"This election is the most important in the modern history of this country," Sanders said at the Democratic National Convention on Monday night

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Democratic National Convention
Sen. Bernie Sanders speaking during the Democratic National Convention on Monday night.
| Credit: PBS

After battling with Joe Biden for months over the Democratic Party's presidential nomination, Sen. Bernie Sanders pledged his support to the former vice president on Monday at the Democratic National Convention, underscoring the contest between Biden and Donald Trump.

Sanders, 78, used his speech at the virtual DNC to call on his progressive supporters to join him in voting for Biden, who has been criticized by the party's left for being too moderate.

"My friends, I say to you and to everyone who supported other candidates in this primary and to those who may have voted for Donald Trump in the last election: The future of our democracy is at stake," Sanders said. "The future of our economy is at stake. The future of our planet is at stake. We must come together to defeat Donald Trump and elect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as our next president and vice president."

The Vermont lawmaker enjoyed a wave of national groundswell of progressive support — and a long list of celebrity endorsements — in back-to-back election cycles in 2016 and 2020. He championed left-wing priorities such as government-backed healthcare, pushing those proposals into the mainstream.

However, Sanders' coalition was not large enough to win either primary. He dropped out of the 2020 race in early April after Biden made a surprising comeback on Super Tuesday, sweeping almost all of the states, and overtook the senator in the polls.

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Sen. Bernie Sanders

In 2016, Sanders waited to endorse eventual nominee Hillary Clinton after she became the clear Democratic frontrunner in the summer of 2016 and accepted the party's nomination later that year. In 2020, however, Sanders quickly endorsed Biden after dropping out of the race.

The self-described democratic socialist made his support for Biden clear again on Monday.

"We must come together, defeat Donald Trump and elect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as our next president and vice president," Sanders said. "My friends, the price of failure is just too great to imagine."

"This election is the most important in the modern history of this country," he said. "In response to the unprecedented set of crises we face, we need an unprecedented response — a movement, like never before, of people who are prepared to stand up and fight for democracy and decency, and against greed, oligarchy and bigotry."

Sanders warned that "authoritarianism has taken root in our country" under Trump's presidency and said that Democrats "need" Biden as the next president, though he noted he still disagrees with his former 2020 opponent on a number of issues, including how to achieve universal health care.

But, Sanders said, "this election is about preserving our democracy." (Trump responded on Twitter to other speeches attacking him, including one from Michelle Obama, but has not responded to Sanders.)

"This president is not just a threat to our democracy, but by rejecting science, he has put our lives and health in jeopardy," Sanders said on Monday, noting the deaths and economic turmoil that have resulted from the novel coronavirus pandemic, which he said Trump has had a "negligent response" to thus far.

"Nero fiddled while Rome burned," Sanders said. "Trump golfs."