Bernie Sanders announces 2020 run for president: Will he remain the champion of the left?

Bernie Sanders is running for president in 2020 but faces a much more crowded and diverse field than he did in 2016

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published February 19, 2019 7:58AM (EST)

Bernie Sanders (Getty/Jeff J Mitchell)
Bernie Sanders (Getty/Jeff J Mitchell)

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., announced on Tuesday morning that he is running for president in 2020.

"I wanted to let the people of the state of Vermont know about this first," Sanders told Bob Kinzel of Vermont Public Radio on Tuesday morning. "And what I promise to do is, as I go around the country, is to take the values that all of us in Vermont are proud of — a belief in justice, in community, in grassroots politics, in town meetings — that's what I'm going to carry all over this country."

He added, "I think the current occupant of the White House is an embarrassment to our country. I think he is a pathological liar... I also think he is a racist, a sexist, a homophobe, a xenophobe, somebody who is gaining cheap political points by trying to pick on minorities, often undocumented immigrants."

At one point during the interview, Kinzel asked Sanders whether he represents "the face of the new Democratic Party." This may have been a reference to Sanders' age (he would be 79 on Election Day in 2020) as well as the fact that, for the most part, his demographic profile fits that of most of America's previous presidents — namely that he is white, straight and male. The only exceptions were Barack Obama, who was African American, and John Kennedy, who was Catholic (every other president was Protestant, although Sanders would break a precedent by being America's first Jewish president).

"We have got to look at candidates, you know, not by the color of their skin, not by their sexual orientation or their gender and not by their age. I mean, I think we have got to try to move us toward a non-discriminatory society which looks at people based on their abilities, based on what they stand for," Sanders told Kinzel.

Sanders had a similar message in an email that he sent his supporters on Tuesday morning announcing his candidacy. "Our campaign is not only about defeating Donald Trump. Our campaign is about transforming our country and creating a government based on the principles of economic, social, racial and environmental justice," Sanders wrote, according to the Associated Press.

Another challenge that Sanders will face is that, while he sought the presidency in a Democratic primary field of only five candidates in 2016, nine other candidates have already announced their candidacies for 2020. These include Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Kamala Harris of California, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts; Reps. John Delaney of Maryland and Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii; former San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro; and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg. Most recent polls have found that the frontrunner is a candidate who has not yet officially announced a bid, former Vice President Joe Biden.

"In many ways, what Bernie Sanders is trying to accomplish nationally is the unfinished business that FDR pointed out in that State of the Union speech," Sanders' 2016 campaign manager Jeff Weaver told Salon in May, in reference to President Franklin Roosevelt's famous Economic Bill of Rights speech. "This is really a foundational document for the modern Democratic Party and the unfinished business of the party as we move forward. What happened in the 1990s is that we went on a right-wing deviation from that historical trajectory that came out of the New Deal administration, to a pro-corporate, much more conservative Democratic Party."

When Salon asked Weaver about Sanders' age and whether it would factor into his ability to become president, the erstwhile campaign manager told Salon that "anybody who follows Bernie Sanders for one day and sees his schedule, and how rigorous it is, and how he drives everybody around him, works them into the ground with the amount of work and energy he has, I think they would understand that his chronological age is just not really a measure of his true age."

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

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