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Suspending the Campaign, Not the Movement: Sanders Pulls Out of 2020 Race But Will Stay on Ballot

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Senator Bernie Sanders has suspended his campaign for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, making former Vice President Joe Biden the presumptive nominee to face Donald Trump in November. Sanders says he will stay on the ballot in remaining primary races and continue to assemble delegates. We play highlights from Sanders’s speech to supporters in a live stream on Wednesday. “Together, we have transformed American consciousness as to what kind of nation we can become, and have taken this country a major step forward in the never-ending struggle for economic justice, social justice, racial justice and environmental justice,” he said.

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

AMY GOODMAN: We begin today’s show with Senator Bernie Sanders’ announcement Wednesday that he’s suspending his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. Vice President Joe Biden is now the presumptive nominee to face Republican President Donald Trump in the November election. Sanders addressed his supporters in a live stream from his home in Burlington, Vermont.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Together, we have transformed American consciousness as to what kind of nation we can become, and have taken this country a major step forward in the never-ending struggle for economic justice, social justice, racial justice and environmental justice. …

As many of you will recall, Nelson Mandela, one of the great freedom fighters in modern world history, famously said — and I quote — “It always seems impossible until it is done,” end quote. And what he meant by that is that the greatest obstacle to reach social change has everything to do with the power of the corporate and political establishment to limit our vision as to what is possible and what we are entitled to as human beings.

If we don’t believe that we are entitled to healthcare as a human right, we will never achieve universal healthcare. If we don’t believe that we are entitled to decent wages and working conditions, millions of us will continue to live in poverty. If we don’t believe that we are entitled to all of the education we require to fulfill our dreams, many of us will leave schools saddled with huge debt or never get the education we need. If we don’t believe that we are entitled to live in a world that has a clean environment and is not ravaged by climate change, we will continue to see more drought, floods, rising sea levels, an increasingly uninhabitable planet. If we don’t believe that we are entitled to live in a world of justice, democracy and fairness, without racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia or religious bigotry, we will continue to have massive income and wealth inequality, prejudice and hatred, mass incarceration, terrified immigrants, and hundreds of thousands of Americans sleeping out on the streets in the richest country on Earth.

And focusing on that new vision for America is what our campaign has been about and what, in fact, we have accomplished. Few would deny that over the course of the past five years our movement has won the ideological struggle. In so-called red states and blue states and purple states, a majority of the American people now understand that we must raise the minimum wage to at least $15 an hour, that we must guarantee healthcare as a right to all of our people, that we must transform our energy system away from fossil fuel, and that higher education must be available to all, regardless of income. It was not long ago that people considered these ideas radical and fringe. Today they are mainstream ideas, and many of them are already being implemented in cities and states across the country. That is what we have accomplished together.

In terms of healthcare, even before this horrific pandemic we are now experiencing, more and more Americans understood that we must move to a Medicare-for-All, single-payer program. During the primary elections, exit polls showed, in state after state, a strong majority of Democratic primary voters supported a single government health insurance program to replace private insurance. That was true even in states where our campaign did not prevail.

And let me just say this. In terms of healthcare, this current horrific crisis that we are now in has exposed for all to see how absurd our current employer-based health insurance system is. The current economic downturn we are experiencing has not only led to a massive loss of jobs but has also resulted in millions of Americans losing their health insurance. While Americans have been told over and over again how wonderful our employer-based private insurance system is, those claims sound very hollow today as a growing number of unemployed workers struggle with how they can afford to go to the doctor or not go bankrupt with a huge hospital bill. We have always believed that healthcare must be considered as a human right, not an employee benefit. And we are right.

Please also appreciate that not only are we winning the struggle ideologically, we are also winning it generationally. The future of our country rests with young people. And in state after state, whether we won or whether we lost the Democratic primaries or caucuses, we received a significant majority of the votes, sometimes an overwhelming majority, from people not only 30 years of age or under, but 50 years of age or younger. In other words, the future of this country is with our ideas.

As we are all painfully aware, we now face an unprecedented crisis. Not only are we dealing with a coronavirus pandemic, which is taking the lives of many thousands of our people, we are also dealing with an economic meltdown that has resulted in the loss of millions of jobs. Today, families all across our country face financial hardship unimaginable only a few months ago. And because of the unacceptable levels of income and wealth inequality in our economy, many of our friends and neighbors have little or no savings and are desperately trying to pay their rent or their mortgage or even put food on the table.

This reality makes it clear to me that Congress must address this unprecedented crisis in an unprecedented way that protects the health and economic well-being of the working families of our country, not just powerful special interests. As a member of the Democratic leadership in the United States Senate and as a senator from the state of Vermont, this is something that I intend to intensely be involved in over the next number of months, and that will require an enormous amount of work — which takes me to the state of our presidential campaign.

I wish I could give you better news, but I think you know the truth. And that is that we are now some 300 delegates behind Vice President Biden, and the path toward victory is virtually impossible. So while we are winning the ideological battle and while we are winning the support of so many young people and working people throughout the country, I have concluded that this battle for the Democratic nomination will not be successful. And so today I am announcing the suspension of my campaign. …

While this campaign is coming to an end, our movement is not. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. reminded us that, quote, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice,” end quote. The fight for justice is what our campaign has been about. The fight for justice is what our movement remains about.

Today I congratulate Joe Biden, a very decent man, who I will work with to move our progressive ideas forward.

On a practical note, let me also say this: I will stay on the ballot in all remaining states and continue to gather delegates. While Vice President Biden will be the nominee, we must continue working to assemble as many delegates as possible at the Democratic convention, where we will be able to exert significant influence over the party platform and other functions. Then, together, standing united, we will go forward to defeat Donald Trump, the most dangerous president in modern American history. And we will fight to elect strong progressives at every level of government, from Congress to the school board.

As I hope all of you know, this race has never been about me. I ran for the presidency because I believe that as a president, I could accelerate and institutionalize the progressive changes that we are all building together. And if we keep organizing and fighting, I have no doubt but that that is exactly what will happen. While the path may be slower now, we will change this nation and, with like-minded friends around the globe, change the entire world.

AMY GOODMAN: Senator Bernie Sanders announcing Wednesday he’s suspending his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, speaking from his home in Burlington, Vermont. When we come back, we’ll speak with journalist and activist Naomi Klein, a well-known Sanders supporter, about Sanders’ historic presidential campaign. And we’ll talk to her about coronavirus capitalism — President Trump’s response to the pandemic. Stay with us.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: “Something to Think About” by Willie Nelson, who will be joining Neil Young and John Mellencamp and others April 11th for a big Farm Aid concert to support, first, frontline essential workers, from grocery store clerks to delivery truck drivers to healthcare workers.

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