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Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) speaks at a protest at the U.S. Capitol on October 22, 2020 in Washington, D.C.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) speaks at a protest at the U.S. Capitol on October 22, 2020 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Jemal Countess/Getty Images for Care In Action)

Calling Biden Victory Over Trump Step One, Sanders Says US 'Must Not Go Back to Business as Usual'

During final get-out-the-vote rally before Election Day, the Vermont senator said "we must have the courage to think big, not small."

Jake Johnson

At a final get-out-the-vote rally with fellow progressives ahead of Election Day, Sen. Bernie Sanders stressed that defeating President Donald Trump at the ballot box Tuesday is a necessary first step but hardly sufficient in the face of economic, climate, and public health crises that demand transformational change—not merely a return to the pre-Trump status quo.

"We cannot go back to business as usual after we defeat Trump. We cannot and must not go back to business as usual," the Vermont senator said during the virtual event Monday night. "Progressives today understand that if we're gonna stand up for working families, stand up for the poor, stand up for the children, stand up for the elderly and the disabled, stand up for the minority communities that are under attack all across this country."

Noting that the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and economic collapse deepened wealth and income inequities that existed prior to the crisis—which has been characterized as the most unequal recession in modern U.S. history—Sanders urged Democrats to embrace a bold alternative vision and take action to fundamentally "transform our country."

"We must have the courage to think big, not small," said Sanders, "and have the courage to envisage a very different kind of America and a very different set of national priorities."

If Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden emerges victorious from Tuesday's contest, he will likely enter office with an economy in deep recession as the coronavirus pandemic shows no sign of abating any time soon. Without rapid assistance from the federal government, millions of Americans are set to exhaust their unemployment benefits by mid-December, a massive drop in income set to coincide with a looming eviction crisis.

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), first vice chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said if Democrats take control of the Senate and the presidency, the party has a responsibility to deliver significant improvements for Americans struggling to meet basic needs amid the pandemic and resulting economic disaster.

"People want to make sure we don't just return to how things were—that in the next two years, if they entrust us with the House, the Senate, and the presidency, that two years later we're going to actually have improved their lives," said Khanna.

Sanders and Khanna's messaging represents a direct counterpoint to the notion, advanced recently by former President Barack Obama, that a victory by Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) would mean that "you're not going to have to think about them every day."

As The Daily Poster's David Sirota and Andrew Perez wrote Monday, "In touting a presidency we don't have to think much about, Obama conjures the notion of a Democratic administration once again insulated from pressure from an electorate whose poorer populations are too busy trying to survive, and whose affluent liberals are thrilled to be back at Sunday morning brunch after watching an MSNBC host reassure them that everything is All Good."

"The best way to prevent a new, more dangerous Trump is to refuse to see this election as an end point," Sirota and Perez argued. "It has to be the beginning of longer-term, fearless engagement that makes concrete demands of every public official—even those we like... We should all be able to make one post-election commitment: we're never going back to brunch, because if we do, our future is doomed. If we don't, a better world may still be possible."

During the virtual rally Monday night, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) voiced confidence that momentum is on the side of progressives fighting for systemic change, not those urging a mere return to normalcy.

"I'm so absolutely thrilled that this movement is not only succeeding but that it's growing," Ocasio-Cortez said, pointing to the progressive candidates poised to secure spots in Congress Tuesday.

Watch the New York Democrat's remarks:

"We're winning. We're doing this thing," said Ocasio-Cortez. "And as crazy as this present moment can feel, and as much work as we have to do... the fact of the matter is that the momentum is on our side."

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