Bernie won the battle — of framing the debate in terms of his progressive issues

Now he needs to be ready to let Clinton fight the rest of the war

Bernie Sanders won last night. It wasn’t the victory he and his supporters wanted. But it’s more of a victory than he could have reasonably dreamed of when he entered the race and was virtually flat-lining at 3 percent in the polls.

Now, Bernie supporters, the question is whether you and your flag-bearer can hang on to this victory — one where, if you closed your eyes during Hillary Clinton’s victory speech in Philadelphia, you could have imagined many of the very same words being uttered by Sanders himself.

Yes, Hillary won decisively on Tuesday in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware and Connecticut. But that was Clinton pushing with unprecedented vigor to reverse the Citizens v. United decision that allowed lopsided corporate influence on campaign finance. That was Clinton, with startling directness, harping on income inequality and promising to fight for the middle class.

In the end, that was Clinton thanking Sanders supporters “for challenging us to get unaccountable money out of our politics and giving greater emphasis to closing the gap of inequality. Together, we will get that done.”

Was she being sincere or strategic? Probably both. In reality, it doesn’t matter. She’s on the record now to fight for the causes of Bernie Sanders. The bell can’t be unrung. His followers have the opportunity to spend the next four years holding her to it.

Bernie Sanders has energized the young people of this nation as I’ve never seen in my lifetime. He has earned the right to fight this all the way to July to the Democratic convention in Philly.

But I ask you, “Bernie or bust” followers. Do you really have to have his full-out “political revolution.” Will you abandon the fight just because he falls short of the nomination and Clinton becomes the standard-bearer? Will you fall prey to the Donald Trump “divide and conquer” stratagem, where he urges his fellow outsider to go rogue and run as an Independent?

Or can you accept the extraordinary victories already within grasp? Can you work with Bernie and focus on seeing to it that Hillary Clinton, who has veered to the left only when forced — and maybe, just maybe, has seen some light — truly fights the fight? You can see these issues embedded in the party platform — if you eschew the politics of destruction.

I hope you won’t let your disappointment allow a president be elected who denigrates women, who even got Chris Christie’s wife Mary Pat’s eyes rolling with his statement that all Hillary’s got is the “woman’s card.”

“If Hillary Clinton were a man, I don’t think she’d get 5 percent of the vote,” Trump said.

That’s not what you want as president. If you burn bridges, you stand to lose the opportunity for a historic win as well on the women’s issues that Bernie fought for — issues that, frankly, Hillary is the most capable one to fight with effectiveness.

Sanders sounded as if he had turned the corner last night. His campaign issued a statement Tuesday night that he will wage “issue-oriented campaigns in the 14 contests to come.”

It’s the right tone.

Will you follow along?

Follow me on Twitter: @larryhanover

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