Bernie Sanders goes on attack against Trump and urges support for Biden

By Matt Stevens

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont on Monday assailed President Donald Trump, warning that he is leading America “down the path of authoritarianism,” while throwing the full weight of his support behind the candidate who bested him in the Democratic primary, Joe Biden.

In a prime-time speech at the Democratic National Convention, Sanders — an independent who is now a two-time runner-up for the Democratic Party’s nomination for president — argued that the progressive movement he has led for the past several years was “getting stronger every day.”

At the same time, although he sparred with Biden for months on the campaign trail, Sanders sought again Monday to rally his followers behind the more moderate former vice president, warning that “if Donald Trump is reelected, all the progress we have made will be in jeopardy.”

“My friends, I say to you, 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,” Sanders, 78, said from Burlington, Vermont.

“We must come together, defeat Donald Trump and elect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as our next president and vice president,” he added. “My friends, the price of failure is just too great to imagine.”

The roughly eight-minute speech by Sanders was significantly shorter than the one he offered at the Democratic National Convention four years ago. And the atmosphere surrounding his speech this year was filled with far less tension and acrimony than in 2016.

Four years ago, Sanders had nominally lent his support to Hillary Clinton, but continued to assert that he had been mistreated during a contentious primary by biased party officials, pointing to hacked emails that showed some of them had preferred Clinton. That led to an air of grievance that persisted all the way to the convention.

But this time around, both Sanders and his backers have, for the most part, been willing to accept, if not embrace, the Democratic nominee and band together to oust Trump, who has become the primary target of much of their ire.

Speaking Monday, Sanders pledged to “work with progressives, with moderates and yes, with conservatives” to preserve American democracy.

And he said that while he and Biden “disagree on the best path to get universal coverage, he has a plan that will greatly expand health care and cut the cost of prescription drugs.”

Deploying a rhetorical strategy he leveraged often during his own campaign, Sanders listed the details of Biden’s policy platform, including raising the minimum wage, paid family leave, lowering the eligibility age for Medicare and several criminal justice changes.

“Together we must build a nation that is more equitable, more compassionate and more inclusive,” Sanders said. “I know that Joe Biden will begin that fight on Day 1.”

Unlike in 2016, when he stayed in the Democratic primary race with Clinton for months and did not endorse her until days before the convention, Sanders dropped out of the 2020 primary in April and quickly gave his formal support to Biden. His relatively quick exit in the spring came just a few months after he performed well in Iowa, won New Hampshire and ran away with Nevada.

But the primary race turned in South Carolina, where Biden won a commanding victory. Sanders then suffered a string of losses on Super Tuesday, and with the pandemic looming, he eventually conceded defeat to Biden.

Since exiting the primary, Sanders has focused on the coronavirus pandemic, which has revitalized support for Sanders’ signature policy proposal, “Medicare for All.” He has also sought to remain visible via livestream events, and has endorsed several progressives in primary contests.

In his speech Monday, Sanders called the November general election “the most important in the modern history of this country,” and implicitly cited the pandemic as one reason the progressive, youth-driven movement he has spearheaded for years must continue.

“In response to the unprecedented crises we face, we need an unprecedented response — a movement, like never before, of people who are prepared to stand up and fight for democracy and decency — and against greed, oligarchy and bigotry,” he said.

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