Bernie Sanders struck a reflective tone Thursday night on “Late Night with Stephen Colbert,” although he would not say he’d end his Democratic presidential campaign.
The Vermont senator was met with thunderous applause, and the audience chanted his name for nearly 20 seconds before Colbert was able to ask whether he’d gotten used to that sort of adulation.
“It sounds awfully good, thank you very much,” Sanders said, which provoked a bit more cheers.
Sanders was in New York City to give a speech, and Colbert asked if he would announce whether his presidential campaign would continue.
“Absolutely,” Sanders said, and Colbert asked him point-blank whether he’d drop out of the race. “No, and here’s why: I’m very good in arithmetic. I wasn’t much of a student, but I am pretty good in arithmetic.”
“I understand that Secretary Clinton has a lot more — we have 1,900 delegates going to Philadelphia convention, that’s pretty good,” he continued. “She has more, which is not so good for me, it’s good for her. But 1,900 delegates is actually quite a lot of people, and what we’re doing now is marshaling our resources to make sure that A, we defeat Donald Trump and we defeat him badly, and B, most importantly, that campaigns are about winning and losing nominations, but what’s more important is the need to transform America. To do that, what I’ve said from Day 1 is we need a political revolution.”
Sanders said he would not be endorsing Hillary Clinton just yet, and Colbert asked what he was hoping to negotiate using his delegates as leverage.
“Look, we got 12 million votes during our campaign,” Sanders said. “We received, I believe, in every single primary and caucus the lion’s share of young people — young people under 45 years of age who are prepared to stand up and fight for real change in this country. That’s what we are bringing into the Democratic convention. What do we want in return? We want our 12 million supporters to be heard.”
Colbert asked Sanders if he agreed, as some of his supporters do and as Trump has suggested, that the Democratic primaries were fixed for Clinton — and the host asked if he had anything to say to his supporters who might be considering the presumptive Republican nominee.
“I don’t have to say that, my supporters are smart enough to know that we do not want a bigot to become president of the United States,” Sanders said, drawing loud cheers.
Sanders seemed to suggest he didn’t want a role in a possible Clinton administration, saying he was happy as a senator from Vermont, and Colbert asked him about the sit-in by Democratic representatives to force a House vote on gun control measures.
“It is almost embarrassing to have to explain because it is so crazy,” Sanders said. “We have Republicans who apparently think it’s okay to keep people off of airplanes for good reasons, because they are possible terrorists. We all want to see that continue, and yet these very same people who can’t get on a plane can apparently walk into a gun store and buy an AK-47, which can be used to mow down people.”
Colbert said part of the joy in watching Sanders’ campaign was the idealism it seemed to represent, and he asked the candidate if he had expected to do as well as he had.
“It’s not idealism,” Sanders said. “We went further and faster than I would have predicted, but you know what? You ask ordinary people whether they think it’s appropriate that they have to two or three jobs, and almost all new wealth and income goes to the top 1 percent. Most people think that that’s not right.”
“They don’t think we should have the highest rate of childhood poverty of almost any major country, when we’re seeing a proliferation of millionaires and billionaires,” he continued. “They don’t understand why we are the only major country on Earth not to provide paid family and medical leave, or health care to all people as a right. These are not radical ideas. We should not have more people in jail than China, 2.2 million people. The truth is, these are not radical ideas, but they’re not seen on the TV terribly often for a variety of reasons — including some of your sponsors.”
Colbert joked that he’d have House Speaker Paul Ryan pull the plug on his appearance if Sanders bashed his advertisers again, and then he asked the candidate to reflect on his most cherished memories from his presidential campaign.
“There are many,” Sanders said. “Walking out in Portland, Oregon, and seeing 28,000 people out in an arena, (and) on a more poignant note was talking to parents in Flint, Michigan, whose kids were poisoned by the water that they drank and, as a result, developed brain damage. You learn so much and you see so much — I mean, I almost wish I had a camera with me all the time, to see what goes on in America that too rarely is seen on TV.”
“There are beautiful, beautiful people out there who really love this country and want to transform this country, and that was the most gratifying aspect of this whole thing,” he continued. “Just a couple of weeks ago, I was out in California, in the farmland out there, central California, and you see young Latinos and young blacks and white kids really loving this country, wanting to see it do a lot better than we’re doing right now, and that just gives me incredible amounts of hope and energy.”
Watch both segments posted online by the Late Show with Stephen Colbert: