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Bernie Sanders makes an urgent plea for unity at Democratic convention

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VIDEO | 08:27
Bernie Sanders says the future of America’s democracy is at stake

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders addresses the Democratic National Convention.

Bernie Sanders, the progressive icon whose supporters roiled the 2016 Democratic convention and protested Hillary Clinton’s nomination, Monday issued an urgent plea for party unity in order to oust President Trump and address the economic, health and social crises plaguing the country.

“My friends, I say to you, and to everyone who supported other candidates in this primary and to those who may have voted for Donald Trump in the last election: The future of our democracy is at stake. The future of our economy is at stake. The future of our planet is at stake,” he said in urging support for the Democratic ticket of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.

Speaking to the party’s virtual convention months after he quit his second bid for the Democratic nomination, Sanders urged his supporters to put aside any reservations about Biden’s more pragmatic, establishment streak because Biden’s election in the fall was the only hope for advancing a progressive agenda.

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“Our campaign ended several months ago, but our movement continues and is getting stronger every day,” Sanders said from his hometown of Burlington, Vt. “Many of the ideas we fought for, that just a few years ago were considered ‘radical,’ are now mainstream. But, let us be clear, if Donald Trump is reelected, all the progress we have made will be in jeopardy.”

He described the threat Trump posed to democracy in stark terms.

“Under this administration, authoritarianism has taken root in our country,” he said. “As long as I am here, I will work with progressives, with moderates, and, yes, with conservatives to preserve this nation from a threat that so many of our heroes fought and died to defeat.”

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He denounced Trump’s negligence and failure to address the COVID pandemic. “Nero fiddled while Rome burned,” he said. “Trump golfs.”

Sanders’ appearance — both in tone and substance — marked one of the biggest differences between Democrats’ 2020 convention and the one staged four years ago in Philadelphia after his first presidential bid failed. Sanders supporters were bitterly disappointed, and then infuriated by leaked emails showing party favoritism for Clinton. Sanders did endorse and campaign for Clinton, but he did not have the personal rapport with her that he has with Biden. Some of his supporters were unforgiving and did not vote for her on election day.

Since dropping his 2020 presidential bid in the spring, Sanders has thrown his support behind Biden without reservation and tried to bring his supporters along. When Biden named Sen. Kamala Harris of California as his running mate, Sanders and most of his followers praised — or at least refrained from criticizing — the choice, even though she has hewed closer to the party’s center-left establishment than many progressive activists would like.

“I’m not going to be naive and say there aren’t going to be differences of opinion,” Sanders’ former campaign manager Faiz Shakir said in an MSNBC interview before the Vermont senator spoke. But he added, “all of us understand you’re not going to get anywhere with four more years of Trump.”

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Sanders can stake a claim to shaping the party’s future: His allies in contested House Democratic primaries this year have won by ousting establishment Democrats in several states including Illinois, New York and Missouri. Advisors to Sanders and Biden collaborated in policy task forces that helped move the party platform to the left.

Our Revolution, a political group allied with Sanders, said in a fundraising letter sent before the senator spoke that it would keep pushing Biden further to the left if he wins the election.

“Beating Trump is only step one in the fight ahead,” the group wrote.


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