WASHINGTON — In a major step toward unifying the Democratic Party, Sen. Bernie Sanders on Monday endorsed Joe Biden for the party’s presidential nomination and pledged to “do all that I can” to help the former vice president beat President Donald Trump in November.
Making a split-screen appearance with Biden in a livestream billed as a talk on the coronavirus crisis, Sanders, I-Vt., urged Americans to join him in supporting Biden “to make certain we defeat someone I believe is the most dangerous president in the modern history of this country.”
The two announced they were establishing a task force, made up of advisers from both camps, to hash out policy agreements on issues such as the economy, education, criminal justice, immigration, health care and climate change.
Sanders’ endorsement ends any doubt that lingered in the wake of his announcement last week that he was ending his own bid for the presidential nomination, in a speech that fell short of a full-throated endorsement of Biden.
“Today, I am asking all Americans — I’m asking every Democrat, I’m asking every independent, I’m asking a lot of Republicans — to come together in this campaign to support your candidacy, which I endorse,” Sanders said to Biden.
Sanders’ move came much earlier — almost exactly three months — than in the 2016 primary campaign, when a vanquished Sanders did not endorse the party’s nominee, Hillary Clinton, until July 12.
Biden, who has struggled to win support from the progressives and young voters who flocked to Sanders, expressed gratitude to the senator.
“It’s a big deal,” Biden said. “I’m going to need you badly.”
The two erstwhile rivals, speaking via livestream from their respective homes, where they are confined during the pandemic, had a lengthy conversation that emphasized their shared views on many issues. They avoided engaging on differences over issues such as Sanders’ signature proposal to expand Medicare to all Americans.
“I know we share the same goals on many of these things,” said Biden. “We’ve had different ideas on how to accomplish them. But on some issues we’re going to continue to disagree respectfully, but not in any substantive way.”
For the Biden campaign, the high-profile endorsement provided a welcome change of topic from reports that surfaced over the weekend that a former Senate staffer had accused Biden of sexually assaulting her during the early 1990s when he was a Delaware senator. The Biden campaign flatly denies the allegation.
The detente with Sanders came after Biden had taken a series of steps to reach out to the party’s left wing in the weeks since he gained an insurmountable lead over Sanders in the primaries that were held before the coronavirus crisis shut down most balloting.
Last week, Biden proposed an expansion of Medicare and student debt relief in proposals that fell short of what Sanders proposed, but marked movement in his direction. Some Sanders supporters saw Biden’s proposals as inadequate, but Sanders seemed uninterested Monday in dwelling on such objections.
“There’s a lot of work to do,” Sanders said. “Let’s go forward together.”
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