Four years ago, the notable progressive Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) launched a surprise presidential run from the left and gave eventual Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton the fight of their lives. After he officially announced his 2020 presidential bid on February 19, Sanders is working on his second try and hoping it ends instead with a victory thanks to the enduring power of the post-2016 Our Revolution movement. Although so far Sanders is polling firmly in the top 3 with double digits along with former vice president Joe Biden and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), the self-proclaimed democratic socialist faces many challenges in a crowded primary field of 25 candidates.
The 77-year-old Sanders was born in Brooklyn, New York to a working class immigrant family. He attended the University of Chicago and studied political science. After joining the civil rights movement and labor activism, he worked a variety of jobs. In 1980, Sanders ran for mayor of Burlington, Vermont and served until 1989. In 1990, he was elected to the US House of Representatives as an independent, where he served until 2005. He then won election to the Senate and reelection in 2012 and 2018. As a Senator, Sanders sits on the powerful Budget Committee as the ranking member, and the Environment, Energy and Natural Resources, Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, and Veterans' Affairs Committees. Since 2011, Sanders remains one of the most popular US politicians.
As a forefather of the contemporary progressive movement, Sanders positioned himself as the left-leaning policy wonk versus Clinton, but in the 2020 cycle he has offered few new ideas. He has recycled his 2016 platform, which was revolutionary at that time. Sanders' platform still advocates Medicare for All, total student loan debt forgiveness, free public college, a $15 national minimum wage, the Green New Deal, breaking up the big banks, a Wall Street transactions tax, and federal jobs guarantee, among other proposals. His campaign also added a plank to rebuild Puerto Rico and fight for Native American treaty rights and sovereignty. As a whole, Sanders' platform is one of the most progressive in the Democratic primary, considering there are many moderates running.
Although he almost snatched victory last time, Sanders faces more challenges now. First, his age is a subtle liability. He is four years older than President Donald Trump and would be 79 at the 2021 inauguration. Young voters might want someone new. Second is that much of his platform has been adopted by the progressive wing of the party. Warren's and Representative Tulsi Gabbard's platforms are nearly identical, minus the jobs guarantee and some foreign policy issues. Third, some candidates have proposed more radical or innovative policy ideas. Andrew Yang's Freedom Dividend and Julian Castro's decriminalization of illegal entry come to mind. Finally, the numbers are favorable. While Sanders only needed to beat Clinton back then, now he needs to beat back 24 other competitors. Although he might lose the upcoming election, Sanders' progressive revolution will live on in the Democratic Party's policies and spirit.
- 1. https://www.politico.com/story/2019/02/16/bernie-sanders-2020-1173339
- 2. https://www.businessinsider.com/who-is-bernie-sanders-bio-age-family-key-positions-2019-3
- 3. https://berniesanders.com/
- 4. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/paloma/daily-202/2019/02/19/daily-202-the-biggest-challenges-facing-bernie-sanders-2-0/5c6afee71b326b71858c6bbd/