Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders agree to work together

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Sanders Calls for Major Shakeup in DNC Leadership

The Democratic Party establishment's long, awkward, and occasionally frightening nightmare is over — or at least just about.

Hillary Clinton was declared the winner of the final primary in the Democratic Party's presidential nominating process Tuesday night, just as she sat down for a highly anticipated summit with rival Bernie Sanders.

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The carefully choreographed meeting ran for nearly two hours at the neutral territory of the Capital Hilton in Washington, D.C.

Afterwards, both candidates released nearly identical statements calling the meeting "positive" and saying they had agreed to work together to defeat Donald Trump.

"The two discussed a variety of progressive issues where they share common goals like raising wages for working families, eliminating undisclosed money in politics and reducing the cost of college for students and their families," a Clinton official said, echoing the same policy items listed in Sanders' statement.

However, while Clinton's statement discussed "unifying the party," Sanders' made no mention of the "u" word.

Sanders' wife and campaign manager attended, along with Clinton's campaign chairman and campaign manager.

As the sun set over the capital city, which had the unpleasant distinction of voting after every other state and territory in the country, it was easy to forget how close the 2016 presidential contest came to going sideways for Democratic Party elders.

RELATED: Hillary Clinton's potential running mates

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Hillary Clinton potential running mates, VPs
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Hillary Clinton potential running mates, VPs

Tim Kaine

The junior Democratic Senator from the swing state of Virginia could be a strategic selection for Hillary. Kaine also served as the governor of Virginia from 2006- 2010.

(Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Elizabeth Warren

The current U.S. Senator from Massachusetts is popular among progressive Democrats, and some even tried to draft her to run for president herself in 2016. 

(Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Sherrod Brown

Insiders believe that the senior U.S. Senator from Ohio could help Clinton increase her popularity with working-class voters, a group she has yet to win in a big way so far in primary contests.  

(Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Cory Booker

The U.S. Senator from New Jersey is both youthful and charismatic and would add racial diversity to a Clinton ticket. 

(Photo by KK Ottesen for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Tom Perez

The current U.S. Secretary of Labor is considered a sleeper pick by many Democrats because he is not well known outside of D.C., but some believe his strength and popularity among union workers and other progressive groups could be an asset to Clinton's ticket. 

(Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Julian Castro

The former mayor of San Antonio and current U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development has been rumored as a possible running mate for Clinton for months, but in May he said in an interview that the Clinton campaign hasn't talked to him about the role.

(AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Amy Klobuchar

Insiders confirmed that Clinton is definitely considering a woman as her vice presidential pick, and as U.S. Senator from Minnesota, Klobuchar has a seat Democrats would likely maintain. She's also been described as "by far" the most popular politician in her state. 

 (AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt)

Bernie Sanders

The Independent from Vermont has become Hillary Clinton's primary rival for the Democratic nomination, garnering a surprising amount of support. Bringing Sanders onto the ticket could help to unite both sets of supporters who have been split in Democratic primaries.

(Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images)

Martin O'Malley

A former 2016 rival of Hillary Clinton, and former Maryland governor, Martin O’Malley could help bring some executive experience, along with a slight youthful boost to the ticket.

(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Tom Vilsack

The Secretary of Agriculture since 2009, Tom Vilsack also served as the governor of Iowa from 1999 to 2007. Vilsack could bring some governing experience along with swing state influence.  

(BELGIUM - Tags: AGRICULTURE POLITICS BUSINESS)

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper delivers his annual State of the State address to lawmakers and guests, inside the state legislature, in Denver, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016. Hickenlooper called upon Republicans and Democrats to return to an era of civility and compromise in his address to the Republican-controlled Senate and the Democrat-led House. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

Evan Bayh 

Evan Bayh could bring a more right leaning brand of politics to the ticket. Bayh previously served as the junior U.S. Senator from Indiana from 1999 to 2011, and also as the 46th Governor of Indiana from 1989 to 1997.  

Joe Biden

While the likelihood of him agreeing to take on the veep job again might be low, Biden's popularity among Democrats would likely boost Clinton's chances. 

(Photo credit MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Bill Clinton

Hillary's husband is technically allowed to serve in the job, and some legal experts even think he'd be able to take office if necessary. Unfortunately for the diehard Clinton supporters, a Clinton-Clinton ticket will probably be a dream that never comes true. 

(Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

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They had so carefully cleared the way for Clinton to be their next leader. But if a few votes had gone differently in Iowa's exceptionally tight caucus, or if Bernie Sanders had run a more effective campaign in Nevada, the insurgent could have given Clinton a real run for her money.

Instead, the forever front-runner ended up taking 34 states to Sanders' 23, including the biggest prizes, and winning millions more votes and hundreds more pledged delegates. Meanwhile, the most recent general election polls showClinton well ahead of Donald Trump — despite holdout Sanders supporters.

Still, Sanders has refused to concede the race. He hoped to extract concessions from Clinton on the Democratic platform and other issues during Tuesday's confab, their first face-to-face meeting in months.

Earlier in the day, despite being hours away from losing his ninth contest out of the last 12, Sanders issued a series of demands ahead of the meeting.

He called for a replacement to Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the Democratic National Committee chairwoman with whom his campaign has often feuded, an end to superdelegates, more open primaries, and the most progressive platform in the party's history.

"The time is long overdue for a fundamental transformation of the Democratic Party," Sanders said.

Those issues and more were likely discussed inside the conference room at the Hilton, where Sanders and Clinton met behind closed door and away from the throng of reporters who crowded into an alley to catch a glimpse of the candidates entering the hotel.

After the meeting, aides gave little hint about what went on in the room where it happened.

Sanders' actions in recent days have made it clear he is no longer really trying to win the presidency.

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There are no events on his calendar, no more talk of flipping superdelegates, and almost no fundraising emails. He's said repeatedly that he's prepared to help the Democratic Party stop Donald Trump.

The question is how. Aides say they're still working that out, aware that some of his most die-hard supporters will view an endorsement of Clinton as capitulation.

Sanders will address supporters Thursday on a teleconference, during which he's expected to discuss his future. No matter what, he has earned a place in shaping the future of the Democratic Party.

This weekend, many of his top outside allies will convene in Chicago to plot the future of the Sanders movement, with or without the Vermont senator.

RELATED: Bernie Sanders supporters

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Bernie Sanders supporters
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Bernie Sanders supporters
A supporter sports a t-shirt with a montage of photographs of Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, during a mock caucus at Drips coffee shop in Council Bluffs, Iowa, U.S., on Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016. Hoping to persuade undecided Democrats with just a week until the Iowa caucuses, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders took on some of the questions that have most dogged their candidacies, from trustworthiness and e-mails to feasibility and socialism. Photographer: T.J. Kirkpatrick/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Ben Cohen, left, and Jerry Greenfield, co-founders of Ben & Jerry's Homemade Holdings Inc., talk to supporters during a mock caucus at Drips coffee shop in Council Bluffs, Iowa, U.S., on Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016. Hoping to persuade undecided Democrats with just a week until the Iowa caucuses, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders took on some of the questions that have most dogged their candidacies, from trustworthiness and e-mails to feasibility and socialism. Photographer: T.J. Kirkpatrick/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Audience members look on as Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks during a stop at the United Steelworkers Local 310L union hall, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Max Knauer, of Des Moines, Iowa, waits for Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., to speak at a stop at the United Steelworkers Local 310L union hall, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Kenny Jackson of Pleasantville, Iowa listens as Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. speaks during a stop at the United Steelworkers Local 310L union hall, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
A Muslim woman holds a sign for Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., at a campaign event on the campus of University of Northern Iowa Sunday, Jan. 24, 2016, in Cedar Falls, Iowa. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
A man listens to Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., with a sticker on his hand at a campaign event Sunday, Jan. 24, 2016, in Independence, Iowa. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
A woman wears a shirt supporting Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., at a campaign event on the campus of Upper Iowa University Sunday, Jan. 24, 2016, in Fayette, Iowa. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
A supporter of Democratic Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders listens during a campaign event at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, Iowa, January 24, 2016, ahead of the Iowa Caucus. / AFP / JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JANUARY 22: A supporter of presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., shows off buttons during a campaign rally at Bedford High School in Bedford, N.H., January 22, 2016. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - JANUARY 22: Supporters of presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., listen to him speak during a campaign rally at Bedford High School in Bedford, N.H., January 22, 2016. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
BIRMINGHAM, AL - JANUARY 18: Cassidy Lamb waves a sign before Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) arrives to a campaign rally at Boutwell Auditorium, January 18, 2016 in Birmingham, Alabama. Sanders spoke to a capacity crowd of around 5,000 supporters. (Photo by Hal Yeager/Getty Images)
A sign supporting Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., is propped against the wall next to water fountains at a campaign event, Saturday, Jan. 23, 2016, in Maquoketa, Iowa. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
An attendee holds a sign as Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks during a campaign stop at Bedford High School, Friday, Jan. 22, 2016, in Bedford. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
A supporter walks with a poster depicting Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., as Sanders speaks at a town hall at the Orpheum Theater in Sioux City, Iowa, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Signs lean up against a wall as Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. speaks at the Fort Museum Opera House in Fort Dodge, Iowa, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Benjamin James Hall Jr. of Bellevue, Neb. wears a shirt in support of Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., as he speaks at a county meeting at U.M.B.A. Hall in Pottawattamie, Iowa, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
A supporter of Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., waves a drawing of Sanders's face during a campaign stop, Monday, Jan. 18, 2016, in Birmingham, Ala. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
MARSHALLTOWN, IA - JANUARY 10: Marc Daniels, of Springfield, Illinois, travels from one campaign event to another selilng what he calls 'Presidential Yarmulkes.' He is wearing a yarmulke printed with the phrase, 'Bernie Sanders 2016,' in Hebrew. Daniels was a guest at a campaign event for Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) on January 10, 2016 in Marshalltown, Iowa. Sanders drew an overflow crowd to the 600 person capacity meeting room of the Best Western Regency Inn in Marshalltown. Both Republican and Democratic presidential candidates have been making appearances at events across Iowa to build support in advance of the 2016 Iowa Caucuses. (Photo by Charles Ledford/Getty Images)
BURLINGTON, VT - JANUARY 07: A Bernie Sanders supporter holds up a pair of 'Bernie Briefs' in a local bar on January 7, 2016 in Burlington, Vermont. The line to see Republican Party presidential candidate Donald Trump's campaign rally wrapped around the venue and down multiple streets and multiple groups of protesters were. (Photo by Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images)
DES MOINES, IA - NOVEMBER 14: John Jarecki wears a puppet of Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) to show his support for the candidate prior to the start of the Democratic presidential debate at Drake University on November 14, 2015 in Des Moines, Iowa. The debate will be the second for the democratic candidates seeking the nomination for president. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
A woman wearing a hat with a sign in support of Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, stands at a rally ahead of the Democratic presidential candidate debate at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, U.S., on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015. The second Democratic debate, hosted by CBS News, KCCI and the Des Moines Register, is the Democratic National Committees only sanctioned debate in Iowa prior to the states first-in-the-nation caucuses on Feb. 1. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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Sanders' half-alive candidacy has left the rest of the party in a state of limbo.

In a statement marking the end of the primaries, Wasserman Schultz made no declaration that Clinton had clinched the nomination, as her Republican counterpart had done weeks ago for Trump, even though John Kasich was still in the race.

"We congratulate both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders," Wasserman Schultz said.

The uncertainty is tolerable — at least for for now — say Democrats, who want to give Sanders and his supporters space to heal.

But the party has already moved past the primary in almost all ways but officially.

President Obama proved an effective attack dog for Clinton Tuesday, as has Elizabeth Warren. Both endorsed Clinton last week.

Next, the party hopes to add Sanders to its roster.

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