Bernie Sanders proclaimed a "virtual tie" in the Iowa caucuses on Monday night with Hillary Clinton — a far better showing than many have suspected from the long-shot Vermont senator.
Sanders appeared to trail Clinton by a handful of delegates, but cast the speech as a validation of some of the biggest themes of his campaign: campaign finance reform, universal health care, and the necessity of raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
"I think the people of Iowa have sent a very profound message to the political establishment, to the economic establishment, and by the way, to the media establishment," Sanders said in his speech. "It is just too late for establishment politics and establishment economics ... What Iowa has begun tonight is a political revolution."
Below is a rush transcript of Sanders's speech.
Thank you. Iowa, thank you. Nine months ago, we came to this beautiful state. We had no political organization; we had no money; no name recognition. And we were taking on the most powerful political organization in the United States of America.
And tonight while the results are still not known, it looks like we are in a virtual tie.
And while the results are still not complete, it looks like we'll have half of the Iowa delegates. I want to take this opportunity to congratulate Secretary Clinton, somebody — yep — and her organization for waging a very vigorous campaign.
And I want to thank Governor O'Malley. It's never easy to lose. I've lost more than one campaign. But he should know that he contributed a whole lot to the dialogue, that he ran an issue-oriented campaign, and he won the respect of the American people. ... If I think about what happened tonight, I think the people of Iowa have sent a very profound message to the political establishment, to the economic establishment, and, by the way, to the media establishment.
...Given the enormous crises facing our country, it is just too late for establishment politics and establishment economics. What the American people have said — and by the way, I hear this not just from progressives, I hear it from conservatives, I hear it from moderates — that is: "We can no longer continue to have a corrupt campaign finance system." I am the former chairman of the Senate veterans committee. In that capacity, not only have I worked hard to try to protect the interest of our veterans, I've had the privilege of meeting so many, men and women, who put their lives on the line to defend us and protect our way of life.
And what they were protecting is an American democracy of: One person, one vote. Not billionaires buying elections. I am overwhelmed, and I am moved by the fact that millions of people throughout this country have helped volunteer in our campaign, that three -- we have received in this campaign 3.5 million individual contributions. People who went to BernieSanders.com. And you know what the average contribution was? It was $27!
We do not represent the interests of the billionaire class, Wall Street or corporate America. We don't want their money. We will — and I am very proud to tell you, we are the only candidate on the Democratic side without a super PAC. And the reason that we have done so well here in Iowa, the reason I believe we're going to do so well in New Hampshire, and in the other states that follow, the reason is, the American people are saying no to a rigged economy. They no longer want to see an economy in which the average American works longer hours for low wages while almost all new income and wealth is going to the top 1%.
What the American people understand is this country was based and is based on fairness. It is not fair when the top 1/10th of 1% today owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90%. It is not fair when the 20 wealthiest people in this country own more wealth than the bottom half of America. So you guys ready for a radical idea? Well, so is America. And that radical idea is, we are going to create an economy that works for working families not just the billionaire class.
And when millions of our people are working for starvation wages, we are going to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. And, yes, we are going to have pay equity for women. I've been all over this state of Iowa: We have spoken to some 70,000 people, and in meeting after meeting, I hear people standing up and, they say: "Bernie, I went to college. I graduated college — now I am 60, 80, 90 thousand dollars in debt." That is crazy. That is crazy. They want to get a decent education; they should not be punished.
That is why I believe in the year 2016, public colleges and universities should be tuition free. And then my critics say, well, Bernie, that's a great idea, all this free stuff, how are you going to pay for it? I will tell you how we will pay for it, we are going to impose a tax on Wall Street speculation. The greed, the recklessness and the illegal behavior of Wall Street drove this economy to its knees. The American people bailed out Wall Street, now it's Wall Street's time to help the middle class. And when we talk about transforming America. We will end the disgrace of having more people in jail than any other country. Disproportionately African American and Latino. What we are going to do is provide jobs and education for our kids not more jails and incarceration. I'll tell you something that really does astound me. I'm on the Senate energy committee — on the Senate environmental committee — I have talked to scientists all over the world. The debate is over: Climate change is real. And we have a moral responsibility to work with countries throughout the world to transform our energy system away from fossil fuel to energy efficiency and sustainable energy.
What amazes me, what totally amazes me, is that we have not one Republican candidate for president prepared to come up and tell us, and agree with what virtually all scientists agree with, and you know why they are not prepared to do that? Because on the day that they do acknowledge the reality of climate change and call for change, you know what happens? They're going to lose their campaign funds from the Koch brothers and the fossil fuel (industry) ...
So I say to the Republicans, stop worrying about your campaign funds from big oil or the Koch brothers, worry about the planet you're going to be leaving your children and your grandchildren. Now, I have been criticized during this campaign for many, many things. Every single day. That's okay. That's okay.
But let me repeat what I believe. I believe that at a time when every major country on Earth guarantees health care to all people as a right, that I believe that we should do the same in the United States of America.
So for all of my critics out there in the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post and in corporate America, wherever you may be, let me tell you straight up, yes, I believe that health care is a right, not a privilege!
And that is why I believe in a Medicare for all single payer program which will not only guarantee health care to all, it will not only end the pharmaceutical ripoff of the American people but it will save the middle-class family, the average middle-class family thousands of dollars a year in health care costs.
Let me conclude by saying what no other candidate for president will tell you. And that is that no president, not Bernie Sanders, not anybody else, will be able to bring about the changes that the working families and the middle class of this country, that our children, that the seniors, our seniors deserve. No one president can do it because the powers that be, Wall Street with their endless supply of money, corporate America, the large campaign donors are so powerful that no president can do what has to be done alone. And that is why — and that is why what Iowa has begun tonight is a political revolution.
A political revolution that says when millions of people come together, including those who've given up on the political process, they're so dismayed and so frustrated with what goes on in Washington, with young people who before had never been involved in the political process, when young people and working people and seniors begin to stand up and say loudly and clearly, enough is enough, that our government, the government of our great country belongs to all of us and not just a handful of billionaires, when that happens we will transform this country. Thank you all very much.