The rumor mill had gotten going ever since the 2016 campaign, but now we finally have confirmation: Bernie Sanders, the senator from Vermont who brought socialism to American millennials, will also run for president in 2020, joining a crowded field and challenging not only Trump, but also a significant part of the Democratic Party.
The news brought out a range of reactions: those further to the left, such as Jacobin magazine, welcomed Sanders’ candidacy with great joy, while many moderates reacted with fear that his run would split the party and ultimately play to the advantage of the Republicans.
In the email he sent to his supporters announcing his decision, Sanders explained that he would run again to complete the political revolution that he has been advocating for ever since the 2016 primaries, aiming at changing the US from capitalism towards social democracy. However, some argue that the 77-year-old socialist’s candidacy for a job that he would have to commit to for four years is mostly a way to keep the Democratic Party firmly on the left, without yielding to the siren song of political centrism.
The situation is very different from 2016, when there were three main players in the Democratic field: Sanders, Hillary Clinton and the little-noted Martin O’Malley. Now, those who are going into 2020 defending radical positions will include, among others, Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris, while among the more centrist candidates we find figures like Senator Cory Booker, who was viewed as part of the left wing of the Democratic Party until two years ago, but is now seen as part of the establishment.
Now, proposals such as Medicare for All—together with the right to free college, workers’ rights and a $15 an hour minimum wage—have been embraced by all Democratic candidates, and are no longer extremist positions that only a maverick could take. This would not have happened without the contribution of Sanders’ 2016 campaign.
The bar will only climb higher and higher, as the proposals of the Sanders-like representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez demonstrate. She proposed out a 70 percent marginal tax on the wealthiest as part of her Green New Deal—a proposal that the voters are no longer simply dismissing as a dangerous folly, according to the polls.
As one of the most popular American politicians, Sanders’ candidacy will certainly capture everyone’s attention, and, accordingly, the email in which the senator from Vermont announced his intention to run sounded less like electoral messaging and more like a call to action.
“Our campaign is about transforming our country and creating a government based on the principles of economic, social, racial and environmental justice,” Sanders wrote. “Our campaign is about taking on the powerful special interests that dominate our economic and political life: I’m talking about Wall Street, the health insurance companies, the drug companies, the fossil fuel industry, the military-industrial complex, the private-prison industry and the large multinational corporations that exert such an enormous influence over our lives.”
In a CBS interview, when asked what would be different from his 2016 campaign, Sanders said: “We’re gonna win. We are gonna also launch what I think is unprecedented in modern American history, and that is a grassroots movement … which will have at least one million people from every state in this country, coming together to not only defeat Donald Trump, not only to win the Democratic nomination, but also to lay the groundwork for transforming the economic and political life of this country.”