President Obama pushes back against Bernie's definition of a progressive and sorta-kinda-almost endorses Hillary

"Trying to find common ground doesn't make me less of a Democrat or less of a progressive"

By Sophia Tesfaye

Senior Politics Editor

Published February 11, 2016 5:32PM (EST)

  (Reuters/Brian Snyder/Dominick Reuter/Photo montage by Salon)
(Reuters/Brian Snyder/Dominick Reuter/Photo montage by Salon)

One day after Bernie Sanders won the New Hampshire Democratic presidential primary, President Obama pushed back against the Vermont Independent's assertion that one cannot be both a moderate and a progressive.

"Some of my best friends are moderates, but you can’t be a progressive and a moderate at the same time,” Sanders said at the last Democratic debate, dismissing rival Hillary Clinton's argument that she is a “progressive who gets things done" despite previously "plead[ing] guilty" to being a moderate.

Although when pressed, Sanders said he did consider President Obama a progressive after Clinton mocked the Independent senator as the “self-proclaimed gatekeeper for progressivism” whose definition would exclude the current occupant of the White House, Sanders reiterated that Clinton is part of a larger "establishment."

In an address to the Illinois state legislature on Wednesday, the President defended his legacy, asserting that while part of the establishment he remained a progressive. "Trying to find common ground [with Republicans] doesn't make me less of a Democrat or less of a progressive," Obama said in Springfield, the site where his presidential campaign launched nine years ago to the day. "It means I'm trying to get stuff done."

Obama went on to blast the debate in the Democratic primary about who is "not a real progressive" as damaging. Americans should reject "the notion that compromise is a sellout to one side," Obama implored the lawmakers. "We have got to insist on the opposite: that it can be a genuine victory that means progress for all sides."

"So when I hear voices in either party boast of their refusal to compromise as an accomplishment in and of itself, I'm not impressed," Obama said. "All that does is prevent what most Americans would consider actual accomplishments, like fixing roads, educating kids, passing budgets, cleaning our environment, making our streets safe."

Obama's comments strongly signal a preference for his former secretary of state to over Sanders, who just this week criticized the Obama administration's immigration enforcement initiatives.

"I don't think there is any doubt that he wants Hillary to win the nomination and believes that she would be the best candidate in the fall and the most effective as president in carrying forward what he's achieved," former White House press secretary Jay Carney said this week.

the President has signaled, while still remaining neutral, that he supports Secretary Clinton's candidacy and would prefer to see her as the nominee," Carney told CNN on Wednesday. "He won't officially embrace her unless and until it's clear that she's going to be the nominee. I think he is maintaining that tradition of not intervening in a party primary."

President Obama Urges Political Unity

By Sophia Tesfaye

Sophia Tesfaye is Salon's senior editor for news and politics, and resides in Washington, D.C. You can find her on Twitter at @SophiaTesfaye.

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2016 Democratic Primary Aol_on Bernie Sanders Hillary Clinton President Obama Progressivism