Bernie Sanders profusely thanked his supporters. He said he looked forward to working with Hillary Clinton to advance key issues. And he urged like-minded followers to run for state and local offices so they can continue the “political revolution” he began.
In short, during his 23-minute speech live-streamed across the country, Sanders sounded very much like a candidate prepared to drop out of the Democratic presidential race. But the senator from Vermont pulled up short Thursday night, neither conceding the party’s nomination nor endorsing Clinton in the general election.
“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,” Sanders said of the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. “And I personally intend to begin my role in that process in a very short period of time.”
But “defeating Trump cannot be our only goal,” Sanders cautioned, speaking from his home town of Burlington, Vt.
The senator reiterated his call to push the issues that animated his campaign — centered on income and wealth inequality — and he pledged again to maintain that effort until the Democratic National Convention next month in Philadelphia.
Aides said that more than 218,000 people watched at least part of the live stream. Though inching ever closer toward a concession, Sanders’s overall posture Thursday was consistent with his actions of recent days.
While not bowing out of the race, he has done nothing of late to pursue the only available course left to wrest the nomination from Clinton, the party’s presumptive nominee. That would involve persuading hundreds of superdelegates who have announced their support for the former secretary of state to switch allegiances at the convention.
Aides said Sanders has not been lobbying superdelegates — the Democratic elected officials and other party elites who have a say on the nomination but are not bound by results in their states. Nor does Sanders have any immediate plans to do that, aides said.
Sanders has instead been focusing his energy on trying to influence the Democratic Party platform and its future legislative agenda so that it looks more like the agenda on which he campaigned for president.
During Thursday night’s address — given in front of a blue background emblazoned with numerous “Bernie” logos — Sanders offered a lengthy recitation of the issues he has talked about during his campaign, including raising the minimum wage, free college tuition, defeating bad trade deals, making health care a universal right and launching a massive jobs program to rebuild the country’s infrastructure.
Sanders said he and Clinton agree on some of these issues, but on others, he said, there are major differences. A meeting in Washington between the two Tuesday night focused on some of those.
“I look forward, in the coming weeks, to continue discussions 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,” Sanders said. “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.”
Aside from Trump, Sanders’s most pointed criticism Thursday night was directed at the Democratic Party itself, which he joined to run for president after serving in Congress as an independent.
“Sadly, the current Democratic Party leadership has turned its back on dozens of states in this country and has allowed right-wing politicians to win elections in some states with virtually no opposition — including some of the poorest states in America,” Sanders said.
His speech served as a call to arms for others considering running for political office — and he announced a new website to advance that effort.
“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,” Sanders said.