By Bernie Sanders
Jun 17, 2016
Good evening, and thank you very much for joining me.
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 and world 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 on 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, loudly and clearly, enough is enough, and they 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 two 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. And that is that, 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 our country; these are the people who are the future of our 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 – 75 million phone calls! – urging their fellow citizens into action. Together, our canvassers knocked on more than five million doors; together we hosted 74,000 meetings in every state and territory in this country; together, two and a half million people made more than 8 million individual campaign contributions. More contributions, at this point, than any campaign in 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 rceived from students struggling to repay their college loans; from seniors and disabled vets on social security; from workers earning starvation wages; and even from pepole 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; thank you, and we must continue working together into the future.
This campaign has never been about any single candidate. It has always been 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 twenty wealthiest people own more wealth than the bottom 150 million Americans – half our population. It is about creating an economy that works for all of us, not just the one 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 ahistoric way: At a younger age than their parents. Think about it: people today by the millions dying at a lower 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 schools 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 thosuands of Americans dying every single year from preventable deaths because they either lack health insurance, have high deductables, or cannot afford the outrageously high cost of the prescription drugs they need. Tens of thosuands of Americans; dying needlessly.
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 yong single mother in Nevada, in tears, telling me that she doesn’t know how she and her daughter can make it on the $10.45 an hour she earns. And the reality that today millions of our fellow Americans are working at wages that are much, much too low.
It is about ending the disgrace of a mother in Flint, Michigan telling me what has happened to the intellectual development of her child as a result of excessive lead in the water in that city. Of many thousands of homes in California and other communities, where people are unable to drink the polluted water that comes out of their faucets. In America, in the year two thousand and sixteen, 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 now paying forty, fifty 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 of dollars in profit avoid paying a nickel in federal taxes because they stash their money in the Cayman Islands and in other tax havens.
This campaign is also 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 wealth and income and wealth inequality, wants to give hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks to the very, very rich. We cannot have a president who, despite all of the scientific evidence, believes climate change is a hoax.
The major political task that, together, 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 effort to create the America that we know we can become. And we must take that energy into the Democratic National Convention on July 25th in Philadelphia, where we will have more than 1900 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, very important issues. It is also true that our views are quite close on others.
I look forward in the coming weeks to continue discussion 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 guts to take on Wall Street, the pharmaceutical industry, the fossil fuel industry, and the other powerful special interests that dominate so much of 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 ahour, 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 also fight to make certain that women throughout this 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 in 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, the TPP, and make certain that bad trade deals do not get a vote in a lame duck session of Congress. The TPP must not come to the floor.
We must resist all efforts to cut Social Security, and in fact expand benefits for our senior citizens and disabled veterans.
We must understand that the greed, recklessness, and illegal behavior on Wall Street has to end; that we need to pass a modern-day Glass-Stegall 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, further, we must protect our water supply, by banning 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 of our people as a right, 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 that our brave young men and women in the military are not thrown into perpetual warfare in the Middle East or other wars that 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, and has allowed right-wing politicians to win elections in some states with virtually no opposition, including some of the poorest states in our country. The Democratic party needs a fifty-state strategy. We may not win in every state tomorrow; but we will never win unless we recruit good candidates, and develop organizations that 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 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 governor’s mansions and state houses 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 this last year. These are people deeply concerned about the future of our country and about 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 watching tonight are prepared to engage at that level. Please 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 that people will give serious thought to running for statewide offices and the United States Congress. We need new blood in the political process, and you are that new blood.
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 Veterans Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, 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 that all of our people have quality health care, it means that we need tens of thousands of new doctors and nurses and dentists and 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 child-care 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 and well-trained 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 that 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 how we moved forward in creating a government which represents all of the people and not just the few, that they will note that, to a significant degree, that effort began with the political revolution of two thousand and sixteen.
Thank you all very much; good night.