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Bernie Sanders: We Are Winning “Ideological” & “Generational” Debate, Now Need to Win “Electability”

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After a disappointing showing in Tuesday night’s Democratic presidential primaries, Senator Bernie Sanders said Wednesday he will stay in the race. In his address from Burlington, Vermont, Sanders challenged his rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, to address key issues like economic inequality, healthcare access and the climate crisis. Sanders is set to debate Biden this Sunday in Arizona. “It is not just the ideological debate that our progressive movement is winning. We are winning the generational debate,” Sanders said. “While Joe Biden continues to do very well with older Americans, especially those people over 65, our campaign continues to win the vast majority of the votes of younger people. … Today, I say to the Democratic establishment, in order to win in the future, you need to win the voters who represent the future of our country, and you must speak to the issues of concern to them.”

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: After a disappointing showing in Tuesday night’s Democratic presidential primaries, Senator Bernie Sanders announced his future plans on Wednesday. Sanders was the front-runner until just two weeks ago and said he’ll stay in the race.

AMY GOODMAN: We begin today’s show with Bernie Sanders’ address, in which he lays out a series of questions to his rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, on how he would address key issues like economic inequality, healthcare and climate crisis. Sanders is set to debate Biden this Sunday in Phoenix. Because of the coronavirus, there will be no audience. Sanders spoke to reporters in Burlington, Vermont.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Last night, obviously, was not a good night for our campaign from a delegate point of view. We lost in the largest state up for grabs yesterday, the state of Michigan. We lost in Mississippi, Missouri and Idaho. On the other hand, we won in North Dakota, and we lead the vote count in the state of Washington, the second-largest state contested yesterday. With 67% of the votes having been counted, we are a few thousand votes on top.

What became even more apparent yesterday is that while we are currently losing the delegate count — approximately 800 delegates for Joe Biden and 660 for us — we are strongly winning in two enormously important areas which will determine the future of our country. Poll after poll, including exit polls, show that a strong majority of the American people support our progressive agenda.

The American people are deeply concerned about the grotesque level of income and wealth inequality in this country, and the American people want the wealthy and large profitable corporations to start paying their fair share of taxes. Overwhelming support for that. The American people understand that the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour is a starvation wage. They want to raise the minimum wage in this country to a living wage of at least $15 an hour. And the American people understand that if our kids are going to make it into the middle class of this country, we must make public colleges and universities and trade schools tuition-free.

The American people understand that we cannot continue a cruel and dysfunctional healthcare system. And it is amazing to me to see that even in conservative states like Mississippi, there is an overwhelming understanding that we are now spending twice as much per capita on healthcare as do the people of any other country, while 87 million of us remain uninsured or underinsured. And this crisis, this absurd healthcare system, is becoming more and more obvious to the American people as we face the challenge of the coronavirus pandemic that we are currently experiencing. Imagine facing a pandemic and having 87 million people who are having a difficult time going to a doctor when they need.

And the American people know, unlike Donald Trump, that climate change is an existential threat to our country and the planet, and that we need to transform our energy system away from fossil fuel to energy efficiency and sustainable energy.

And the American people also know that we need fundamental transformation of a broken and racist criminal justice system, as well as a cruel immigration system that keeps millions of people living in fear.

But it is not just the ideological debate that our progressive movement is winning. We are winning the generational debate. While Joe Biden continues to do very well with older Americans, especially those people over 65, our campaign continues to win the vast majority of the votes of younger people. And I am talking about people not just in their twenties, but in their thirties and their forties. The younger generations of this country continue, in very strong numbers, to support our campaign. Today I say to the Democratic establishment, in order to win in the future, you need to win the voters who represent the future of our country, and you must speak to the issues of concern to them. You cannot simply be satisfied by winning the votes of people who are older.

While our campaign has won the ideological debate, we are losing the debate over electability. I cannot tell you how many people our campaign has spoken to who have said, and I quote, “I like what your campaign stands for. I agree with what your campaign stands for. But I’m going to vote for Joe Biden, because I think Joe is the best candidate to defeat Donald Trump,” end of quote. We have heard that statement all over this country. Needless to say, I strongly disagree with that assertion, but that is what millions of Democrats and independents today believe.

On Sunday, I very much look forward to the debate in Arizona with my friend Joe Biden. And let me be very frank as to the questions that I will be asking Joe.

Joe, what are you going to do for the 500,000 people who go bankrupt in our country because of medically related debt? And what are you going to do for the working people of this country and small business people who are paying on average 20% of their incomes for healthcare? Joe, what are you going to do to end the absurdity of the United States of America being the only major country on Earth where healthcare is not a human right? Are you really going to veto a Medicare for All bill if it is passed in Congress?

Joe, how are you going to respond to the scientists who tell us we have seven or eight years remaining to transform our energy system before irreparable harm takes place to this planet because of the ravages of climate change?

Joe, at a time when most young people need a higher education to make it into the middle class, what are you going to do to make sure that all of our people can go to college or trade school regardless of their income? And what are you going to do about the millions of people who are struggling with outrageous levels of student debt?

Joe, at a time when we have more people in jail than communist China, a nation four times our size, what are you going to do to end mass incarceration and a racist criminal justice system? And what are you going to do to end the terror that millions of undocumented people experience right now because of our broken and inhumane immigration system?

Joe, what are you going to do about the fact that we have the highest rate of childhood poverty of almost any major country on Earth and are living with the fact that 500,000 people tonight are homeless and 18 million families are spending half of their income to put a roof over their heads? Joe, importantly, what are you going to do to end the absurdity of billionaires buying elections and the three wealthiest people in America owning more wealth than the bottom half of our people?

So, let me conclude the way I began. Donald Trump must be defeated, and I will do everything in my power to make that happens. On Sunday night, in the first one-on-one debate of this campaign, the American people will have the opportunity to see which candidate is best positioned to accomplish that goal. Thank you all very much.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Senator Bernie Sanders announcing his future plans Wednesday in Burlington, Vermont. Senator Sanders was the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination until just two weeks ago. He said he’s staying in the race, is set to debate Joe Biden this Sunday in Phoenix, Arizona. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, there will not be an audience in the room.

When we come back, leading economist Robert Pollin will talk about Medicare for All and what it means in this time of the coronavirus. Stay with us.

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