On Tuesday, Bernie Sanders is due to appear with Hillary Clinton
at a rally in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where many expect Sanders will endorse his former rival.
It's worth reflecting on the Vermont senator's unlikely journey as a presidential candidate.
Bear in mind that a year ago at this time, Clinton bested Sanders by a 48.5 point margin
in national primary polls. By early April of this year, Sanders had come within a percentage point of Clinton -- in other words, within the polling margin of error. By the effective end of the primary season, the day before California and New Jersey Democrats cast their votes, Clinton was back ahead, but only by 11 points.
Sanders had literally come out of nowhere to mount a serious, sustained challenge against one of the most presumably presumptive front-runners in presidential campaign history.
And Sanders was, to say the least, an improbable candidate. Though before she announced she was running, Clinton, now 68, was dogged by questions about whether she was too old for the job, Sanders, at 74, is even older. (And few have made an issue of Donald Trump's age, even though he turned 70 last month.)
If Clinton risked seeming overly staid and unhip in the mass media-fueled era of politics, Sanders was a living caricature of the concern. That he literally couldn't seem to be concerned with combing his hair or buying a suit from this century -- let alone smiling and glad-handling and seeming pleasant and not grouchy -- belied the current orthodoxy of politics and zeitgeist of the moment.
Yet somehow, to borrow from Huey Lewis and the News, Sanders was so square he was hip. And his curmudgeonly, I-can't-be-bothered-with-anything-else persona lent a sense of raw urgency and conviction to his message about the disastrous level of economic inequality in America.
Bernie Sanders was very much hip to the economic anxiety of poor and working class Americans -- and he made their fears and concerns more politically popular. This has, by and large, been a fairly substance-free election -- with Trump's tantrums leading the way in drawing all meaningful media and public attention away from matters of actual policy that affect our lives.
Especially within this context, Bernie Sanders deserves immense credit for running a deeply substantive campaign that will indelibly shape American politics for the foreseeable future.
In fact, Sanders' mark can already be seen in the draft of the Democratic Party platform that was finalized this weekend
. The platform includes Sanders' call for a $15 an hour federal minimum wage indexed to inflation and a provision to reinstate the Glass-Steagall restrictions on banks' activities and declare that "no bank can be too big to fail."
The platform also includes strong planks on criminal justice reform and imposing a price on carbon. The Sanders team didn't get everything they wanted. There's no plank calling for banning fracking, though there's language to regulate it. And a Sanders-backed plank opposing the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal was voted down
. But still, it is by far the most progressive platform in the history of the Democratic Party.
"I think if you read the platform right now, you will understand that the political revolution is alive and kicking," Sanders' policy director Warren Gunnels told NBC News.
Sanders and Clinton agree on far more than they disagree. It's time for Sanders -- and his supporters -- to acknowledge this and, hopefully, put their energy into turning out the vote this fall.
In Orlando, some Sanders supporters shouted down
an amendment to the party platform that would have named Clinton as the nominee. Some still want Sanders to keep campaigning and to contest the convention, though the Sanders campaign itself had actually endorsed the amendment.
Coming at the end of a hard-fought primary campaign and a platform process that shows clear victories for Sanders and his supporters, the incident was a reminder of the bridges yet to be built -- and the work still to be done by Bernie Sanders.
If Sanders endorses Clinton in New Hampshire, one might also expect that he will announce he is suspending his campaign -- though I'm not going to make the prediction, given that Sanders basically lost the primary on June 7 and even said on June 24 that he would "in all likelihood" vote for Clinton in the general election, and yet Sanders didn't officially end his campaign then. So there's no guaranteeing he will now.
Bernie Sanders has pushed Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party solidly (and, in my mind, thankfully) to the left while engaging millions of young voters in the primary process. Now, having won more than frankly anyone ever imagined possible, will Sanders finally not only endorse Clinton but do so emphatically and enthusiastically while formally bowing out of the race? Let's hope so.
Donald Trump poses a serious and growing threat not only to Democratic prospects but the very principles and existence of our democracy. Hillary Clinton needs Bernie Sanders and every one of us to defeat Trump and build an America that upholds our shared values. It's time to move forward together.