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Bernie Sanders held his first town hall for 2016 — er, 2020 campaign

Here are some highlights from the senator’s first town hall as a presidential candidate in 2019.

by Rex Santus
Feb 26 2019, 5:36pm

Sen. Bernie Sanders held a town hall with CNN on Monday evening to lay out more of his plans for 2020 — and they sound an awful lot like his plans for 2016.

"Health care is a right. Making sure our kids get a higher education is a right,” Sanders said.

"Am I going to demand that the wealthy and large corporations start paying their fair share of taxes? Damn right I will.”

Sanders rose to fame in the 2016 Democratic primary when he took on Hillary Clinton, who had a more recognizable name and the backing of super PACs and the Democratic National Committee. Sanders ultimately lost, but he pushed substantially more progressive policy ideas, like Medicare for All and campaign finance reform. Now that he’s running for president again in 2020, much of the stumping points remain the same.

In fact, many 2020 contenders — including Sens. Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Elizabeth Warren — have embraced his ideas that Clinton once dismissed as “pie in the sky.”

Here are some highlights from the senator’s first town hall as a presidential candidate in 2019:

  • He, of course, pledged to defeat President Donald Trump in the 2020 general election and jokingly said he would bring along a lie detector test to the debates.
  • He invoked Franklin Delano Roosevelt, as he did in 2015 and 2016, to defend his support of democratic socialism.
  • He promised to pass a Medicare for All program — as he did in 2016 — which guarantees health coverage for all Americans by eliminating private insurance plans for most medical coverage.
  • He said his cabinet would be diverse to reflect “what America is.”
  • He called climate change an “existential threat.”
  • He said he supported statehood for Washington, D.C., which would essentially guarantee Democrats more electoral votes and representation in Congress.
  • He blasted the pharmaceutical industry as a “greedy,” evil force in the U.S.: “Don’t get me started. We have a limited amount of time.”

Despite the policy similarities to 2016, Sanders was forced to confront some controversies he has faced after his people-funded, outsider campaign three years ago.

Numerous 2016 staffers for Sanders campaign told the New York Times that they were subjected to sexual harassment and mistreatment and pay disparity. Sanders pledged that he would work to ensure women were not sexually harassed while working on his campaign in 2019 and 2020.

"It was painful. Very painful,” Sanders said. “And it will not happen again.”

Sanders also faced mild controversy over releasing just one year of tax returns, from 2014, back during the 2016 primaries. This time he’ll release 10 years’ worth.

"Unfortunately, I remain one of the poorer members of the United States Senate,” Sanders said. “And that's what that will show."

Sanders spoke out against a possible U.S. military intervention in Venezuela, an unusually touchy subject for the senator. Leftists have criticized Sanders for supporting “humanitarian aid” from the U.S. government, which they view as a trojan horse for smuggling weapons to opponents of President Nicolas Maduro. (The International Red Cross and UN agencies, for example, have refused to cooperate with U.S. aid convoys because the American government openly opposes Maduro.)

"I'm old enough to remember the war in Vietnam," Sanders said. "I am very fearful of the United States continuing to do what it has done in past — the United States overthrew a democratically elected government in Chile, and in Brazil, and in Guatemala."

In a surprising moment, the senator from Vermont praised Trump for his face-to-face meetings with Kim Jong Un — but don’t expect the compliments to get too frequent.

“The fraud that Trump is, the pathological liar that he is, has to be exposed,” Sanders said.

The familiarity of Sanders’ new platform to his last aside, the audience seemed no less enthused. They chanted “Bernie!” at the end of the town hall and took photos with the senator. Drawing in an array of new donors, Sanders has raised $10 million in just a week, according to the campaign.

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.