BERNIE’S CONCESSION SPEECH

8 April 2020

 Today, Bernie Sanders dropped out of the running to be the Democratic candidate for President. Much as I prefer his message to what most of the candidates had offered, including Joe Biden, I think he did the right thing. If he had remained in the race any longer, we would have just gotten more and more “Joe voted for the Iraq war,” “Bernie voted against gun control,” “How much is Medicare for All actually going to cost?,” etc., etc., etc. – none of which has anything to do with the issues at hand, all of which make good Republican talking points, and none of which helps get America back heading in the right direction.

   You may remember that several weeks ago I took it upon myself to draft a concession speech for him. He didn’t need it; he did just fine by himself. He reaffirmed his vision for America, and vowed to keep advocating for a real “revolution” in how the country moved forward. While he didn’t gush over Joe Biden, he assured his followers that they were still getting “a good man.” One thing he asked, that I hadn’t thought of, was for people to keep voting for him in the remaining primaries, to accumulate as many delegates as he could. That would give the progressive agenda more leverage at the Democratic convention.

   One thing I wish he had done was emphasize more strongly the need for voter turnout in November. Because I think that is going to be especially important, I’m giving him and his advocates another chance at my draft speech, with the need to vote highlighted.

*  *  *

    Yes, it’s over. I know some will breathe a sigh of relief. Others will sigh with regret and frustration. Those of us who were looking for not just a win, but a “revolution,” will have to wait. This time around, I think that was inevitable.

    There’s a saying, “Without a vision, the people perish.” Bible scholars will tell you that phrase is misused when we invoke it to talk about my vision, or your vision, or our vision – that when it was originally written it was about what God had in store. Be that as it may, it doesn’t negate a vital secular truth: we need to have a dream about where we want to go – what we want to be – or it all becomes meaningless.

   Everyone of us on the debate stages this time around had a vision. Some were bolder than others, but they all aimed at creating a better world in which to live. None of those dreams got full expression, because from the start we limited ourselves to one goal: beat Trump. Truth be told, any one of us could have beaten Trump; in fact, almost anyone who chose to run – Democrat, Republican, Independent, anyone – could have beaten him. Everyone now knows who and what he is. He is Wrong in every sense of the word. Unbelievably, he still has a following, but I don’t think he has a winning following, anymore. I think he could have been beaten by anyone who could present a coherent picture of what America – and the World – are becoming  under Trump, and could put forth a coherent vision of an alternative.

   Instead, we squandered our time, money, and ideals on incessant rantings on how much Medicare for All would cost (I think more than a quarter of the time in every debate), who was for or against the Iraq war, who voted for or against assault rifles, who was the real champion for women’s rights. We didn’t talk about climate change (about five minutes – if that much – per debate), military spending, the need to rebuild our infrastructure, our failing role as world leaders. In fact, by the later “debates,” desperation had brought us to using Trump talking-points about one another: he’s too old to have good ideas, he might be implicated in criminal activity, even – yes, even! – we can’t have a Socialist running for President. In other words, what we gave to the people looking for an alternative to Trump was essentially Nothing.

   I think I have a winning vision for America, and it’s clear that many share that vision. What could be more “American” than wanting full health care for everyone, prescription drugs that don’t cost thousands more a year than what is paid in other countries, higher education available to everyone, more benefits for lower and middle class people, and less breaks for the already super-rich? If I made mistakes in sharing that vision, they came in two places. First, I may have confused people about my vision by insisting that I was a “Democratic Socialist,” making it sound to some like I was advocating for something Foreign, and not really American. Obviously, that didn’t dismay the hundreds of thousands who have been with me through two Presidential campaigns. Nevertheless, it may have been a problem for those who grew up during World War II or the ensuing Cold War, who were conditioned to believe that all “isms” except American Capitalism were evil. It also was being used by Republicans (and, unfortunately, by some of my fellow candidates) as a talking point, suggesting I was advocating something horrible and unnatural for America. I’m sure we would have heard a lot more about “the evils of Socialism” if I had become the Democratic candidate.

   More importantly, perhaps I made my vision sound too simple, and too easily implemented, thereby making it seem impractical and impossible to achieve. Perhaps I came across as too adamant that there was only one way to get where I wanted to get. I admit I get impatient about not being able to give Americans the kind of help and benefits that much of the rest of the world takes for granted. But I’ve been a politician and public servant for many years, and I know that no President gets the really important things done by himself. It takes time, a cooperative Congress, and a supportive voting public. But that’s what the Vision is about. Any Democratic President will be able to reverse some of the damage that Trump has done, stop further damage, and begin to rebuild our relationships at home and abroad. That will be a major achievement, and won’t come easy. If “business as usual” is what follows, it will certainly be far, far better than what we have now. But the Vision I have doesn’t stop there; it moves on into the future with you, joined by new advocates, and we keep striving for what we want for America. Maybe we’ll have to put our biggest dreams on hold for awhile - but maybe not; we’ll see what a new Congress and a new President can do, together.

   And that brings us back to today. To use Joe’s own phrase, here’s the deal: we have to defeat Trump in November, or there’s no hope for the America that we’ve come to believe in. This is no exaggeration: we have to win! We have to give him – and Democrats running for the House and Senate - every possible vote. Even if he wasn’t your first, second, or even third choice, you have to vote. Even if you’re hurt and frustrated by the way the primaries were handled, you have to vote. YOU HAVE TO VOTE!

     Let’s be clear: you won’t be voting for Second Best. Joe and I have different priorities, and different ways of doing business, but he is a good man and eminently qualified to be President. As Vice-president, he got the best training possible in what the job entails. As a long-term member of Congress, he knows every government program, every lawmaker, every foreign leader. He himself is a proven leader, and was a proven cooperator with both political parties in the days when the Republicans knew how to be cooperative. His dedication to America is as strong as any candidate we’ve ever had. He will immediately take what actions he can on his own to stop and reverse the damage that Trump has been doing, and will urge whatever Congress we give him to start taking care of America, again. The only way America can lose is if we lose.

   Keep dreaming big, but the priority now is to assure we have something to dream about. Vote!

   

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© Sanford Wilbur 2020