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What's Next For Sanders Supporters?

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We're going to start the program today looking at the big political news in the Democratic Party this past week. Hillary Clinton secured the vote she needed from elected delegates and appointed so-called superdelegates to earn the title of the Democratic Party's presumptive nominee for president.

Her chief rival, Bernie Sanders, still hasn't said what he's going to do - drop out, endorse or what. But many thought they heard a change in tone.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BERNIE SANDERS: I will work as hard as I can to make sure that Donald Trump does not become president of the United States.

MARTIN: We wanted to spend a few minutes looking at the way forward for the Democratic Party and especially for Bernie Sanders supporters. So we talked with Bernie Sanders supporter Shaun King, a leading voice in the Black Lives Matter movement who writes a column for the New York Daily News. He joined us from Atlanta.

We also spoke with Maria Cardona, a political strategist, Clinton supporter, Democratic superdelegate and CNN contributor who joined me in Washington, D.C. Maria Cardona stated by saying she understands how Bernie - sorry, how Bernie Sanders supporters are feeling because she worked on Hillary Clinton's failed presidential campaign eight years ago.

MARIA CARDONA: We were back then exactly where Bernie and his supporters are now, so I can feel this. They ran a fantastic campaign, and I think the conversation that we had overall in the Democratic Party was great for the party, great for the country. And the most important thing to do now is for Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton to get together.

MARTIN: You mean, physically get together?

CARDONA: Yes, physically get together, speak - Hillary Clinton has been very clear that she believes that the issues that he brought to the table are critical and that she wants him to be a part of this.

If she wins the election, I also think it will help Democrats take back the Senate, gain seats in the House. I also think what's important is that it will be the continued movement of what Bernie brought to the table because they're not all that far apart on a lot of these issues that Bernie Sanders made sure were front and center.

MARTIN: Shaun, what is most important to you right now as a Sanders supporter? My guess is that with Sanders supporters, what's most important is not necessarily what's best for the Democratic Party.

SHAUN KING: Yeah, I agree with that thought that Sanders supporters are not nearly as concerned about the party itself as we are about certain principles and values and positions. And I do disagree that Bernie and Hillary are close on most ideas. Like, I think they are incredibly far apart on a whole range of ideas, particularly campaign finance and money from lobbyists and super PACs. And for a lot of us, myself included, that's no small fringe issue.

We don't really see getting behind Hillary Clinton as the same proposal as 2008 Hillary supporters getting behind Barack Obama. It's - it is a bitter pill to swallow, and so I think the challenge for Bernie supporters of getting behind Hillary is a lot bigger than Hillary supporters understand.

MARTIN: Now, you wrote in a column earlier this week that a true Bernie Sanders supporter could never support Donald Trump. But you also said in that column that you yourself may not vote for Hillary Clinton, and I have to ask you about that.

I mean, the fact is that officeholders get elected all the time because not enough people showed up in the polls to vote against them for the alternative. So how is suggesting that you won't vote for Hillary Clinton any better than voting for Donald Trump?

KING: I believe very strongly that there's no way you can support Bernie Sanders and vote for Donald Trump. Like, Bernie has said just as much himself, that his primary goal is to make sure Donald Trump isn't president.

But I don't believe that saying you may vote for a third-party candidate is the same as voting for Donald Trump.

MARTIN: How come? If it leads to that result, I don't understand that.

KING: Right. I get the sentiment, but like an actual vote cast for Donald Trump is not the same as a no-vote. I do believe people have to vote for their conscience. I haven't said that, like, there's no way in the world I would ever vote for Hillary, like - but I'm kind of there right now.

MARTIN: What does she need to do? Is there anything she could do to get your vote?

KING: Well, who she picks as her vice presidential candidate is essential. The conversations that she has - if she and Bernie connect, you know, like - those who support Bernie, we trust Bernie.

And if Bernie has really substantive conversations with Hillary and comes out of those conversations saying, hey, this is going to shock all of you, but I really think that Hillary is going to make adjustment A, B and C, and we need to get behind her. That would influence me.

MARTIN: All right, I'm going to ask you to answer that question, but not just in relation to Shaun, per se, and Bernie Sanders supporters, but also other members of the Democratic Coalition. Does Hillary Clinton have - does she have work to do there?

CARDONA: So a couple of things - I agree with Shaun that eight years ago it was different. Clearly, the candidates were different. But in '08, there were close to 45 percent of Hillary Clinton supporters who said when she dropped out that there was no way that they could ever support Barack Obama. Forty five percent - and if you remember, there was even a movement, a PUMA movement - Party Unity My - behind, right?

And that never came to fruition because I think everybody at the end of the day understood that Barack Obama was much closer to Hillary Clinton's values and to what we were all fighting for in the end, and that we needed to come together unless we wanted a Republican in the White House. I believe that will happen this time around, too, because the percentage of Bernie Sanders supporters who say they could never ever vote for Hillary is about 25 percent.

MARTIN: Before we let you go - I gave Maria the first word, so Shaun, I'm going to be the last word. One thing that I was wondering if maybe you'd explain for us that there's a hashtag going around, and the hashtag is #GirlIGuessImWithHer.

KING: Yeah, yeah, yeah, I've seen that, you know. I think you're starting to see, you know, some people saying, OK, I guess I could get on board. And that hashtag is about that. Like, I guess, you know, I guess I'm with her.

But I do think, even though that initial number of supporters of Bernie who are not yet with Hillary may be smaller than it was initially with Barack Obama, I think there's a pretty strident, strong group of Bernie supporters who are going to have an incredibly difficult time porting over, and it's because they are not a historic part of the Democratic Party. They are new voters, first-time voters. They are young people. They are outsiders.

And so for them, the shift is pretty significant. Like, they got on board because of Bernie, and for a lot of men and women like that, I think a lot of work has to happen between now and November. So we'll see where it goes.

MARTIN: That's Shaun King. He's a leading voice in the Black Lives Matter movement. He writes a column for the New York Daily News. He joined us from Atlanta. Maria Cardona is a Democratic strategist, a CNN contributor. She was kind enough to join us in our studios in Washington, D.C. I thank you both so much for speaking with us. I hope we'll speak again.

CARDONA: Thank you so much, Michel.

KING: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.