Speaking to his supporters in a live web video address on June 17, Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders insisted that despite his campaign failing to defeat Democrat establishment figure Hillary Clinton, the struggle for a political revolution must continue.
The socialist senator has refused to drop out of the race, but acknowledged on June 22 that it did not appear his campaign — which has generated huge enthusiasm among youth for left-wing, anti-austerity politics — could win the Democratic nomination. Sanders said he would push to address the Democratic convention in July.
“Election days come and go,” Sanders said in his June 17 speech. “But political and social revolutions that attempt to transform our society never end. They continue every day … in the fight to create a nation of social and economic justice.
“That's what the trade union movement is about. That's what the civil rights movement is about. That's what the women's movement is about. That's what the gay rights movement is about. That's what the environmental movement is about.
“And that's what this campaign has been about over the past year … and that's why the political revolution must continue into the future.
“Real change never takes place from the top down, or in the living rooms of wealthy campaign contributors. It always occurs from the bottom on up — when tens of millions of people say 'enough is enough' and become engaged in the fight for justice.”
Sanders pointed out: “When we began this campaign a little over a year ago, we had no political organisation, no money and very little name recognition. The media determined that we were a fringe campaign. Nobody thought we were going anywhere.
“Well, a lot has changed over a year. During this campaign, we won more than 12 million votes. We won 22 state primaries and caucuses. We came very close — within 2 points or less — in five more states.
“In other words, our vision for the future of this country is not some kind of fringe idea … it is what millions of Americans believe in and want to see happen.
“And something else extraordinarily important happened in this campaign that makes me very optimistic about the future of our country … In virtually every state that we contested we won the overwhelming majority of the votes of people 45 years of age or younger, sometimes, may I say, by huge numbers.”
Sanders said that more than 1.5 million people had attended his campaign rallies or town hall meetings. He added that 2.7 million people made more than 8 million individual contributions to his campaign, more than in any campaign in American history.
“Amazingly,” he said, “the bulk of those contributions came from low-income and working people whose donations averaged $27 apiece.”
Sanders said this “showed the world that we could run a strong national campaign without being dependent on the big-money interests whose greed has done so much to damage our country”.
He noted that his campaign “took on virtually the entire political establishment — US senators, members of Congress, governors, mayors, state legislators and local party leaders”.
Transforming the country
He said his campaign, which electrified the Democrat race despite Clinton being considered a certainty a year ago, was “always about transforming America”.
“It is about ending a campaign finance system which is corrupt and allows billionaires to buy elections.
“It is about ending the grotesque level of wealth and income inequality … where the 20 wealthiest people own more wealth than the bottom 150 million.
“It is about creating an economy that works for all of us, not just the 1%.
“It is about ending the disgrace of Native Americans who live on the Pine Ridge, South Dakota, reservation having a life expectancy lower than many Third World countries…
“It is about ending the disgrace of having the highest level of childhood poverty of almost any major country on Earth and having public school systems in inner cities that are totally failing our children — where kids now stand a greater chance of ending up in jail than ending up with a college degree.
“It is about ending the disgrace that millions of undocumented people in this country continue to live in fear and are exploited every day on their jobs because they have no legal rights.
“It is about ending the disgrace of tens of thousands of Americans dying every year from preventable deaths because they either lack health insurance, have high deductibles or cannot afford the outrageously high cost of the prescription drugs they need.
“It is about ending the disgrace of hundreds of thousands of bright young people unable to go to college because their families are poor or working class, while millions more struggle with suffocating levels of student debt.
“It is about ending the pain of a young single mother in Nevada, in tears, telling me that she doesn't know how she and her daughter can make it on $10.45 an hour. And the reality that today millions of our fellow Americans are working at starvation wages.
“It is about ending the disgrace of a mother in Flint, Michigan, telling me what has happened to the intellectual development of her child as a result of lead in the water in that city, of many thousands of homes in California and other communities unable to drink the polluted water that comes out of their faucets…
“It is about ending the disgrace that too many veterans still sleep out on the streets, that homelessness is increasing and that tens of millions of Americans, because of a lack of affordable housing, are paying 40, 50 percent or more of their limited incomes to put a roof over their heads…
“It is about ending the disgrace that, in a given year, corporations making billions in profit avoid paying a nickel in taxes because they stash their money in the Cayman Islands and other tax havens.”
Sanders emphasised that his campaign was also about “defeating Donald Trump … After centuries of racism, sexism and discrimination of all forms in our country we do not need a major party candidate who makes bigotry the cornerstone of his campaign.”
Sanders also pointed to Trump's stance that climate change was a hoax and the Republican candidate's support for tax breaks for the rich.
Sanders used the speech to argue that the “major political task we face is to make certain that Donald Trump is defeated and defeated badly”. Sanders said from the start that he would campaign for which ever candidate won the Democrats' nomination.
However, many Sanders supporters have argued against backing a pro-war and Wall Street-aligned candidate like Clinton — and have called on Sanders to run as an independent or on a Greens ticket.
Greens presidential candidate Jill Stein has pointed out that Sanders had more in common with her platform than Clinton's, and publicly called for him to run with her on a joint ticket.
Sanders emphasised that “defeating Donald Trump cannot be our only goal. We must continue our grassroots efforts to create the America that we know we can become.”
Sanders indicated his perspective was to work to “transform the Democratic Party so that it becomes a party of working people and young people, and not just wealthy campaign contributors”.
He called for the Democrats to “have the courage to take on Wall Street, the pharmaceutical industry, the fossil fuel industry and the other powerful special interests”.
He said the party should back the rights of working people, for protecting women and LGBTI rights, for serious action on climate change and the banning of fracking and for real gun control. He called for the Democrats to oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement and enforce serious financial regulations on the finance industry, including breaking up big banks.
Sanders also called for a reform of the unfair and racist justice system and for immigration reform to protect migrant rights.
However, many past attempts to transform the Democrats from a party of Wall Street to one of working people have failed. The undemocratic measures used by the Democratic establishment, in collaboration with the corporate media, against the Sanders campaign shows the big obstacles to such a course.
In arguing for Sanders to break with the Democrats, Stein raised a long-standing criticism by many US leftists who argue for independent working-class politics — that the Democratic Party is a “graveyard of social movements”. That is, it absorbs independent social movements and struggles, and ties them to one of the parties of the corporate ruling class — killing their effectiveness.
Recognising the difficulties of his course, Sanders said: “The political revolution means much more than fighting for our ideals at the Democratic National Convention and defeating Donald Trump.
'Continue the fight'
“It means that, at every level, we continue the fight to make our society a nation of economic, social, racial and environmental justice.”
He concluded: “We have begun the long and arduous process of transforming America, a fight that will continue tomorrow, next week, next year and into the future.
“My hope is that when future historians look back and describe how our country moved forward into reversing the drift toward oligarchy, and created a government which represents all the people and not just the few, they will note that, to a significant degree, that effort began with the political revolution of 2016.”