Progressive firebrand Sen. Bernie Sanders urged Americans to come to their country's rescue Thursday, a call aimed at saving democracy from a U.S. president he's convinced is bent on destroying it.
Sanders, the Independent senator from Vermont who was the last man standing against Joe Biden in the Democratic primary battle, pulled no punches after Donald Trump again refused to commit to a peaceful and orderly transfer of power.
"It is my fervent hope that all Americans ⏤ Democrats, Republicans, Independents, progressives, moderates, conservatives ⏤ come together to defend American democracy, our constitution and the rule of law," Sanders said in a speech in Washington, D.C.
The address, scheduled before Trump's incendiary comments Wednesday, lingered for 30 minutes on a single issue: the prospect that the sitting U.S. president is actively working on ways to undermine the will of the American people.
"We must ensure, in this unprecedented moment in American history, that this is an election that is free and fair, an election in which voters are not intimidated, an election in which all votes are counted, and an election in which the loser accepts the results," he said.
"This is not just an election between Donald Trump and Joe Biden. This is an election between Donald Trump and democracy ⏤ and democracy must win."
Back in July, Trump indicated during a Fox News interview that he would "have to see" before committing to accepting the results of the election. He did it again Wednesday, promulgating a baseless theory that his Democratic rivals plan to exploit mail-in ballots to orchestrate widespread electoral fraud.
This time, though, Trump went even further: "We want to get rid of the ballots," he said. "You’ll have a very peaceful — there won’t be a transfer, frankly. There will be a continuation."
And on Thursday, he came close to telling Americans directly not to trust the results after Nov. 3.
"We want to make sure the election is honest," he said, "and I'm not sure that it can be."
All of it promises two things: One, that the results of the vote won't be clear on election night, and two, the battle that follows will be one for the ages.
Progressive firebrand Sen. Bernie Sanders urged Americans to come to their country's rescue on Thursday, September 23, 2020, a call aimed at saving democracy from a U.S. president he's convinced is bent on destroying it.
It's no coincidence that Trump often expresses sympathy and support for autocratic leaders like Russian President Vladimir Putin, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
"I remind him, 'You are not in North Korea. You are not in Turkey. You are not in Russia, Mr. President,'" Pelosi said on Capitol Hill.
"'You are in the United States of America. It is a democracy. So, why don't you just try for a moment to honour your oath of office to the constitution of the United States?'"
Sanders took pains to make clear that ballot-box fraud is all but non-existent in the U.S.
He cited a Dartmouth University study that found no evidence of widespread voter fraud in 2016, media reports that reached similar conclusions and a Brennan Center for Justice report that found incident rates best described as infinitesimal.
That report, he said, concluded that an American is more likely to be struck by lightning than to try to impersonate someone else at the polls.
Sanders called the notion that a president could choose whether to stay or go an affront to American values, and an insult to all those who have died on battlefields to defend them.
"There is nothing in our constitution or in our laws that gives Donald Trump the privilege of deciding whether or not he will step aside if he loses," Sanders said.
"In the United States, the president does not determine who can or cannot vote and what ballots will be counted. That may be what his friend Putin does in Russia. It may be what is done in other authoritarian countries. But it is not and will not be done in America."
Democrats aren't the only ones unnerved by Trump's remarks.
"The winner of the Nov. 3 election will be inaugurated on Jan. 20," tweeted Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican and firm legislative ally of Trump's for years.
"There will be an orderly transition, just as there has been every four years since 1792."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 24, 2020.