Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders came to New York City to deliver a speech outlining what’s next for his campaign. Despite seemingly impossible odds, his plan doesn’t include giving up.
In the remarks, Sanders suggested he’s still a long way from conceding and that there is still a chance he could contest the Democratic National Convention next month — even though the party’s presidential primary ended with Hillary Clinton coming out ahead and earning enough delegates to secure the nomination.
Before the speech, Sanders and his team spent the day fending off questions about when he plans to give up his quest for the White House and when, if ever, he’ll endorse Clinton.
Sanders’ comments included little to soothe his supporters who believe the primary process was rigged in Clinton’s favor. He said he will be pushing for a change to the Democratic super delegate system and an end to closed primaries, two things his team has repeatedly suggested unfairly benefited Clinton.
“Never, ever lose your sense of outrage!” Sanders urged supporters in the speech.
On Wednesday night, there was widespread speculation that Sanders might be preparing to concede. This was fueled by his speech being titled “Where We Go From Here” and his recent CSPAN interview in which he admitted, “It doesn’t appear that I’m going to be the nominee.”
Shortly after Sanders arrived in New York on Thursday afternoon, he headed to a Manhattan diner, where his top spokesman, Michael Briggs, was peppered with questions about whether the day’s speech would be a concession.
“No,” Briggs said, adding, “For the five-thousandth time on this speech alone.”
Sanders’ next stop was a taping of the “Late Show” with Stephen Colbert, where the host asked Sanders at least five times when and if he was giving up. During the interview, Sanders acknowledged he doesn’t have enough delegates to win, but suggested he would be remaining in the race through the Democratic convention next month to ensure the more than 12 million people who voted for him are “heard” and have input on the party’s platform.
“Look, I’m very good at arithmetic. … I understand that Secretary Clinton has a lot more,” Sanders said. “We have 1,900 delegates going to Philadelphia for the convention. That’s pretty good. She has more, which is not so good for me … but 1,900 delegates is actually quite a lot of people.”
Sanders said his team was “talking” to Clinton and her campaign to ensure she “is going to come out very strongly” for some of his core issues, including fighting income inequality and establishing free tuition at public colleges and universities. Colbert mockingly pressed Sanders for more specific demands he might have before agreeing to drop out of the race.
“As you said, you are negotiating with the Clinton campaign right now to get something from them of your agenda before you endorse the secretary. Is there anything else? Like do you want to be ambassador to Narnia or anything?” Colbert asked.
Colbert also asked Sanders if he would be endorsing Clinton on Thursday. Sanders flatly said, “No.” Though he wasn’t ready to embrace Clinton, Sanders dismissed the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump, as a “bigot.”
After the “Late Show” taping, Sanders briefly stopped at his Times Square hotel, which was about two blocks from the site of his speech. When he was ready, Sanders opted to walk to the venue. En route, USA Today reporter Nicole Gaudiano attempted to clarify Sanders’ position on Clinton. She asked if he planned on endorsing Clinton later in the campaign even though he would not be doing so in his speech.
“I’m going to endorse you!” Sanders said to Gaudiano.
Yahoo News tried a slightly different approach and asked Sanders who his supporters should vote for if the election “comes down to Clinton and Trump.” Sanders made an audible expression of distaste.
“Eh!” he said with a dismissive wave of his hand.
Inside, some of Sanders’ supporters were clearly not interested in backing Clinton. When Yahoo News began asking nearby audience members if they could eventually get behind Clinton, Lauren Lindenbach interrupted with a shout of “Never!”
Lindenbach, a 35-year-old Californian, cited allegations of “voter suppression” in her home state, Nevada, and New York. She suggested she would go “Bernie or bust” and vote for Sanders or another likeminded candidate if he does eventually concede.
“Bernie or bust is not a catchphrase. It ultimately is a belief that there’s no alternative, whether it’s Bernie leading us or another follower or Berner that steps forward,” Lindenbach explained.
Brian Kafel, a 43-year-old set designer who lives in New York, said he didn’t feel like he would ever have to choose between Clinton or Trump because New York is a reliably blue state and will likely go to whoever wins the Democratic nomination.
“Hillary’s going to carry New York with or without my vote,” said Kafel.
Kafel further explained that he plans to vote for Sanders or the Green Party candidate, Dr. Jill Stein.
On stage, Sanders framed his “political revolution” as something that extended beyond his presidential bid. He said he would continue to push for key parts of his platform, including fighting climate change, his education plan, and his efforts to combat income inequality. Sanders expressed support for a $15 minimum wage and curbing the power of Wall Street. On banking, Sanders noted he backs “establishment of a modern-day Glass-Steagall legislation,” a rule that was repealed in 1999 and separated commercial and investment banks. Clinton has said she opposes reimplementing the Glass-Steagall Act, and Sanders said it’s an issue he “may well bring to the floor of the convention.”
Despite implying he could contest the convention, Sanders also noted he would be willing to “run all over the country” to campaign against Trump. And he provided hints at what he might do beyond the presidential race. Sanders said he is going to begin campaigning for Democrats in other races and noted his campaign launched an effort last week to encourage progressives to get involved in local races.
But for now, Sanders is keeping up his Democratic primary fight.
“The struggle continues,” Sanders declared as he concluded his speech, before repeating himself for emphasis: “The struggle continues.”