BURLINGTON, Vt. (CN) — Senator Bernie Sanders endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden on Monday, changing course only days after saying he wanted his supporters to continue voting for him to gain leverage at the Democratic convention.
“We must come together to defeat the most dangerous president in modern history,” Sanders said.
Biden and Sanders made the announcement together in a joint livestream.
“I look forward to working with you, and I need you badly,” Biden told Sanders. “I can’t tell you how much I appreciate all that you have done.”
He added: “We’ve disagreed but we’ve been friends. I promise you I will not let you down.”
Sanders’ about-face came just four days after Biden changed his positions on two issues central to Sanders’ campaign, health care and education. Biden proposed lowering the Medicare age to 60 and — while not promising full debt cancellation or free college — endorsed a number of measures that moved in that direction.
Biden spoke in the livestream about his evolving position on college debt. He noted, somewhat curiously, that “my deceased son is still paying off his loans.”
The eldest of the former vice president’s children, Beau Biden, died of cancer in 2015. Decades earlier, Biden’s first wife died in a car accident that also took the life of their 1-year-old daughter. Biden has another son from that marriage, Hunter, as well as a daughter with his second wife.
On the 2020 campaign trail, Biden initially distinguished himself from Sanders by arguing that the Vermont senator was too far left and too profligate. Today, however, he adopted some of Sanders’ rhetoric, saying in the livestream, promising “one of the most progressive administrations since Roosevelt.”
“We can transform this nation,” the former Obama veep said.
Biden also announced that he would join with Sanders in creating six new working groups, although he named only five topics: the economy, education, immigration, climate change and criminal-justice reform.
As for criminal justice, he said the goal of the system should be “reform, not punishment.”
Biden also proposed creating a Cabinet-level office to handle pandemics.
As for the coronavirus crisis, Biden said he thought it could result in a variety of progressive ideas being enacted. “In the Great Depression, we got Social Security and a bunch of other things,” Biden said, adding that something similar could happen now.
The pair particularly discussed young voters, who have been a political strength for Sanders and a weakness for Biden. Biden said he wanted to focus especially on “Generation Z, people in their teens and 20s.”
Sanders said that young people today “are experiencing crisis after crisis,” including the pandemic. “We saw it with the millennials after the 2008 crash – they’re still catching up,” Sanders said.
Biden, who repeatedly referred to Sanders as “pal,” then directly addressed Sanders’ supporters, saying: “I see you, I hear you, and I understand the urgency of what we need to get done in this country. I hope you’ll join us. The more the merrier.”
Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale reacted by saying: “This is further proof that even though Bernie Sanders won’t be on the ballot in November, his issues will be. Biden had to adopt most of Bernie’s agenda to be successful in the Democrat primaries.
“One thing that is missing is enthusiasm, however … President Trump’s supporters will run through a brick wall to vote for him,” Parscale said. “Nobody is running through a brick wall for Joe Biden.”