Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks at the Democratic National Convention.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders made a dire plea to his supporters during Monday evening’s Democratic National Convention by asking them to cast their votes for presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden to prevent the spread of “authoritarianism” under President Trump.
Sanders – a progressive independent from Vermont – was once Biden’s biggest rival in the Democratic primaries, but in recent months has come over to the former vice president’s camp ahead of November’s general election.
During a speech from his home in Burlington, Sanders specifically called on his wide base of support among leftwing voters to go to the ballot box for Biden, arguing that Biden stands as the last line of defense against the demise of progressive polices under Trump.
“Our campaign ended several months ago but our movement continues and it gets stronger everyday,” Sanders said. “But if Donald Trump is reelected, all the progress we have made will be in jeopardy.”
Sanders, 78, almost certainly won’t mount another White House bid. But he’s solidifying a legacy as he helps Biden build ties with the left to prevent the type of internal divisions that helped Trump win in 2016.
And he’s basking in victories that progressives have recently notched in Democratic congressional primaries in Missouri, New York and Illinois, as well as seeing many of his ideas — single-payer health care, tuition-free college and remaking the economy to combat climate change – move from the fringe into the mainstream.
Sanders went on to lay into Trump’s controversial comments on mail-in voting, delaying the election and suggesting that he would not accept the results if he loses the November election.
“This is not normal,” he said. “Authoritarianism destroys democracy.”
The Vermont lawmaker also criticized the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic – saying that Trump has undermined medical professional and local lawmakers in his push to restart the economy.
“This president is not just a threat to our democracy, but by rejecting science he has put our lives and health in jeopardy,” Sanders said. “Nero fiddled while Rome burned, Trump golfs.”
Sanders, whose polices on issues ranging from health care to the economy differ drastically from that of Biden, admitted that he doesn’t see eye-to-eye with the presumptive Democratic nominee all the time. But he praised Biden for incorporating some of the ideas advocated by the more progressive wing of the Democratic Party into his platform and for working with Sanders on issues such as climate change.
“Joe will rebuild our crumbling infrastructure and fight the threat of climate change,” Sanders said. “He has a plan that will greatly expand healthcare and cut the cost of prescription drugs… Joe will end private prisons, cash bail, the school-to-prison pipeline.”
Sanders added: “Joe Biden will end the hate and division that Trump has created. He will stop the demonizing of immigrants, the coddling of white supremacists.”
Biden’s campaign has spent recent months working closely with top Sanders supporters and advisers to devise a joint collection of policy goals and promote party unity ahead of November’s election.
Their finished product includes things like renewed calls for a $15 minimum wage, sweeping overhauls to decrease racism in the criminal justice system and reducing student loan debt for millions of Americans. But Biden has remained opposed to fully government-funded health care under Sanders’ signature “Medicare for All” plan and hasn’t signed onto the Green New Deal climate package.
Sanders closed his speech with an appeal to not only his supporters, but those who supported other Democratic candidates and even Republicans who have tired of Trump.
“For everyone who supported other candidates in primary,” he said. “We must come together to defeat Donald Trump and elect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to president and vice president.”
“The price is just too great to imagine.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.