NEW YORK — Bernie Sanders told a roaring crowd of supporters Thursday that his campaign is “just getting started” fighting economic inequality, changing the Democratic Party and bolstering Democrats running for Congress.
Speaking to a packed hall in Manhattan, Sanders took something of a victory lap as he reviewed the states he won and the fact that many young people flocked to his campaign over presumptive Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s. He did not mention her name, let alone endorse her as leading Democrats have urged.
“Our goal from day one has been to transform this nation and that is the fight we are going to continue,” Sanders, his voice hoarse, told supporters who packed a venue called The Town Hall near Times Square. “We have got to make sure that (Republican presidential candidate Donald) Trump is not president. But that is not good enough.”
The independent senator got standing ovations as he reviewed his campaign positions, from free health care and college tuition to campaign finance reform. Sanders urged his supporters to keep fighting inequality and insisting on “forcing open the door” of the Democratic Party to allow working Americans, not political elites, to run it. That was a not-subtle swipe at a party he complained rigged the nominating system in Clinton’s favour.
Clinton earlier this month clinched the delegates required to carry the Democrats’ banner against Trump. And Sanders this week acknowledged that he would not be the nominee.
Sanders supporters, who lined up for several blocks in advance of the speech, were not eager to hear him endorse Clinton.
Judi Gardner, of Huntington, N.Y., waited more than five hours. She’s an elected delegate to the Democratic National Convention, and she’s sticking with him through the event.
“The political revolution is continuing,” Gardner, 69, said. “This will not end here.”
Steve Favilla, 36, was concerned while he waited in line that the hall might fill up before he got in.
“I want the media to see the thousands of people who are out here knowing we won’t get in and still showing our support for Bernie,” Favilla, an electrician from Queens, said.
Sanders has been signalling the transition of his movement from a presidential run to one aimed at bolstering likeminded Democratic candidates for Congress and offices up and down the ballot.
He was travelling to Syracuse, New York, on Friday to hold a rally with congressional candidate Eric Kingson, who is seeking the Democratic nomination in next Tuesday’s primary to challenge Republican Rep. John Katko.
Sanders has raised about $2.5 million for congressional and legislative candidates in recent weeks, sending out fundraising emails on behalf of liberals who could further Sanders’ message. The Vermont senator has raised about $300,000 for both former Sen. Russ Feingold, who is trying to win back his old seat in Wisconsin, and Florida congressional candidate Tim Canova, who is challenging Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who represents a Fort Lauderdale-area district.