Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders announced Tuesday that he’s making a second run to be the Democratic presidential nominee. Hinting at the changed progressive landscape his unlikely success in his last campaign helped inspire, his first fundraising email of his 2020 campaign included a victory lap.
“Let me give you some very good news,” Sanders writes. “Three years ago, during our 2016 campaign, when we brought forth our progressive agenda we were told that our ideas were ‘radical’ and ‘extreme.’ We were told that Medicare for All, a $15-an-hour minimum wage, free tuition at public colleges and universities, aggressively combating climate change, demanding that the wealthy start paying their fair share of taxes, were all concepts that the American people would never accept.”
Sanders enters an already crowded 2020 Democratic field, in which candidates from across the country are embracing the kind of progressivism Sanders presented to voters in 2016. None of them get a mention in his announcement email, but Sanders suggests that if progressives want those kind of ideas to win, they should stick with the person who introduced them.
“Together, you and I and our 2016 campaign began the political revolution,” he writes. “Now, it is time to complete that revolution and implement the vision that we fought for.”
The second Sanders campaign will take place in a dramatically different political environment. At the outset of the 2016 campaign, Sanders was seen as a protest candidate — a fringe figure in the race to push the eventual nominee, Hillary Clinton, to the left. He garnered little attention at the outset, giving him room to ramp up a message and grassroots momentum without a lot of media scrutiny.
Three years later, Sanders enters the race as a widely popular candidate with a great deal of media attention and focus from his opponents. And he brings with him a contact list of supporters that's the envy of the entire field.
Still, the Democratic field is wide open. Voters have many options, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) — whom many progressives were urging to run in 2016 before Sanders got in — and Sen. Kamala Harris (Calif.), who has impressed many political observers with her rollout. Still more are debating entering the race, including former Vice President Joe Biden and even another independent if former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg throws his hat in the ring. No clear front-runner has emerged.
Sanders will be in the top tier, a position that will likely bring a lot of scrutiny. The senator has enjoyed the rapid expansion of his movement since the end of his 2016 campaign — most exemplified by the rise of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) — but he has also seen new criticism of his last presidential campaign. Some women staffers from his 2016 run have alleged a male-dominated work culture and sexual harassment. Sanders has vowed to do better in his 2020 run. His struggle to win over minority voters in 2016 is also a problem Sanders says he can fix.
Meanwhile, the other candidate who was dismissed early in 2016, Donald Trump, is president. Democrats are at least united in their mission to defeat him. Sanders’ kickoff email does not mince words about the sitting president.
The senator called Trump “a pathological liar, a fraud, a racist, a sexist, a xenophobe and someone who is undermining American democracy as he leads us in an authoritarian direction.” And to top it off, “the most dangerous president in modern American history.”
Cover image: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) attends an event to introduce the Raise The Wage Act in the Rayburn Room at the U.S. Capitol January 16, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)