Sanders urges unity behind Clinton, thanks supporters

Ben Sales

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaking during a rally near the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium in Washington, D.C., June 9, 2016. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaking during a rally near the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium in Washington, D.C., June 9, 2016. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

PHILADELPHIA (JTA) — Sen. Bernie Sanders urged his supporters to vote for Hillary Clinton on a night centered on restoring unity in the Democratic Party.

Sanders spoke Monday night following two days of discord in the party. His supporters have voiced anger at Clinton for choosing Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, a centrist, as a running mate, and are upset with the Democratic National Committee over leaked emails that show the body favored Clinton during the primary race.

But Sanders urged his followers, despite their disappointment, to coalesce behind Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee. He said, to loud applause, that electing Clinton is the only way to ensure the defeat of Republican nominee Donald Trump, and to push the enactment of a progressive agenda.

“We need leadership which brings our people together and makes us stronger – not leadership which insults Latinos and Mexicans, insults Muslims, women, African-Americans and veterans – and seeks to divide us up,” he said. “By these measures, any objective observer will conclude that – based on her ideas and her leadership – Hillary Clinton must become the next president of the United States.”

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Sanders, the first Jewish candidate to win major party primaries, outlined a series of domestic issues — from climate change to income inequality to healthcare to college tuition — on which he said Clinton would be far superior to Trump. He called on his supporters not to abstain from voting in particular because the next president may appoint several Supreme Court justices. His message echoed several other speakers who pushed party unity and get-out-the-vote efforts Monday night.

“If you don’t believe this election is important, if you think you can sit it out, take a moment to think about the Supreme Court justices that Donald Trump would nominate and what that would mean to civil liberties, equal rights and the future of our country,”  he said.

Before he took the stage, a modified version of a popular Sanders campaign ad played on screen, featuring the song “America” by Simon and Garfunkel. (Paul Simon performed at the convention earlier Monday night.)

Sanders began the speech by thanking supporters, and by showing the impact of his campaign through a list of statistics — from the 13 million people who voted for him to the 8 million individual campaign contributions he received. He also hailed the passing of what he called “by far, the most progressive platform in the history of the Democratic Party.”

“I think it’s fair to say that no one is more disappointed than I am,” he said regarding the primary result. “But to all of our supporters – here and around the country – I hope you take enormous pride in the historical accomplishments we have achieved. Together, my friends, we have begun a political revolution to transform America and that revolution – our revolution – continues.”

Some Sanders delegates chanted their continued support of him from the crowd, while others cried as he spoke. But there were no widespread protests during his or any other speech.

Earlier Monday night, a range of other Jewish public figures, including Simon and comedian Sarah Silverman, appeared on stage. Minnesota Sen. Al Franken  addressed the crowd with a mixture of his trademark humor and seriousness. He focused his speech on criticizing Trump as a dishonest businessman. He also sneaked in a jab at disgraced Jewish fraudster Bernie Madoff.

“Did you know that Trump University’s School of Ripping People Off is ranked second in the nation?” joked Franken. “Right behind Bernie Madoff University? That’s no mean feat.”