Bernie Sanders isn’t ready to drop out of the presidential race just yet, but he’s alerting his followers to what he views as a serious threat to the country.
"This campaign is about defeating Donald Trump, the Republican candidate for president," he said in a live video message to supporters on Thursday. "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."
He didn’t say he was going to back Hillary Clinton outright, but he did offer a challenge to his followers for how to continue the political revolution he started with his campaign. He wants his legions of young followers to take the fight to even the lowest levels of local government.
"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," Sanders said. "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."
Now, it’s not clear how successful Sanders’s downballot movement will prove. He’s endorsed just a handful of candidates — including one, Nevada’s Lucy Flores, who was crushed in her primary. The Congressional candidates who have tried running with his banner have gotten pretty soundly trounced so far, and political scientists have been generally skeptical Sanders can hold his followers’s interest without the excitement of a presidential race.
But while Sanders still does have the fast-fading spotlight, he’s trying to push as hard as he can to remake the Democratic Party. Launching local candidates looks like a key pillar of that plan. Sanders says "that’s why the political revolution must continue into the future."
His remarks from tonight are transcribed below.
Election days come and go. But political and social revolutions that attempt to transform our society never end. They continue every day, every week and every month in the fight to create a nation of social and economic justice. That’s what the trade union movement is about. That’s what the civil rights movement is about. That’s what the women’s movement is about. That’s what the gay rights movement is about. That’s what the environmental movement is about.
And that’s what this campaign has been about over the past year. That’s what the political revolution is about and that’s why the political revolution must continue into the future.
Real change never takes place from the top down, or in the living rooms of wealthy campaign contributors. It always occurs from the bottom on up – when tens of millions of people say "enough is enough" and become engaged in the fight for justice. That’s what the political revolution we helped start is all about. That’s why the political revolution must continue.
When we began this campaign a little over a year ago, we had no political organization, no money and very little name recognition. The media determined that we were a fringe campaign. Nobody thought we were going anywhere.
Well, a lot has changed over a year.
During this campaign, we won more than 12 million votes. We won 22 state primaries and caucuses. We came very close – within 2 points or less – in five more states.
In other words, our vision for the future of this country is not some kind of fringe idea. It is not a radical idea. It is mainstream. It is what millions of Americans believe in and want to see happen.
And something else extraordinarily important happened in this campaign that makes me very optimistic about the future of our country – something that, frankly, I had not anticipated. In virtually every state that we contested we won the overwhelming majority of the votes of people 45 years of age or younger, sometimes, may I say, by huge numbers. These are the people who are determined to shape the future of this country. These are the people who are the future of this country.
Together, in this campaign, 1.5 million people came out to our rallies and town meetings in almost every state in the country. Together, hundreds of thousands of volunteers made 75 million phone calls urging their fellow citizens into action.
Together, our canvassers knocked on more than 5 million doors. Together, we hosted 74,000 meetings in every state and territory in this country.
Together, 2.7 million people made over 8 million individual contributions to our campaign – more contributions at this point than any campaign in American history. Amazingly, the bulk of those contributions came from low-income and working people whose donations averaged $27 apiece. In an unprecedented way, we showed the world that we could run a strong national campaign without being dependent on the big-money interests whose greed has done so much to damage our country.
And let me give a special thanks to the financial support we received from students struggling to repay their college loans, from seniors and disabled vets on Social Security, from workers earning starvation wages and even from people who were unemployed.
In every single state that we contested we took on virtually the entire political establishment – U.S. senators, members of Congress, governors, mayors, state legislators and local party leaders. To those relatively few elected officials who had the courage to stand with us, I say thank you. We must continue working together into the future.
This campaign has never been about any single candidate. It is always about transforming America.
It is about ending a campaign finance system which is corrupt and allows billionaires to buy elections.
It is about ending the grotesque level of wealth and income inequality that we are experiencing where almost all new wealth and income goes to the people on top, where the 20 wealthiest people own more wealth than the bottom 150 million.
It is about creating an economy that works for all of us, not just the 1 percent.
It is about ending the disgrace of native Americans who live on the Pine Ridge, South Dakota, reservation having a life expectancy lower than many third-world countries.
It is about ending the incredible despair that exists in many parts of this country where – as a result of unemployment and low wages, suicide, drugs and alcohol – millions of Americans are now dying, in an ahistorical way, at a younger age than their parents.
It is about ending the disgrace of having the highest level of childhood poverty of almost any major country on earth and having public school systems in inner cities that are totally failing our children – where kids now stand a greater chance of ending up in jail than ending up with a college degree.
It is about ending the disgrace that millions of undocumented people in this country continue to live in fear and are exploited every day on their jobs because they have no legal rights.
It is about ending the disgrace of tens of thousands of Americans dying every year from preventable deaths because they either lack health insurance, have high deductibles or cannot afford the outrageously high cost of the prescription drugs they need.
It is about ending the disgrace of hundreds of thousands of bright young people unable to go to college because their families are poor or working class, while millions more struggle with suffocating levels of student debt.
It is about ending the pain of a young single mother in Nevada, in tears, telling me that she doesn’t know how she and her daughter can make it on $10.45 an hour. And the reality that today millions of our fellow Americans are working at starvation wages.
It is about ending the disgrace of a mother in Flynt, Michigan, telling me what has happened to the intellectual development of her child as a result of lead in the water in that city, of many thousands of homes in California and other communities unable to drink the polluted water that comes out of their faucets.
In America. In the year 2016. In a nation whose infrastructure is crumbling before our eyes.
It is about ending the disgrace that too many veterans still sleep out on the streets, that homelessness is increasing and that tens of millions of Americans, because of a lack of affordable housing, are paying 40, 50 percent or more of their limited incomes to put a roof over their heads.
It is about ending the disgrace that, in a given year, corporations making billions in profit avoid paying a nickel in taxes because they stash their money in the Cayman Islands and other tax havens.
This campaign is about defeating Donald Trump, the Republican candidate for president. 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.
But defeating Donald Trump cannot be our only goal. We must continue our grassroots efforts to create the America that we know we can become. And we must take that energy into the Democratic National Convention on July 25 in Philadelphia where we will have more than 1,900 delegates.
I recently had the opportunity to meet with Secretary Clinton and discuss some of the very important issues facing our country and the Democratic Party. It is no secret that Secretary Clinton and I have strong disagreements on some very important issues. It is also true that our views are quite close on others. I look forward, in the coming weeks, to continued discussions between the two campaigns to make certain that your voices are heard and that the Democratic Party passes the most progressive platform in its history and that Democrats actually fight for that agenda. I also look forward to working with Secretary Clinton to transform the Democratic Party so that it becomes a party of working people and young people, and not just wealthy campaign contributors: a party that has the courage to take on Wall Street, the pharmaceutical industry, the fossil fuel industry and the other powerful special interests that dominate our political and economic life.
As I have said throughout this campaign, the Democratic Party must support raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, and create millions of jobs rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure.
We must ensure that women will no longer make 79-cents on the dollar compared to men and that we fight for pay equity.
We must fight to make certain that women throughout the country have the right to control their own bodies.
We must protect the right of our gay brothers and sisters to marriage equality in every state America.
As the recent tragedy in Orlando has made crystal clear, we must ban the sale and distribution of assault weapons, end the gun show loophole and expand instant background checks.
We must defeat the Trans-Pacific Partnership and make certain that that bad trade deal does not get a vote in a lame-duck session of Congress.
We must resist all efforts to cut Social Security and, in fact, expand benefits for our seniors and disabled veterans.
We must understand that the greed, recklessness and illegal behavior on Wall Street has to end, that we need to pass modern-day Glass-Steagall legislation and that we need to break up the biggest financial institutions in this country who not only remain too big to fail but who prevent the kind of vigorous competition that a healthy financial system requires.
We must aggressively combat climate change and transform our energy system, move to energy efficiency and sustainable energy and impose a tax on carbon. It means that, in order to protect our water supply, we ban fracking.
We must compete effectively in a global economy by making public colleges and universities tuition free and substantially reduce student debt.
We must join the rest of the industrialized world and guarantee health care to all people as a right and not a privilege.
We must end the disgrace of having more people in jail than any other country on earth and move toward real criminal justice reform at the federal, state and local levels.
We must pass comprehensive immigration reform and provide a path toward citizenship for 11 million undocumented people.
We must take a hard look at the waste, cost overruns and inefficiencies in every branch of government –including the Department of Defense. And we must make certain our brave young men and women in the military are not thrown into perpetual warfare in the Middle East or other wars we should not be fighting.
But the political revolution means much more than fighting for our ideals at the Democratic National Convention and defeating Donald Trump.
It means that, at every level, we continue the fight to make our society a nation of economic, social, racial and environmental justice.
It means that we can no longer ignore the fact that, sadly, the current Democratic Party leadership has turned its back on dozens of states in this country and has allowed right-wing politicians to win elections in some states with virtually no opposition – including some of the poorest states in America. The Democratic Party needs a 50-state strategy. We may not win in every state tomorrow but we will never win unless we recruit good candidates and develop organizations that can compete effectively in the future. We must provide resources to those states which have so long been ignored.
Most importantly, the Democratic Party needs leadership which is prepared to open its doors and welcome into its ranks working people and young people. That is the energy that we need to transform the Democratic Party, take on the special interests and transform our country.
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.
I hope very much that many of you listening tonight are prepared to engage at that level. Pease go to my website at berniesanders.com/win to learn more about how you can effectively run for office or get involved in politics at the local or state level. I have no doubt that with the energy and enthusiasm our campaign has shown that we can win significant numbers of local and state elections if people are prepared to become involved. I also hope people will give serious thought to running for statewide offices and the U.S. Congress.
And when we talk about transforming America, it is not just about elections. Many of my Republican colleagues believe that government is the enemy, that we need to eviscerate and privatize virtually all aspects of government – whether it is Social Security, Medicare, the VA, EPA, the Postal Service or public education. I strongly disagree. In a democratic civilized society, government must play an enormously important role in protecting all of us and our planet. But in order for government to work efficiently and effectively, we need to attract great and dedicated people from all walks of life. We need people who are dedicated to public service and can provide the services we need in a high quality and efficient way.
When we talk about a Medicare-for-all health care program and the need to make sure all of our people have quality health care, it means that we need tens of thousands of new doctors, nurses, dentists, psychologists and other medical personnel who are prepared to practice in areas where people today lack access to that care.
It means that we need hundreds of thousands of people to become childcare workers and teachers so that our young people will get the best education available in the world.
It means that as we combat climate change and transform our energy system away from fossil fuels, we need scientists and engineers and entrepreneurs who will help us make energy efficiency, solar energy, wind energy, geothermal and other developing technologies as efficient and cost effective as possible.
It means that as we rebuild our crumbling infrastructure, we need millions of skilled construction workers of all kinds.
It means that when we talk about growing our economy and creating jobs, we need great business people who can produce and distribute the products and services we need in a way that respects their employees and the environment.
In other words, we need a new generation of people actively involved in public service who are prepared to provide the quality of life the American people deserve.
Let me conclude by once again thanking everyone who has helped in this campaign in one way or another. We have begun the long and arduous process of transforming America, a fight that will continue tomorrow, next week, next year and into the future.
My hope is that when future historians look back and describe how our country moved forward into reversing the drift toward oligarchy, and created a government which represents all the people and not just the few, they will note that, to a significant degree, that effort began with the political revolution of 2016.
Thank you very much. Good night.