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By Lauren McCauley, staff writer
The ongoing rift between Democratic elites and Bernie Sanders may come to a head at the convention in July, as the presidential hopeful has promised a "fight" if the party refuses to include "bold" progressive initiatives on the Democratic platform.
Such a move, the Vermont senator said, would be tantamount to "silencing" the "9 million voters who, during this nominating process, have indicated that they want to go beyond establishment politics and establishment economics."
"If we don't have the votes to get the nomination, were not going get the nomination. That becomes then the platform fight," Sanders told MSNBC's Rachel Maddow in an interview that aired on Friday, making it clear that his determination to take his campaign all the way to the convention in Philadelphia is about more than winning the presidency.
In a letter sent to Democratic Party chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fl.) on Friday, Sanders expressed concern that the the key committees charged with laying out the party rules and platform would be "stacked" with "Clinton loyalists."
According to the letter, Wasserman Schultz chose a scant three out of 40 people that Sanders had recommended for the standing committees, while not one was chosen for the "very important" Rules Committee.
"If we are to have a unified party in the fall, no matter who wins the nomination, we cannot have a Democratic National Convention in which the views of millions of people who participated in the Democratic nominating process are unrepresented in the committee membership appointed by you, the Chair," Sanders wrote.
"That sends the very real message that the Democratic Party is not open to the millions of new people that our campaign has brought into the political process, does not want to hear new voices, and is unwilling to respect the broader base of people that this party needs to win over in November and beyond," he continued.
While a president is not bound to the party's official platform, as Sanders explained to Maddow, it is intended to reflect the ideals of the voter base.
"It does say something, it does reflect what the base of the Democratic party believes should be the future of this country, and I intend to do everything that I can to make that the most progressive document that we possibly can," he said. "And I think, by the way, that is the doc that the Democratic grassroots people really want to see."
However, the senator is concerned that party elites are already trying to sideline that point of view. In the letter, Sanders points out that the individuals tapped to lead the Platform and Rules Committees, respectively Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy and former Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts, have served as "aggressive attack surrogates" for Hillary Clinton throughout the campaign.
Doubting that either will "conduct committee proceeding in an even-handed manner," Sanders said that their appointment "suggests the standing committees are being established in an overtly partisan way meant to exclude the input of the voters who have supported my candidacy."
"It is my hope we can quickly resolve this in a fair way," the letter concludes. "If the process is set up to produce an unfair, one-sided result, we are prepared to mobilize our delegates to force as many votes as necessary to amend the platform and rules on the floor of the convention."