MANHATTAN (CN) — Returning to a historic New York venue he visited before a single vote was cast, Sen. Bernie Sanders told his supporters that the primary season’s conclusion will not end of his political revolution.
“Election days come and go, but what is much more important is that political and social revolutions continue, and that our goal from Day 1 has been to transform this nation, and that is the fight that we are going to continue,” Sanders said, addressing a rowdy, 1,500-seat auditorium at The Town Hall.
With the state primaries now over, Sanders titled the 75-minute address he delivered Thursday night “Where we go from here.” The address did not include a word about the Democrats’ presumptive presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, except in a reference to his “opponent” in the “establishment.”
Sanders is set to deliver a speech with the same name Friday afternoon in Albany.
For months, Sanders has emphasized that he will not concede the primary race to Clinton until his delegates have had the chance to advocate on his behalf next month at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.
These repeated announcements never seemed to end the daily speculation about when he will drop out, now that state primaries have ended with Sanders notching 22 state victories – yet falling far behind Clinton in pledged delegates, superdelegates and the popular vote.
If there were ever any doubt about the senator’s intention to keep up the fight in Philadelphia, Thursday night’s defiant speech utterly dispelled it.
State primaries were still months away when Sanders first visited The Town Hall in September. The insurgent senator from Vermont’s vision of a “political revolution” included public funding for health care, tuition-free college, a living wage for all workers, constraints on Wall Street greed and reformation of the nation’s “broken” criminal-justice system.
The demands of this stump speech have not budged, even if Sanders recently acknowledged “it doesn’t appear” that he will be the Democratic nominee.
“I have no doubt that a strong, well-organized grassroots movement can take on the establishment and can defeat the establishment,” he said. “That’s what we’ve got to do, and what the political revolution is about.”
Urging his supporters to take a long view of history, Sanders pointed out that that the fights for labor rights and gay liberation began in New York, after the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire and riots at Stonewall Inn.
Sanders told his supporters to “think about the fact” that women did not have the right to vote in the United States just 100 years ago, though he did not mention that suffragists founded the venue where he was speaking in 1921.
He also did not comment on Clinton’s clinching of the nomination makes her the woman to became a major-party candidate for president in the United States.
Ohio state Sen. Nina Turner, a top Sanders surrogate introducing the senator, also took a page from U.S. history to quote President Theodore Roosevelt’s speech “Citizenship in a Republic.”
“It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better,” Turner said, quoting Roosevelt. “The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena.”
With Clinton pressing for party unity, Sanders has circled back to the slogan “the struggle continues” — to influence the party’s platform, vote in progressive candidates, and change the primary rules to ban superdelegates and closed primaries.
The senator noted that 3 million independent voters could not cast a ballot in New York, where some of his supporters refused to accept Clinton’s comfortable victory in April.
“Voter fraud!” one shouted.
As the speech turned to California, another yelled: “Voter suppression!”
If Sanders heard the remarks, he did not address them.
For the senator, New York’s closed primary system underlined that both the Democratic and Republican parties want to make it hard for people to enter the political process.
“While we’re at it, we’re going to transform the entire Democratic Party,” he said.
Sanders recently issued a video broadcast to his supporters online, asking them to either run for political office or help others do so.
The senator said that roughly 20,000 people answered that call, and the crowd’s thirst for change on Capital Hill was apparent from their chant: “Brand-new Congress!”
One of those supporters, 26-year-old Richard Merino, said he was inspired to contemplate a radical life change.
“This is going to be a really funny thing I’m about to say, but I actually work at Goldman Sachs,” Merino said in an interview, as he held a sign with a smiling picture of the senator with a revolutionary slogan.
“I work at their anti-money laundering team, but I’m a huge Bernie supporter,” he said.
Throughout the Sanders campaign, Goldman Sachs has been the symbol of Wall Street greed, and Merino said he is now considering higher education for a life of public service.
Calling Wall Street the “most powerful special interest in our country,” Sanders said: “I don’t think that there is much debate that their business model is fraud.”
In what may shape up to be a rift within the party, Sanders said he may take the re-establishment of the Glass-Steagall Act to limit the size of commercial banks to the floor of the Democratic convention. Hillary Clinton has opposed the legislation, and her husband Bill Clinton eliminated its predecessor during his presidency.
The crowd repeated Sanders’ longtime slogan for dealing with these banks: “Break them up.”
Confronting climate change will be another priority for Sanders, who noted that Lake Champlain in his home state of Vermont stopped freezing in the winter.
“I’ve got seven beautiful grandchildren, and I will be damned if I leave them a world that is not habitable,” he said.
The auditorium erupted in boos when Sanders criticized the “corporate media” in general and CNN, in particular.
“I touched a nerve there,” he quipped. “I can see that.”
Sanders also did not dial back his critiques of what he called a “corrupt” campaign-finance system that he said made his party beholden to “wealthy campaign contributors.”
When he said he was moved by reports that the majority of his supporters were below the country’s median income, one supporter cried out: “Because we love you!”
“Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, not about me!” Sanders chided to laughter and applause, echoing his slogan, “Not me, us.”
Though support for Clinton was absent from his speech, Sanders vowed to travel across the country to defeat her presumed GOP opponent Donald Trump.
Sanders stressed that the “cornerstone of [Trump’s] campaign is bigotry.”
“We have to work tirelessly to make sure Trump never becomes president, but that is not good enough,” Sanders said. “What we have to do is continue the vision of transforming this country. The best way I know how to do that is to get all of us to get involved.”
The senator thundered against the “grotesque” income inequality in the United States, and his “disgust” with the wealth amassed by the nation’s richest 1 percent while hundreds of thousands of children are homeless.
“It is not normal,” Sanders said. “It is an outrage, and never, ever lose your sense of outrage.”
At this line, the audience hopped to its feet for a standing ovation. Several people raised their fists and chanted his name at a message that encapsulated his speech, and perhaps a driving force of his campaign.
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