Sen. Sherrod Brown (Getty/Drew Angerer)

Sherrod Brown to promote "dignity of work" in early voting states as Democrat mulls 2020 campaign

"I hope people running for president hear this message about the dignity of work and start talking more this way"


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Shira Tarlo
January 16, 2019 7:35PM (UTC)

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) appears to be moving closer to mounting a bid for the White House in 2020 after announcing on Tuesday that he will embark later this month on a "Dignity of Work Tour" across the crucial early presidential primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.

The Ohio Democrat, who won a third term to the Senate in November during the 2018 midterm election cycle, plans to use the "dignity of work" motto for his forthcoming tour, which he announced Tuesday night on MSNBC's "All In with Chris Hayes," and potential presidential campaign.

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In a statement announcing the tour, Brown said that "dignity of work is a value that unites us all. It's what I fight for everyday representing the people of Ohio, and it's what we will fight for together on this tour around the country."

While the 66-year-old has yet to decide whether to join what is expected to be a large field of Democrats vying to take on President Donald Trump in 2020, the Rust Belt senator said his goal for the tour is to solidify his dignity of work message as a campaign issue – regardless of whether he is the party's presidential candidate or not.

"If that's the case, whether I end up running or not, that's a victory, because it means we will govern better, we will be a better party and we'll win more elections," Brown told MSNBC's Hayes.

In November, fresh off reelection in a swing state Trump carried by nearly eight percentage points in 2016, Brown told the Washington Post, "I hope people running for president hear this message about the dignity of work and start talking more this way. The way we've done it serves as a blueprint in 2020. I don't want the 2020 election to be the Democrats winning the popular vote by 4 million votes this time and lose the presidency, because they can't win my region."

Before his Senate victory, Brown told the Post he was "not actively considering" throwing his hat in the ring for 2020. "I really wasn't thinking seriously about this until the day after the election," he told the outlet. "A number of people, some of whose names you know well but who I am not going to reveal, have asked me to start thinking seriously about this."

Brown's message of economic populism emphasizes the idea that people who work hard should be able to get ahead (personally, professionally, etc.) — a traditional American virtue that often does not lead to economic stability. The Iowa congressman's economic proposals, which are clearly outlined in this interview with the Post, are likely to play a significant role in the Democratic debate in the 2020 cycle as  additional Democrats considering a White House run in 2020, such as Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) have their own version of Brown's proposals.

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Should Brown decide to run, he would likely face competition for the Democratic nomination from other fellow Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Bernie Sanders (I-VT.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). Former Vice President Joe Biden and former Rep. Beto O'Rourke, who fell short in his campaign against Republican Sen. Ted Cruz in the Texas Senate race during the 2018 midterm election cycle, have also hinted that they are weighing a White House bids. In addition, former Secretary of State John Kerry recently alluded to mounting a presidential campaign — and these names are far from the complete list.

For now, Brown appears focused on urging fellow Democrats to embrace his "dignity of work" message in their campaigns. The senator said he and his wife, Connie Schultz, would likely make a decision on mounting a presidential run in March.


Shira Tarlo

Contact Shira Tarlo at shira.tarlo@salon.com. Follow @shiratarlo.

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