Sanders vows to continue political revolution, says defeating Trump is not enough — we must "transform America"

In triumphant speech reflecting on huge successes of his grassroots campaign, Bernie says the struggle continues

Published June 17, 2016 5:30PM (EDT)

Bernie Sanders   (AP/Julie Jacobson)
Bernie Sanders (AP/Julie Jacobson)

Insurgent left-wing presidential candidate Bernie Sanders delivered a triumphant speech Thursday night in which insisted "the political revolution must continue into the future."

"Election days come and go," he declared. "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."

Drawing on the trade union movement, the civil rights movement, the women’s movement, the LGBT rights movement and the environmental movement, Sanders stressed that the struggle must go on.

"This campaign has never been about any single candidate. It is always about transforming America," he emphasized in the address (video below), which was live-streamed to viewers around the U.S. and the world.

Supporters of Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton have called on Sanders to step down, bitterly attacking the Vermont senator for not conceding to the presumed nominee and for pledging to take his democratic socialist message all the way to the Democratic National Convention in late July.

Sen. Sanders renewed this pledge in his speech on Thursday night, maintaining that he must take his grassroots campaign's energy to Philadelphia for the DNC.

"Real change never takes place from the top down, or in the living rooms of wealthy campaign contributors," Sanders stressed. "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."

In just over a year, Sanders pointed out, his campaign went from having no political organization, money or name recognition and facing constant backlash from a staunchly antagonist corporate media to earning more than 12 million votes, winning 22 state primaries and caucuses and nearly winning five more states within 2 percentage points or less.

The enormous enthusiasm around his campaign's democratic socialist platform is confirmation that it is what working-class Americans yearn for, Sanders aruged. "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."

Throughout his campaign, Sanders has faced countless obstacles, and the Democratic National Committee has done its fair share to prevent him from clinching the nomination.

What appear to be hacked DNC documents show that the party, which is supposed to be neutral in primary contests, always assumed Clinton was going to be the presidential candidate.

Sanders reflect on these obstacles in his address, stressing, "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," he added. "We must continue working together into the future."

Given the Brobdingnagian odds he faced, Sanders said there is "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."

That is the incredible support he saw among young Americans. "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," Sanders said. "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."

At least 1.5 million people came to Bernie Sanders rallies and town meetings in almost every state in the country, he said. Hundreds of thousands of volunteers made 75 million phone calls on behalf of the Sanders campaign. Canvassers knocked on more than 5 million doors, and the campaign hosted 74,000 meetings in every U.S. state and territory.

More than 8 million individual contributions were made to Sanders' campaign by 2.7 million people — "more contributions at this point than any campaign in American history," Sanders added — at an average of $27 a piece.

"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," he said.

Sanders pledged to help defeat Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, condemning him for exploiting racism against Latinos, Muslims, women and black Americans; for promising hundreds of billions of dollars in tax breaks for the very rich; and for, despite the mountains of scientific evidence, claiming that climate change is a hoax.

"But defeating Donald Trump cannot be our only goal," Sanders added. "We must continue our grassroots efforts to create the America that we know we can become."

Sanders reiterated his calls for a $15 per hour minimum wage, reconstruction of the U.S.'s crumbling infrastructure, pay equity for women, abortion rights, LGBT equality, gun control, rejection of the neoliberal Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, an expansion of Social Security, regulation of Wall street, aggressive action against climate change, a ban on fracking, a carbon tax, free public education, universal health care, an end to mass incarceration, comprehensive immigration reform, cuts in government waste and military spending and a halting of "perpetual warfare in the Middle East."

"The political revolution means much more than fighting for our ideals at the Democratic National Convention and defeating Donald Trump," Sanders continued. "It means that, at every level, we continue the fight to make our society a nation of economic, social, racial and environmental justice."

He called for progressive candidates to run for office in local elections, for "engaging at the local and state level in an unprecedented way," at the level of school boards, city councils, county commissions, state legislatures and governorships.

"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," Sanders said.

"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."

Sanders' speech can be watched below:

By Ben Norton

Ben Norton is a politics reporter and staff writer at AlterNet. You can find him on Twitter at @BenjaminNorton.

MORE FROM Ben Norton

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Bernie Sanders Hillary Clinton