LOS ANGELES (AP) — Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders says the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia and his push to make the party more inclusive could get "messy" but asserts in an interview with The Associated Press: "Democracy is not always nice and quiet and gentle."
The Vermont senator, campaigning Monday ahead of California's primary against Hillary Clinton, said his supporters hope the party will adopt a platform at the summer convention that reflects the needs of working families, the poor and young people, not Wall Street and corporate America.
Sanders said he will "condemn any and all forms of violence" but his campaign was welcoming political newcomers and first-time attendees of party conventions. He said the Democratic Party faces a choice of becoming more inclusive or maintaining the status quo.
"I think if they make the right choice and open the doors to working-class people and young people and create the kind of dynamism that the Democratic Party needs, it's going to be messy," Sanders said.
"Democracy is not always nice and quiet and gentle but that is where the Democratic Party should go."
Asked if the convention could be problematical, Sanders said: "So what? Democracy is messy. Everyday my life is messy. But if you want everything to be quiet and orderly and allow, you know, just things to proceed without vigorous debate, that is not what democracy is about."
Sanders is vying for support ahead of California's June 7 primary, a day that also includes contests in Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota and South Dakota. Clinton has 271 more pledged delegates than Sanders and is just 90 delegates shy of clinching the nomination when the total includes superdelegates, the party officials and elected leaders who can support the candidate of their choice.
Some Democrats have grown weary about the length of the primaries, worried that it could give Republican businessman Donald Trump a head start on the general election and make it more difficult for Democrats to unite behind a nominee. The issue gained attention when a recent Nevada Democratic convention turned raucous.
Sanders said he was "bothered" by the portrayal of the Las Vegas convention, saying it did not turn violent as some media reports indicated. "There was rowdyism. There was booing, I think inappropriately by the way," he said.
The senator spoke after the Democratic National Committee announced a 15-member platform drafting committee, which will write the first draft of the party platform. The panel includes allies of both candidates.
Sanders said the platform process would be an "excellent time to educate the American people," saying it would allow the party to have a vigorous debate over ways to address wealth inequality, the role of Wall Street in the economy, climate change and universal health care.
"A serious debate about serious issues is good for democracy, is good for the Democratic Party. It will increase voter turnout and that always works in our effort to defeat Republicans," he said.
He declined to entertain the possibility of being considered as Clinton's running mate, saying he was focused on winning the nomination. "If I don't, we will see what happens later on." But he reiterated that he would do "everything that I can" to ensure that Trump is not elected president.
Sanders said he had a "shot" at winning the California primary against Clinton and said, given his delegate deficit, it was "imperative" that he perform well. He estimated his rallies around the state would allow him to speak directly to 200,000 voters before the primary.
"What happens if I win a major victory in California? Will people say, 'Oh, we're really enthusiastic about Hillary Clinton despite the fact that Bernie Sanders has now won whatever it may be, 25 states, half the states?'" he said.
If that happens, he added, superdelegates "may rethink that. That is why you want the process to play out."
Clinton's campaign said Monday she would not participate in a proposed California debate, choosing instead to campaign in the state. Sanders said at an evening rally in Santa Monica he was "disturbed but not surprised" that Clinton had "backed out" of the debate, which was part of an agreement the campaigns reached with the DNC earlier this year.
Sanders also looked ahead to the future of his political movement, saying his goal was "the transformation of the Democratic Party. To be a party which is a grassroots party where the main energy comes from working families, from trade unionists, from environmentalists, from people today who want real political and social and economic and environmental changes in our society."
Follow Ken Thomas on Twitter: https://twitter.com/KThomasDC