Senator Bernie Sanders gave a 23-minute online speech to supporters nationwide last night. You can watch the full speech below or read the transcript here.
Political baseballers listening for Sanders to finally concede to Hillary Clinton were disappointed… or maybe not, because they can keep writing stories asking when Sanders will concede. Sanders isn’t interested in endorsing the Democratic nominee (although he made sure to , because, as he said last night, “This campaign has never been about any single candidate. It is always about transforming America.” However, after listing several problems that must be solved (including sub-Third World life expectancy on Pine Ridge), Sanders did say, “This campaign is about defeating Donald Trump”:
After centuries of racism, sexism and discrimination of all forms in our country we do not need a major party candidate who makes bigotry the cornerstone of his campaign. We cannot have a president who insults Mexicans and Latinos, Muslims, women and African-Americans. We cannot have a president who, in the midst of so much income and wealth inequality, wants to give hundreds of billions of dollars in tax breaks to the very rich. We cannot have a president who, despite all of the scientific evidence, believes that climate change is a hoax.
The major political task that we face in the next five months is to make certain that Donald Trump is defeated and defeated badly. And I personally intend to begin my role in that process in a very short period of time [Senator Bernie Sanders, nationwide online speech, 2016.06.16].
Sanders said that “defeating Donald Trump cannot be our only goal.” Sanders listed numerous policies that he sees as vital parts of transforming America:
- $15/hour minimum wage
- Infrastructure jobs program
- Pay equity
- Women’s rights to “control their own bodies”
- Marriage equality
- Tackle gun violence: ban assault weapons, end gun show loophole, expand instant background checks
- Kill TPP
- Protect Social Security
- Break up the big banks
- Combat climate change: efficiency, sustainable energy, carbon tax
- Ban fracking
- Zero tuition for college
- Reduce student debt
- Prison reform
- Immigration reform with path to citizenship
That’s quite the agenda, and one that I can cheer Sanders in pressing nominee Hillary Clinton to promote all the way through the general election.
But Sanders also spoke to the turn that I want him to make, that he must make to ensure the enthusiasm of his supporters is not frittered away in anti-Clinton angst. He told his people that they must help the Democratic Party (and the Democratic Party must welcome their help) to build a 50-state strategy to take back local and state governments:
Here is a cold, hard fact that must be addressed. Since 2009, some 900 legislative seats have been lost to Republicans in state after state throughout this country. In fact, the Republican Party now controls 31 state legislatures and controls both the governors’ mansions and statehouses in 23 states. That is unacceptable.
We need to start engaging at the local and state level in an unprecedented way. Hundreds of thousands of volunteers helped us make political history during the last year. These are people deeply concerned about the future of our country and their own communities. Now we need many of them to start running for school boards, city councils, county commissions, state legislatures and governorships. State and local governments make enormously important decisions and we cannot allow right-wing Republicans to increasingly control them [Sanders, 2016.06.16].
Sanders here builds on his May call for support for current Legislative candidates (including South Dakota’s Clara Hart!) by telling his supporters to take the plunge themselves and run for office. He knows President Hillary Clinton won’t fix everything that needs fixing; he knows even President Sanders wouldn’t have gotten the job done. Sanders knows that the revolution requires allies getting involved at every level of government. Revolution doesn’t come from going to rallies and cheering for one superstar. Revolution comes from Bernie’s 1.5 million rallygoers walking around their towns, knocking on doors, and offering their service at City Hall, the County Courthouse, and the State Capitol.
Sanders people, you may be able to run for Legislature this year yet by stepping in for a placeholder (don’t sweat the details; it’s just this thing we do—contact your local Dems and ask if they need a candidate!).
Sanders railed in last night’s speech against the One Percent. Those corporate fatcats have been able to consolidate their wealth not just by buying candidates in Washington but by dispatching ALEC to buy Legislatures across the nation outside the scrutiny of the national press. Sanders is telling his people that the 2016 Presidential race, while vital, may not be their greatest and certainly is not their only battle. Sanders is calling on his people to fight the revolution on all fronts, national, state, and local, and to wage that battle every year, in every election, not just in the bright lights of the quadrennial Presidential contest.