Though he acknowledged he could not win the nomination, he said his movement had won “the ideological battle.” And while he congratulated former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and pledged to work with him, he said he would remain on the ballot in the remaining contests to help influence the platform at the Democratic National Convention.
Here’s a full transcript of his speech.
Good morning and thank you very much for joining me. I want to express to each of you my deep gratitude for helping to create an unprecedented grass roots political campaign that has had a profound impact in changing our nation.
I want to thank the hundreds of thousands of volunteers who knocked on doors, millions of them, in the freezing winters of Iowa and New Hampshire, and in the heat of Nevada and in South Carolina, and in states throughout the country.
I want to thank the two million Americans who have contributed financially to our campaign and showed the world that we can take on the corrupt campaign finance system, and run a major presidential campaign without the wealthy and the powerful. Thank you for your 10 million contributions, averaging $18.50 a donation.
I want to thank those who phone banked for our campaign and those of you who sent out millions of texts. And I want to thank the many hundreds of thousands of Americans who have been to our rallies, town meetings and house parties from New York to California. Some of these events had over 25,000 people. Some had a few hundred. Some had a dozen. But all were important. And let me thank those who made these many events possible.
I also want to thank our surrogates, too many to name. I can’t imagine that any candidate has ever been blessed with a stronger and more dedicated group of people who have taken our message to every part of this country. And I want to thank all of those who made the music and the art an integral part of our campaign. I want to thank all of you who spoke to your friends and neighbors, posted on social media, and worked as hard as you could to make this a better country.
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.
I also want to thank the many hundreds of people on our campaign staff. You were willing to move from one state to another and do all the work that had to be done. No job was too big or too small for you. You rolled up your sleeves and you did it. You embodied the words that are at the core of our movement — not me, but us. And I thank each and every one of you for what you’ve done.
As many of you will recall, Nelson Mandela, one of the great freedom fighters in modern world history, famously said, “It always seems impossible until it is done.” 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 health care as a human right, we will never achieve universal health care. 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 health care 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 health care, even before this horrific pandemic we are now experiencing, 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 health care, 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 health care 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 and 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 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. So today I’m announcing the suspension of my campaign.
Please know that I do not make this decision lightly. In fact, it has been a very difficult and painful decision. Over the past few weeks, Jane and I, in consultation with top staff and many of our prominent supporters, have made an honest assessment of the prospects for victory.
If I believed we had a feasible path to the nomination, I would certainly continue the campaign. But it’s just not there.
I know there may be some in our movement who disagree with this decision, who would like us to fight on until the last ballot cast at the Democratic convention. I understand that position. But as I see the crisis gripping the nation, exacerbated by a president unwilling or unable to provide any kind of credible leadership and the work that needs to be done to protect people in this most desperate hour, I could not in good conscience continue to mount a campaign that cannot not win and which would interfere with the important work required by all of us in this difficult hour.
Let me say this very emphatically. As you all know, we have never been just a campaign. We are a grass-roots, multiracial, multigenerational movement which has always believed that real change never comes from the top on down, but always from the bottom on up. We have taken on Wall Street, the insurance companies, the drug companies, the fossil fuel industry, the military-industrial complex, the prison-industrial complex, and the greed of the entire corporate elite. That struggle continues.
While this campaign is coming to an end, our movement is not. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. reminded us that “the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.” 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 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.
On a very personal note, speaking for Jane, myself and our entire family, we will always carry in our hearts the memory of the extraordinary people we have met across this country. We often hear about the beauty of America, and this country is incredibly beautiful. But to me, the beauty I will remember most is the faces of the people we have met from one corner of the nation to the other, the compassion and love and decency I have seen, and it makes me so hopeful for our future. It also makes me more determined than ever to work to create a nation that reflects those values and lifts up all of our people.
Please stay in this fight with me. Let us go forward together, as our goal continues. Thank you all very much.