Bernie Sanders, hurtling toward a series of primaries that will almost certainly end his presidential bid, avoided criticizing Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton during a campaign rally in Irvine on Sunday night.
Instead, the Vermont senator railed against Republicans, presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump, the wealthy, corporations and the media. And he repeatedly called for a political revolution to fix the nation’s woes, which include a “rigged” economy and a “corrupt” campaign finance system.
“It looks like the American people in fact are sick and tired of establishment politics and establishment economics. And it looks like the American people are ready to transform our country in very profound ways,” he told several thousand raucous supporters at the outdoor rally. “… Given the nature of American economics and politics today, no president can do it alone. We need a political revolution. This is a fight we have to wage together.”
Sanders has won 20 state primaries and caucuses, but he is badly trailing Clinton in the total vote and the delegate tally. Clinton is fewer than 100 delegates shy of winning the Democratic nomination, and is expected to clinch it on June 7, when California and five other states hold primaries.
In recent appearances in California, Sanders acknowledged that he faced a steep hill to winning the Democratic nomination. On Sunday, he didn’t once mention the race for the nomination.
Instead, he laid out his policy priorities, including tuition-free college, universal healthcare, expanded Social Security, paid family and medical leave, equal pay and investments in infrastructure and inner cities.
He mentioned several areas where he and Clinton differ, notably trade and the Iraq war. In the past, he typically used these items as opportunities to draw contrasts with Clinton. But he did not on Sunday evening, instead only mentioning her by name twice when he highlighted recent polls that show that he fares better against Donald Trump than Clinton does in a general election matchup.
“If the Democratic Party wants the strongest candidate to defeat Donald Trump, and we all know for the future of this country, we’ve got to defeat Donald Trump, it will be our campaign that defeats Donald Trump,” he said, citing an NBC poll released Sunday that showed Clinton beating Trump by 3 points and Sanders beating Trump by 15 points.
Early polling is not predictive, which Sanders seemed to acknowledge when he added, “Polls go up and polls go down.”
“What is most important in terms of understanding which campaign will decisively defeat Trump is you,” he told the diverse cheering crowd of students, young families and senior citizens. “Look around here, and what you will see here in Irvine is what I have seen all over this country, and that is millions of people that are prepared to stand up and fight back, people who are prepared to take on Wall Street, take on the greed of corporate America, take on the fossil fuel industry, take on the pharmaceutical industry.”
The message offers a preview of the tone Sanders will take as he heads into the Democratic National Convention with more than 1,500 delegates.
“There is nothing I have said this evening that is not supported by the vast majority of the American people. Nothing is radical,” he said. “But together we have got to create a government that listens to us, not just wealthy campaign contributors. That is what this campaign is about.”