Though he remains a candidate for the Democratic nomination for president, Bernie Sanders sounded very much like someone passing the torch to others during an appearance Friday at the Empire State Plaza.
“The political revolution is you,” he told supporters.
He urged his passionate fans to follow through on the progressive social agenda his campaign has brought to the forefront of presidential politics, and to get involved in government themselves, bringing their ideas into play.
“We need to have good people participating in government at all levels,” the Vermont senator told an enthusiastic crowd, many of them wearing shirts and other Sanders campaign regalia.
The title of Sanders’ speech was “Where Do We Go From Here,” and he spoke as someone who wants to see the movement he has led continue, even though the Democratic presidential nomination appears out of reach.
Noting that he had strong support among young voters, Sanders said the future was theirs, and they need to enter politics out of a passion for justice.
“Our ideas of economic and environmental and racial justice are the future, if we keep at it,” Sanders said.
Sanders spoke in the 450-seat Swyer Theater at The Egg — a far smaller venue than he had when he appeared before thousands of people at the Albany Armory before the state Democratic primary in April.
Because of the size of the venue, dozens of people were unable to get into the event, which was announced late Thursday.
Following a long campaign season in which he emerged as the only viable Democratic alternative to Hillary Clinton, Sanders has yet to concede the nomination, even though Clinton has secured enough delegates to clinch the nomination.
Sanders told his supporters that he is committed to the Democratic Party in this fall’s elections.
He said his campaign is currently talking to Clinton’s, “to see if they can come up with some very serious proposals that will change America.”
He said he will also work to see that his progressive ideas — such as fighting against climate change, providing universal health care, establishing a higher minimum wage, and paying for it with higher taxes for the wealthy and corporations — make it into the Democratic Party platform at the Philadelphia convention July 25-28.
Sanders has said he plans to remain the race through the convention.
“We have to demand that platform become part of the Democratic Congress’ agenda,” he said.
Many of Sanders’ supporters are still coming to grips with his having lost the nomination.
“I might switch to Hillary on the day of the election, but I can’t commit,” said Stephanie Kleindienst of Schenectady, as she waited to get into the event.
“I really hope the party platform includes a lot of what Bernie stands for,” she said. “A person as good as Bernie shouldn’t go to waste.”
Sanders, 74, has been a consistent voice for liberal-progressive values since he was elected mayor of Burlington, Vermont, as a socialist in 1980.
He moved on to the U.S. Senate representing what some wags termed “The People’s Republic of Vermont,” but his ideas have a broad national appeal among a large segment of the Democratic Party.
While initially viewed as a fringe candidate against Clinton, Sanders ended up becoming her chief rival for the Democratic nomination, securing 13 million votes and winning a number of primaries.
“When you stand up, good things can happen,” he said.
He said it will be up to young voters to get the influence of “big money” out of politics, and to reduce the consumption of fossil fuels to address climate change.
He called a privately funded health insurance system with high deductibles and co-pays that keep people with little money from seeing a doctor until they need emergency care “insane from a perspective of human suffering, let alone from the cost to the system.”
Sanders favors universal health care and measures to address poverty — an issue he said hasn’t been addressed by other candidates.
“The struggle and victory are not easy,” Sanders said. “We must keep going. This campaign has opened up opportunity that must, must, must continue.”
He said supporters should run for school boards and city councils and state legislatures as a way of pursuing their ideals.
“Keep up the fight in whatever way makes sense to you to have a more democratic society,” Sanders said.
Sanders went on to speak in Syracuse later Friday afternoon.
Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 395-3086, firstname.lastname@example.org or @gazettesteve on Twitter.