'It's not about me': Sanders, without bowing out, passes movement mantle to supporters

Bernie Sanders began the work Thursday of passing the mantle of his movement over to the supporters who fueled his insurgent presidential campaign, urging them to wage the “political revolution” for “real change” long after this election – even without him at the helm.

Slowly but surely lowering expectations that he has any design to mount a last-ditch drive for the Democratic nomination at this stage, Sanders used an address in New York City to explain what comes next for the millions who backed him.

“It’s not about me. It is about people at the grassroots level,” Sanders told cheering supporters.

Once again, the Vermont senator did not use the venue to suspend his Democratic presidential bid or endorse Hillary Clinton, who earned enough delegates to clinch the nomination more than two weeks ago.

But, with his hopes of somehow staging an upset on the convention floor all but faded, Sanders urged supporters to instead keep fighting for the issues they’ve been pushing the entire campaign, including by backing candidates in other races -- and by running for office themselves.

“What the political revolution means is that you are the revolutioners,” Sanders said.

The Vermont senator cited a range of issues he hopes his supporters will take up going forward, including the fight to pass a $15 federal minimum wage, overhaul what he calls a “corrupt” campaign finance system and tackle income inequality on several fronts.

“Our goal from day one has been to transform this country, and that is the fight we are going to continue,” he said. “… What our campaign has been about and is about is saying ‘sorry, we’re thinking big, we want real change.’”

Sanders also said he’ll be fighting at the Democratic National Convention for major changes, including ending closed primaries in which only registered Democrats can vote and ending the “absurd situation” where superdelegates can ignore the “will of their constituents” by backing any candidate they want.

The Sanders campaign earlier Thursday also began soliciting ideas from supporters for changes to the party platform.

The rally in New York had all the energy of a standard Sanders campaign stump speech, even though Clinton essentially sidelined him from the primary race earlier this month.

But what has been clear for weeks now is that the Sanders campaign is shifting gears – more toward a fight for a “progressive” party platform and long-term changes than the nomination itself.

No longer taking on Clinton, Sanders is now talking strictly about issues and plans to start campaigning for congressional and local candidates. In an online address last week, he indicated he was getting ready to start working with the presumptive Democratic nominee in the campaign against Donald Trump.

Sanders openly acknowledged in an interview Wednesday he probably would not be the nominee himself.

Clinton, meanwhile, has wasted no time pivoting to a general election fight against Trump.

The two have delivered a string of dueling – and scathing – addresses, while sparring on a daily basis over the airwaves and social media. Clinton also is narrowing her vice presidential short-list in the run-up to the Democratic convention next month.