THE SPEECH THAT BERNIE SHOULD GIVE (but probably won’t)
Hello America! Hello my Brothers and Sisters!
This campaign, this race for the Democratic Party presidential nomination, has come to a critical point. A boiling point, some would say. And before we go any further, before voters in the next states cast their primary ballots and before the media casts its spin over the public, and before the kingmakers in the back rooms of the Democratic Party tell everyone that it’s over, I want to speak directly to the American people. Not just to Democrats. Not just to voters. But to all of the people. To the 99% and yes, to the 1%. To the builders, the workers, the parents, the children, the investors—whether with capital or with sweat equity—of this country.
By now, you have heard many things about me. If you’ve been listening to the media, or to my opponents in this contest, or to the Wolves of Wall Street, you have heard that I am a socialist. That I want a revolution. And, you are being told that to be a socialist, to be a revolutionary, is too radical, too dangerous, too risky for our times, times in which we must band together for one purpose and only one purpose: to defeat Donald Trump.
Let me be clear. There is no one in this country who wants to defeat Donald Trump more than I do. No one. There is no one in this country who has spoken out more harshly against him, against his reckless policies. And there is no one who has been more forceful about his betrayal of working class and middle class people and farm families who put their trust in him rather than vote for Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Believe me, I never thought anyone should put their trust in Hillary Clinton. That’s why I, and I alone, chose to run against her in the Democratic Primary in 2016 when no one else was willing to step up—not Joe Biden, not Elizabeth Warren, not Michael Bloomberg, not Amy Klobuchar, not Kamala Harris or anyone you’ve seen on the debate stage over these last few months.
I alone raised the alarm over the direction of our party, over its complicity with global corporate interests, over its failure to see the suffering and anger and feelings of abandonment by so many, including what the elites in this country call the “deplorables.” President Donald Trump, I’m sorry to say, was the product of the Democratic Party’s blindness.
That does not excuse him or any of his actions. No, it does not! Nor does it excuse the actions of the Trump loyalists in government who would flout the rule of law, the separation of powers and the basic laws of human decency to get the right wing policies they want. But given the gravity of our current situation, we must be honest with one another. And I want to be honest, completely honest with you, my fellow countrymen and women.
Yes, I have been accused of being a socialist. No surprise there, because I told everyone I am a socialist! And I’ve been telling everyone that for more than 60 years. In the Jewish working-class neighborhood in Brooklyn where I grew up in the war years, many, many people called themselves a socialist. Or a communist. Or a member of the Workmen’s Circle. Or a trade unionist. Why? Because people believed that everyone, no matter where they came from, should be able to have a fair share of the American Dream. Not as a handout. But as a proper reward for hard work. Forget about the labels for a minute. Forget about the language of ideology and the scare tactics. Most Americans believe in that principle. And that, Mr. President, is what makes our country great. Not your appeals to American power and chauvinism.
When I say I am a socialist, I’m not talking about a tax plan, though I have one. I’m not even talking about a health care plan, though I have one. As you know, I wrote the damn bill! I’m not even talking about the ways in which government must use its power to regulate, to protect the powerless and to hold the powerful to account, though I believe that government can and should play that role.
I’m not talking about any of those things. When I say I’m a socialist, I’m talking about a principle that says that human beings have a responsibility to each other. That we are the creators and builders of the wealth of this country and we should partake in the wealth we create. I’m talking about what happens when a tornado rips through dairy farms in rural Wisconsin, destroying barns and fences and homes, and the next day hundreds of people—friends, family and neighbors—show up to clear the rubble and rebuild. Or when a gunman opens fire in a black church in Charleston and people from every walk of life show up to help the injured, to feed the first responders, to minister to the grieving. I’m talking about a blurry hand-held video of two little buddies—two year-old boys, one black and one white, who see each other on the street and run to hug each other, and over 100 million people view the video online. That, my friends, all of that, is socialism. That’s the name of the humanistic outlook that says we are all in this together and we must have a system that honors that moral principle. That people can give according to our abilities and accept according to our needs. I’m proud to believe in those things, this is a shared society, but right now there is too little sharing and too much greed.
There is too much damn greed in this country. Pure and simple. The drug companies, the insurance companies, the fossil fuel companies, the gun manufacturers, the hedge funds and the banks are profiteering in hideous ways. I have said this before, but I will say it again. This pattern of profiteering must be brought to heel.
We cannot have a country in which 40% of the wealth being created is controlled by the top 1% of the country. This is not only immoral, in my view, it is dangerous. I believe that America needs a peaceful revolution to a more equitable system. That’s what elections are for. But I also believe that if we do not address the wealth gap, if we do not address the racial divide, if we do not address poverty and underdevelopment, if we do not respond humanely to the flow of immigrants to this country, if we don’t take proper care of our veterans, we may experience a revolution of a different sort, a destructive sort. No one wants that.
The young people who have joined our movement, the millions of voters of all races and creeds and ethnicities, the Democrats and Independents, who have cast ballots for me, have done so because they believe in this country, not because they want to tear it down. But they are unhappy with and distrustful of a political system which has gone along with greed and which has placed partisan loyalty above the needs of the nation. They want systemic change, and this campaign, my candidacy, this movement is committed to bringing that change. We are not interested in “restoring the old order when times were better.” Times were never better for the poor, for the incarcerated, for the underpaid and the stigmatized. Let’s be honest.
I believe there is a hunger in America for new political alliances. We saw the evidence of that on Super Tuesday. In spite of the fact that the media has trumpeted the “surprising” resurrection of Joe Biden, it should not be a surprise to anyone. The outcome on Super Tuesday—which by the way, helped Joe Biden catch up to me, not the other way around—was the result of the Democratic Party establishment machine putting the squeeze on the primary process. “Clear the moderate lane! Make it a two-man race! Enough democracy here!”
I get it, I know what that is. I’ve had to live with it during 40 years of public service. I’ve gotten the late-night calls from party leaders telling me to fall in line. Truth be told, sometimes I did, because I felt I had no choice.
Maybe I was wrong to do that. For example, the deal I accepted with the Democratic National Committee (DNC) for the 2020 primary and convention rules was a bad deal. For me. And worse still, for the country. The Unity Reform Commission—which was empowered to rewrite the rules—was supposed to lay the groundwork for party unity by correcting the problems we saw in 2016 when the DNC tilted the playing field to Hillary Clinton. My appointees to the Commission began with a plan to open all the primaries to independent voters, who are now 42% of the country. However, we agreed to a compromise in which the party would not welcome independents but would make it easier for them to become Democrats, something many, many independents don’t want to do! We started out with a demand to eliminate the super delegates entirely. But we agreed to a compromise that reduced the number, but which gives them extraordinary power in a brokered convention, the likely scenario this July.
In both of these cases, we gave away some of the power of the voters to the party bosses. Of course, the Democratic Party should open its doors to independents! And not by requiring them to become Democrats! We want them in our Big Tent as who they are! So why do we tell independents they have to convert to join with us in our process? It makes no sense. We have to change direction here.
It is estimated that 26 million independent voters were locked out of primary voting in 2016. A shift of 40,000 votes in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania would have changed the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. You do the math. Don’t we want independent voters to feel welcome in our house?
It’s worth looking closely at the results of Super Tuesday to see the evidence that Americans are open to, and searching for, new alliances. Look at the vote by independents on March 3rd when all but one primary was open to non-aligned voters. In 9 of the 12 states that conducted exit polling, I won a plurality of the independent vote in what was essentially a three-way contest among Biden, Bloomberg and me. In fact, I’ve won the most independent votes in 3/4 of the states that have voted so far. But, if you combine the independent vote for me and for Bloomberg in 9 Super Tuesday states, we jointly polled 48% or more of the independent vote. Biden did significantly better with Democrats than he did with independents. Bloomberg and I each did significantly better with independents than with Democrats in almost every Super Tuesday state. This tells me that there is the possibility of a new coalition, a new majority coalition, that wants to break down the barriers of party preference and of ideology to get on with the process of solving America’s most acute problems and revitalizing our democracy.
Now, wait a minute. I know that many of you are gasping here, including many of you who have been campaigning and donating and voting for me. “Bernie, why are you putting Bloomberg supporters and Bernie backers in the same camp? Isn’t he a billionaire? Didn’t he attack you on stage at the debate for being a socialist? How and why would you put these vote totals together? They don’t belong together!”
Let me explain. Yes, Mike Bloomberg is a billionaire. I don’t blame him for being a billionaire, and he happens to be one of the better ones because he does give away a lot of money to important progressive causes, though nothing compared to what he spent on trying to make himself president! But the voters determined that they didn’t want him to be president. So here is a case where “market forces” prevailed.
I do fault him for his anti-progressive attacks on me. For a guy who claims to be unbought and unbossed, he certainly joined the establishment chorus against me in a big hurry. Maybe the same advisors who prepared him for his first debate told him to do it. But Mike is a smart guy and he should know better than to be stooping to McCarthyite tactics. After all, it was a bunch of independent socialists that got him elected mayor in New York City in the first place! That’s something he doesn’t like to talk about, but it’s true.
But the issue isn’t Mike Bloomberg, it’s the people who voted for him. That’s who I’m listening to. And that’s who I’m talking to. These are voters, especially the independents, who chose not to vote for Joe Biden. They voted for someone who is an outsider to the party infrastructure. He is wealthy, yes, very wealthy, but he is also independent of the party machine. And people like that independence because they don’t trust the parties! Neither party!
We’re not wealthy. This is not a wealthy campaign, though we have raised tens of millions of dollars in small donations to get our message out. And we continue to do so. But we are independent of that party machine, that is why they are doubling down on destroying our campaign before any more votes are cast and before a single delegate gets to Milwaukee. It is my intention that this campaign, this coalition of outsiders—which in November, by the way, will include many millions of people who voted for Donald Trump—is the new independent coalition that can power America forward. That, my friends, is the manifesto of our revolution.
Lastly, I want to speak to the African-American community, whose struggle for justice, whose long march to put an end to the legacy of slavery I commit myself to until my dying day. Again, the narrative that has been so deftly shaped by the spin on the results in South Carolina and then again on Super Tuesday is that the African American community is monolithic, that it is monolithically behind Joe Biden, and that it should restore and repair the Democratic Party by voting for him.
However, there is more to the story than meets the eye. Joe Biden did not win monolithic support from black voters across the Super Tuesday states. In four short years, after Hillary Clinton walked away with almost the entire Black vote against me in 2016, there has been a notable fall off in the support for the establishment favorite. In fact, among younger black voters under the age of 30, our campaign demonstrated strong support. 22% in Alabama. 37% in Virginia. 61% in North Carolina. 41% in Texas. 38% in South Carolina. I point to these percentages, not to make any false claims, but to support the young people who followed a different path. Young voters—in all communities, and especially in the communities of color—need more mobility. They do not want to be taken for granted, they do not want to be a foregone conclusion. They do not bring an attachment to a party or a fixed ideology with them to the voting booth. They are searching for new ways to give expression to their wants and desires, to their dreams and aspirations. Yes, young people are staring down a mountain of student debt, which we must relieve them of. But they are also staring down a bipartisan political system that has failed to move the country beyond the racial divide.
James Baldwin told this country 55 years ago that racism in America had brutalized its victims AND those who perpetrated it. He implored us to see the personal and social consequences of the moral depravity of racism. He cautioned that we, as a country, had to understand that poor and working class whites are given only one thing to cling to—that at least they are not black.
Donald Trump understands that and he has deployed it mercilessly. And yet we, in the progressive movement, the liberal movement, the socialist movement—whatever label you choose—don’t allow ourselves to talk about this. Barack Obama—who gave the best speech of his life in Philadelphia before he was elected president—tried to lay down some of these truths. But in the hands of the partisans, in the hands of the establishment, in the hands of the greedy, we have not been able to continue that conversation. But we must.
Joe Biden says he is the One True Democrat in the race. With all the competition dropping like flies, he wants you to rise up in judgment of me, of the millions who have voted for me—the Latino food service workers in Nevada, the black health care providers in California, the students in Texas and the teachers in New Hampshire and Iowa. He wants America to turn its back on me because, he says, I am not a True Democrat. Let me respond to this in the simplest way I know how. I love this party, but I love my family more. I believe in this party, but I believe more deeply in the people of this country. I have given my entire life to making this party stand up for what is right. I am not going to stop now.
If you believe, as I believe, that our party and our country are at a crossroads that is much deeper and more dangerous and, at the same time, more filled with the opportunity for progress than at any time in recent memory, then I ask you to give me your vote. We can defeat Donald Trump. We can build a new and radically inclusive governing coalition. We can call greed to account. We can reform our political system. We can open up a new era of progress and development for all. Let’s do it together.