Bernie Sanders Is Running For President Again
Bernie is back and running for President, but he's likely to face a tougher road this time around.
To no real surprise, Bernie Sanders is once again running for the Democratic nomination for President:
Senator Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent and 2016 Democratic primary runner-up whose populist policy agenda has helped push the party to the left, announced on Tuesday that he was running for president again, embarking on a bid that would test whether he could retain the anti-establishment appeal he enjoyed with many liberal voters three years ago.
A self-styled democratic socialist whose calls for “Medicare for all,” a $15 minimum wage and tuition-free public colleges have become pillars of the party’s left wing, Mr. Sanders is among the best-known politicians to join an already crowded Democratic field and one of the most outspoken against President Trump, whom he has repeatedly called a “pathological liar” and a “racist.”
“Three years ago, during our 2016 campaign, when we brought forth our progressive agenda we were told that our ideas were ‘radical’ and ‘extreme,'” Mr. Sanders said on Tuesday in an early-morning email to supporters, citing those health, economic and education policies as well as combating climate change and raising taxes on wealthy Americans.
“Well, three years have come and gone. And, as result of millions of Americans standing up and fighting back, all of these policies and more are now supported by a majority of Americans,” he said.
Mr. Sanders did not immediately announce where he would campaign first, nor did he disclose any staffing decisions for his political operation. His senior advisers have been spending the weeks leading up to the announcement attempting to recruit a more diverse array of aides than were on his earlier campaign.
A sensation in 2016, Mr. Sanders is facing a far different electoral landscape this time around. Unlike his last bid for the White House, when he was the only liberal challenger to an establishment-backed front-runner, he will be contending with a crowded and diverse field of candidates, including popular Democrats like Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts who have adopted his populist mantle.
Victories in the 2018 midterm election by women, minorities and first-time candidates also suggest that many Democrats may prefer fresh energy, something that skeptics believe Mr. Sanders could struggle to deliver. A 77-year-old whose left-wing message has remained largely unchanged in his decades-long career, Mr. Sanders will also need to improve his support from black voters and quell the unease about his campaign’s treatment of women that has been disclosed in recent news accounts, and that has prompted two public apologies.
Yet almost immediately after making his announcement, Mr. Sanders drew criticism for his response to Vermont Public Radio when asked if he thought he best represented the current Democratic Party.
“We have got to look at candidates, you know, not by the color of their skin, not by their sexual orientation or their gender and not by their age,” Mr. Sanders said. “I think we have got to try to move us toward a nondiscriminatory society which looks at people based on their abilities, based on what they stand for.”
The Trump re-election campaign issued a statement about Mr. Sanders that reflected the president’s strategy of labeling his Democratic opponents as “socialists.” The press secretary for the Trump campaign, Kayleigh McEnany, said Mr. Sanders had already won the Democratic debate because “every candidate is embracing his brand of socialism.” The statement also criticized Mr. Sanders for supporting higher taxes on wealthy Americans to help finance “Medicare for all.”
In an interview on CBS This Morning, Mr. Sanders did not shy away from calling himself a democratic socialist.
Mr. Trump, Mr. Sanders said, is “going to say, ‘Bernie Sanders wants the United States to become Venezuela.'”
“Bernie Sanders does not want to have the United States become the horrific economic situation that unfortunately exists in Venezuela right now,” he said. “What Bernie Sanders wants is to learn from countries around the world why other countries are doing a better job of dealing with income and wealth inequality than we are.”
Asked in his interview with CBS what would be different about this presidential run compared to 2016, Mr. Sanders replied bluntly: “We’re going to win.”
“Bottom line,” he said, “it is absolutely imperative that Donald Trump be defeated.” Though he had harsh words for the president, he said he was fond of the five other senators who were running for the Democratic nomination. “They are in some cases my friends,” he said in the interview, which was broadcast shortly after his Tuesday announcement.
With his booming voice and familiar wide-armed grip at the lectern, Mr. Sanders has long positioned himself as a champion of the working class and a passionate opponent of Wall Street and the moneyed elite. His remarks often include diatribes against “the millionaihs and billionaihs” — one of his most common refrains is that the “three wealthiest people in America own more wealth than the bottom 50 percent” — as well as denunciations of “super PACs” and the influence of big money on politics. In particular, he has sharply criticized Amazon and Walmart over their wages and treatment of workers.
Here’s the Sanders campaign video:
I'm running for president. I am asking you to join me today as part of an unprecedented and historic grassroots campaign that will begin with at least 1 million people from across the country. Say you're in: https://t.co/KOTx0WZqRf pic.twitter.com/T1TLH0rm26
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) February 19, 2019
The fact that Sanders is running again hardly comes as a surprise, of course. In many respects, he hasn’t really scaled back his national presence in the media and on the campaign trail from what it was during the 2016 campaign. Last year he concentrated on traveling to states where candidates that support his agenda and the so-called “progressive” wing of the Democratic Party notwithstanding the fact that he is not officially a member of the Democratic Party and has, as he has done in the past, turned down the nomination of the Vermont Democratic Party and run solely as a so-called independent even though his voting record is as much in line with the Senate Democratic Caucus as the most loyal member of that party. Throughout all of these visits, though, it has been clear that Sanders has been trying to keep himself in the national conversation in the Democratic Party as he ponders whether or not he will actually run in 2020, when he would be 79 years old and 83 years old at the end of a hypothetical first term in office in the event he actually won the election.
As with other candidates and potential candidates such as Joe Bide, 2020 is Sanders’ best and last shot at becoming President. He is, as I noted above 77 years old and would be 79 when running for President, 83 at the end of a hypothetical first term, and 87 at the end of a second term. He is older than any of the other potential candidates, including Warren and former Vice-President Joe Biden. If he does want to run, either for a realistic shot at the nomination or for the purpose of advancing his agenda, then this would be his last hurrah. At the same time, though, it’s likely 2020 will end up being a far different race for Sanders than 2016 was. Back then, he had nobody competing for the votes and support of the progressive wing of the party. This time, he’ll have plenty of competition from younger candidates such as Kirsten Gillibrand, Julian Castro, Tulsi Gabbard, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, and Cory Booker. Several of the lesser-known declared candidates, such as South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Maryland Congressman John Delaney are also likely to appeal for support from the progressive wing of the party. Bernie could also find himself dealing with other candidates likely to seek the support of the same base he courted in 2016, including Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown, former Attorney General Eric Holder, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan, former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke, Washington Governor Jay Inslee, Oregon Senator Jeff Merkeley, Massachusetts Congressman Seth Moulton, California Congressman Eric Swalwell, New York City Mayor Bill Delblasio, and many others. Finally, Sanders is likely to face more scrutiny from reporters than he did in 2020, including questions about allegations of sexual harassment among his staff that was essentially swept under the rug. Add into this the fact that Democrats will likely be looking for a candidate that can both unite the party’s base and attract the voters in places such as the Midwest where Hillary Clinton essentially lost the election three years ago. Sanders doesn’t seem as if he’d be the right candidate for that job. Because of this Sanders will find 2020 to be a much tougher fight than 2016 was. (On the other side of the argument, Clare Malone at FiveThirtyEight details a scenario under which Sanders could win the nomination.)
From my point of view, it seems to me as if Bernie’s time has passed. In 2016, he succeeded largely because of a combination of the fact that he was a dynamic speaker and the fact that he offered a far different vision than Hillary Clinton did, one that appealed both to the growing progressive wing of the party and to younger college-age voters who comprised many of his supporters at the time. He was, in other words, the primary, and eventually the only alternative in the Democratic race to the center-left positions that Clinton took during what was mostly a “play it safe” campaign on her part that avoided stark positions and sought to make the argument that she was the best candidate for November based primarily on her experience. While most Democrats agreed, there was obviously a lot of disdain for center-left Clintonian politics in the Democratic Party. As a result of his sucess, the Democratic Party has been significantly changed, and that change means that he isn’t going to be the only candidate in the race pushing the themes and policies that he advocates. That means that, if he’s going to succeed he’s going to need to find a way to convince voters why he’s the better candidate among a field that will largely be agreeing with him. Factor into this his age, and the fact that many Democrats blame him and his supporters for not sufficiently rallying behind Clinton after the 2016 Convention, and thus contributing in some ways to her loss, and it seems as though Bernie’s time has passed and that it’s time for him to pass on the progressive torch to a younger generation.