Bernie Sanders Gives A Speech Divorced From Reality

He rallied supporters with a typical stump speech in Washington ahead of next week's primary -- the last of the season.
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), speaks during a campaign rally in Washington, D.C.
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), speaks during a campaign rally in Washington, D.C.
Mark Wilson/via/Getty Images

WASHINGTON -- Bernie Sanders delivered his typical stump speech at a campaign rally Thursday evening, choosing not to acknowledge President Barack Obama's endorsement of Hillary Clinton, his meeting with the president, or Clinton's claim to have won enough delegates for the Democratic nomination.

“Next Tuesday, here in Washington, you will be having the very last primary of the Democratic nominating process,” Sanders told a crowd outside Robert F. Kennedy Stadium. “It would be extraordinary if the people of Washington, our nation’s capital, stood up and told the world that they are ready to lead this country into a political revolution.”

It's not surprising that Sanders would want to pretend Washington voters could change the reality of the Democratic race. But his speech -- which didn't mention the words "Hillary Clinton" or "convention" -- seemed uniquely frozen in time. A recording of his remarks, except for the part about Washington at the end, would give few clues about when or where they had been given. He didn't mention that earlier in the day, Obama endorsed Clinton, who has won enough delegates for the Democratic nomination, or that he met at the White House with Obama and pledged to work closely with Clinton to defeat GOP presumptive nominee Donald Trump.

Sanders was somewhat more reflective than in past speeches, noting that his campaign had won 22 primaries and caucuses, garnered over 10 million votes, and broken small-dollar fundraising records. He listed places he had visited -- from Flint, Michigan, to Pine Ridge, South Dakota -- and implicitly advised the Democratic Party that could learn from his campaign’s successes.

“We are here in mid-June and we are still standing,” he said. “We have showed the world you can run a winning national campaign without relying on Wall Street and fossil fuel and drug company donations.”

Sanders decried corporate money in politics, income inequality, unemployment, climate change, federal drug policy, jobs transferred out of the U.S. and student debt. He pledged to reform the immigration system, health care system, campaign finance system and criminal justice system. (And other systems.)

“Young people are catching on. They are the future of America, and they are damn determined to shape the future of America,” he said. “Real change never takes place from the top-down, it takes place from the bottom-up.”

Democratic Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders speaks during A Future to Believe In rally on June 9, 2016, in Washington, DC.
Democratic Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders speaks during A Future to Believe In rally on June 9, 2016, in Washington, DC.

Roughly 3,000 Sanders supporters chanted, “Thank you, Bernie!” at the beginning of his speech, and, “Stay in the race!” near the end, as the sun set. They were as defiant as Sanders was.

The Huffington Post had a difficult time finding supporters in the crowd who would admit they were ready to vote for Clinton, the party’s presumptive nominee, in November.

“Hillary Clinton needs to win our votes, which means adopting some of Bernie’s platform,” said Keith Melchers, a 57-year-old D.C. resident, mentioning Sanders' proposal for free public university tuition. “She’s got to take on some of his agenda … I’m going to hold out to see what she does. I’m open, but it can’t be just, ‘Hey you’ve got to automatically support me.’ She has to come a little bit our way on our platform.”

Susan Shufelt, a 69-year-old from Maryland, said she doesn’t think she could vote for Clinton.

“I would feel terrible if [Sanders] just endorsed Hillary and that was it,” Shufelt said. “I want him to do something that will help get money out of politics and help reduce income inequality, the things he talked about during the campaign. I’m not hopeful because HIllary is so connected to money, her husband has his foundation, I don’t see any hope with her. … But I promised my friends I will keep an open mind, those who are a little less rigid than me.”

Melchers said he’d be “delighted” if Clinton chose Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) as her running mate. Others, however, said they didn't think Clinton could pick a vice presidential candidate who could make them feel comfortable with her nomination.

And many said they weren't ready to even consider the possibility of voting for Clinton in the fall. They made noises of frustration at the question and characterized support for Clinton as “giving in.”

“It’s the idea that we send a message to the establishment government that just because you chose Hillary, we’re not going to bow down to a lesser evil,” said Sufian Abulohom, 20, a student at American University. “It’s sending a message if you don’t pick Bernie Sanders, we’re not voting. … He’s going to send a message [at the Democratic convention] when he goes that he’s the best candidate to beat Donald Trump.”

Not all of Sanders’ fans were so adamantly against Clinton. HuffPost found one supporter -- 17-year-old Virginian Meghan Gibbons -- who said she would vote for the former secretary of state in November.

“I’ve always been a big Bernie supporter so I came out to see what his last, final hurrah was like,” said Gibbons. “I think he should rally behind Hillary, if nothing other than to try to prevent Trump from getting into office."

But April Washington, a 41-year-old D.C. resident, said she wasn’t afraid enough of a Trump victory in the general election to back Clinton.

“Let the chips fall where they may, with that,” Washington said.

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