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Bernie Sanders just made the progressive case for Joe Biden

Sanders drew a stark contrast between Trump and a progressive Biden presidency.

Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks during the first night of the Democratic National Convention.
Democratic National Convention via AP

On the first night of the Democratic National Convention Monday, Sen. Bernie Sanders — twice the runner-up for the Democratic nomination — made a policy-based pitch for presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

Speaking from his home in Burlington, Vermont, Sanders described Trump in no uncertain terms as “a threat to our democracy” and laid into his mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic.

“But the truth is,” Sanders said, “that even before Trump’s negligent response to the pandemic, too many hardworking families have been caught on an economic treadmill with no hope of ever going ahead.”

The Vermont senator emphasized a list of progressive priorities that a Biden administration would advance, including universal pre-K, paid family leave, a $15-per-hour minimum wage, and sweeping action on climate change.

Sanders’s speech — coming from a onetime rival who criticized Biden in the primary for not going far enough on a range of issues — reflects the increasing progressive embrace of Biden’s policies as what Justice Democrats communications director Waleed Shahid described to Vox’s Matthew Yglesias last month as “the most progressive platform of any Democratic nominee in the modern history of the party.”

Sanders concluded his speech by addressing not just his supporters but the supporters of other Democratic presidential candidates and of Trump directly.

“My friends,” Sanders said, “I say to you, to everyone who supported other candidates in the primary and to those who may have voted for Donald Trump in the last election: The future of our democracy is at stake. ... The price of failure is just too great to imagine.”

Read a rush transcript of Sanders’s full remarks below:

Good evening. Our great nation is now living in an unprecedented moment. Facing the worst public health crisis in 100 years and worst economic collapse since the Great Depression. We are confronting systemic racism and the enormous threat to the planet of climate change. And in the middle of all of this, we have a president who is not only incapable of addressing these crises, but leading us down the path of authoritarianism. This election is the most important in the modern history of the country. In response to the unprecedented crisis we face, we need an unprecedented response. A movement like never before of people who are prepared to stand up and fight for democracy and decency and against greed, oligarchy, and bigotry. And we need Joe Biden as our next president.

Let me take this opportunity to say a word to the millions of people who supported my campaign this year and in 2016. My friends, thank you for your trust, your support, and the love you showed Jane, me, and our family. Together we have moved this country in a bold new direction, showing that all of us, Black and white, Latino, Native American, Asian American, gay and straight, native-born and immigrant, yearn for a nation based on the principles of justice, love, and compassion. Our campaign ended several months ago. Our movement continues and is getting stronger every day. Many of the ideas we fought for a few years ago were considered radical are now mainstream. But let us be clear. If Donald Trump is reelected, all the progress we have made will be in jeopardy.

At its most basic, this election is about preserving our democracy. During this president’s term, the unthinkable has become normal. He has tried to prevent people from voting. Undermined the US Postal Service. Deployed the military and federal agents against peaceful protesters. Threatened to delay the election. And suggested that he will not leave office if he loses. This is not normal. And we must never treat it like it is. Under this administration, authoritarianism has taken root in our country. I, and my family, and many of yours, know the insidious way authoritarianism destroys democracy, decency, and humanity. As long as I am here, I will work with progressives, with moderates and yes, with conservatives to preserve this nation from a threat that so many of our heroes fought and died to defeat.

This president is not just a threat to our democracy, but by rejecting science, he has put our lives and health in jeopardy. Trump has attacked doctors and scientists trying to protect us from the pandemic while refusing to take strong action to produce the masks, gowns, and gloves our healthcare workers desperately need. Nero fiddled while Rome burned. Trump golfs. His actions fanned this pandemic, resulting in 170,000 deaths and a nation still unprepared to protect its people. Furthermore, Trump’s negligence has exacerbated the economic crisis we’re experiencing. Since this pandemic began, over 30 million people have lost their jobs, and many have lost health insurance. Millions of working families are wondering how they will feed their kids, and they’re worried they will be evicted from their homes.

And how has Trump responded? Instead of maintaining the $600-a-week unemployment supplement that workers were receiving, and the $1,200 emergency checks that many of you received, instead of helping small businesses, Trump concocted fraudulent executive orders that do virtually nothing to address the crisis while threatening the very future of Social Security and Medicare. But the truth is that even before Trump’s negligent response to the pandemic, too many hardworking families have been caught on an economic treadmill with no hope of ever going ahead.

Together we must build a nation that is more equitable and compassionate and more inclusive. I know that Joe Biden will begin that fight on day one. Let me offer you just a few examples of how Joe will move us forward. He supports raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Giving 40 million workers a pay raise and push the wage scale up for everyone else. Joe will make it easier for workers to join unions, create 12 weeks of paid family leave, fund universal pre-K for 3- and 4-year-olds, and make child care affordable for millions of families. Joe will rebuild our crumbling infrastructure and fight the threat of climate change by transitioning us to 100 percent clean electricity over 15 years. These initiatives will create millions of good-paying jobs all across our country.

As you know, we are the only industrialized nation not to guarantee health care for all people. While Joe and I disagree on the best path to get universal coverage, he has a plan that will greatly expand health care and cut the cost of prescription drugs. Further, he will lower the eligibility age of Medicare from 65 to 60. To help reform our broken criminal justice system, Joe will end private prisons and the detention centers, cash bail, and the school-to-prison pipeline.

And to heal the soul of our nation, Joe Biden will end the hate and division Trump has created. He will stop the demonization of immigrants, coddling of white nationalists, racist dog whistling, religious bigotry, and the ugly attacks on women. My friends, I say to you, to everyone who supported other candidates in the primary and to those who may have voted for Donald Trump in the last election: The future of our democracy is at stake. The future of our economy is at stake. The future of our planet is at stake. We must come together to defeat Donald Trump and elect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as our next president and vice president. My friends, the price of failure is just too great to imagine. Thank you.

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