Sen. Bernie Sanders officially announced his long-expected 2020 run for the White House, and his agenda will position him as perhaps the most progressive candidate in the already crowded Democratic primaries.
Sanders’ agenda includes a host of ideas, many of which are now widely supported by presidential candidates. It’s a stark contrast to what unfolded in 2016 when his opponent Hillary Clinton repeatedly said Sanders’ policy proposals were too radical and unachievable.
A non-exhaustive list of Sanders’ policy proposals, according to aides and a campaign announcement:
- Medicare for All
- Green New Deal, an overhaul of the U.S. economy to invest in green infrastructure and jobs
- free public college by abolishing tuition at four-year universities
- student debt reduction by cutting interest rates in half
- $15 minimum wage
- break up Wall Street’s biggest banks (Sanders has already unveiled legislation.)
- marijuana legalization
- end private prisons
- gender pay equity (Sanders co-sponsored the Paycheck Fairness Act.)
- protections for DACA recipients and immigration reform
- paid family leave (Sanders co-sponsored Kirsten Gillibrand’s universal paid family leave bill.)
In a packed field with widespread support of progressive ideas, Sanders will face a tougher challenge to differentiate himself than he did in 2016 when he ran a surprisingly successful campaign against a super PAC-supported candidate favored by the Democratic National Committee. Sens. Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Elizabeth Warren, for example, all support Medicare for All and have signed on as co-sponsors to Sanders’ current legislation, which proposes the establishment of a state-run single payer healthcare system. The senator also unambiguously supports the abolition of the private insurance industry, a contrast to most of his opponents who have either flopped or remained ambiguous on the issue.
What could set Sanders’ apart is his longstanding commitment to populist ideas — and his antagonism to big banks. Along with Elizabeth Warren, Sanders is the most hated 2020 candidate on Wall Street. A big talking point of his on the 2016 campaign trail was the dirty money in campaign finance. One of his most frequent attacks against Hillary Clinton was the fact the she took in big paychecks to give closed-door speeches to big banks. His 2020 campaign website already includes a note that says, “Paid for by Bernie 2020 (not the billionaires).”
In 2018, Sanders unveiled legislation to take out JPMorgan CHase, Citigroup, Bank of America, Goldman, Morgan Stanley, Wells Fargo, and any other institution that has a total exposure worth more than 3 percent of the entire U.S. economy, or about $584 billion. It’s a bold and direct rebuke to establishment Democrats and former leaders, including Barack Obama, who has long faced criticism for going easy on Wall Street . (No big bank executives, for example, served jail time in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, and the Obama administration supported the foreclosure of about 9 million homes.)
On the morning of his campaign announcement, #NeverBernie and the phrase “Bernie Bros,” an insult to male supporters of the senator who didn’t support Clinton in 2016, both trended on Twitter. His critics have also singled out the 77-year-old’s age as a potential issue.
Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Sherrod Brown have also begun positioning themselves as a pragmatic alternative to the 2020 candidates who have embraced many of Bernie’s 2016 ideas. Harris said over the weekend in New Hampshire that she was not a democratic socialist, an indirect jab at Sanders, who has embraced the label.
Sanders’ supporters, however, say the insults are nothing more than a deflection from Democrats who would rather see the party not change. Popular rising stars in the Democratic party — including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who volunteered for Sanders’ campaign in 2016 — rose to prominence by pushing bold, populist ideas. Sanders’ success in 2016 was founded on support of those progressive ideas, and his 2020 opponents’ embrace of them signals the senator’s success in pushing Democratic presidential contenders to the left.
Sanders also has some advantages going into 2020 that he didn’t enjoy in 2016. For example, he has — by far — the greatest following on social media of any 2020 candidate thus far.
Cover image: Photo by: Dennis Van Tine/STAR MAX/IPx 6/23/16 Bernie Sanders gives his "Where We Go From Here" Speech at a rally at Town Hall in New York City.