delegates Network and co-founder of the online group RootsAction.org, wrote in an email. “We have the momentum to quickly assemble a major alliance to either prevent such appointments or raise hell if she tries to make them.”

An immediate focus for Sanders’ activist spinoff organization, Our Revolution, will be to “nationalize the discussion” about financial and environmental appointments so that millions of people will be informed and involved at the grass-roots level, said Jeff Weaver, the group’s president and Sanders’ former campaign manager. The group is equipped with the Sanders campaign’s email list, a demonstrated ability to mobilize grass-roots supporters on social media, and a distributed phone network that can facilitate tens of thousands of calls to the White House and congressional offices.

“We want to make sure that the issues that energized people who support Our Revolution get advanced by the White House and in the Congress,” Weaver said. “We hope to create a lot of public pressure.”

The Clinton campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

Though polls show most Sanders supporters will vote for Clinton, concerns remain among progressives about the Democratic nominee's centrist leanings and connections to Wall Street and whether that could influence her potential Cabinet.

“There’s an obvious tension between her financial support and her personal financial support from Wall Street and the platform she embraced,” said Robert Borosage, founder and president of the Institute for America’s Future. “The question is, how does she deal with those pressures?”

Activists fault the progressive movement for not challenging Obama early in his term on appointments to counter Wall Street influence. They point to an October 2008 email, revealed by WikiLeaks, that showed the current U.S. trade representative, Michael Froman, recommended numerous candidates for administration posts when he worked as a Citibank executive. Many of those candidates got jobs.

Progressives won’t act like “zombies” again when the next administration takes office, said RoseAnn DeMoro, executive director of National Nurses United, which supported Sanders.

“Nobody pushed Obama,” she said. “She’s not going to have that luxury. Bernie woke this country up in many ways and made them believe in their collective power.”

Sanders says he will do "everything possible" after the election to make sure the Democratic platform is implemented. It calls for a host of his priorities, including a higher minimum wage, an expansion of Social Security, making public colleges and universities tuition-free for working families, and a breakup of big banks that pose a systemic risk to the economy.  

"I think that Hillary Clinton is sincere in a number of areas," Sanders said in a lengthy September interview that published Oct. 17 in the New Republic. "In other areas I think she is gonna have to be pushed, and that's fine. That's called the democratic process."

In a Boston Globe op-ed published late last month, he wrote that the next president can bring people together by appointing an administration — and specifically a Treasury secretary, trade representative and attorney general — “that will fight for working people."

Some progressives have focused on offering candidates they can support for administration posts. The Roosevelt Institute think tank has recommended about 150 people for appointments to positions related to economic policy.

“We’re doing a lot to really try to make sure that she has great choices for economic appointments in front of her,” said Felicia Wong, president and CEO of the Institute.

Jeff Hauser, executive director of the Revolving Door Project, said he has been researching “problematic” candidates. For example, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, whose name has been floated for Treasury secretary, has raised concerns among those who question Facebook's tax practices and don't want a corporate insider in that role. Sandberg has said she's staying at the company.

In August, 15 progressive groups wrote to the Clinton campaign, calling for executive branch appointees with a “documented record of fighting for the public interest.” The letter notes her endorsement of legislation to ban “golden parachutes” for those who take government positions and her pledge to consult with Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts on appointments concerning financial regulations.

The Clinton campaign and transition team have “maintained an open door policy and engaged an array of progressives thoroughly,” said Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. The committee, which co-signed the letter, did not endorse Sanders but a significant number of its members are supporters of the Vermont senator. "We feel progressives will have the strongest set of seats at the table that we've had in decades," he said.

Green said his group and others have made clear that the standard for assessing any appointee with power over corporate America is, “do they have a proven track record of challenging corporate power?”

If Clinton upholds that standard, he said, “that would put a lot of wind in her sail" and help maintain Sanders voters' support after the election.

Given their experience with Obama, progressives won’t give Clinton any "grace period" or allow her to represent the left against Republicans, said Charles Lechner, co-founder of the independent “People for Bernie.”

“She quite properly represents the center and is going to have to contend with pressure from both sides,” he said.

USA TODAY


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