Senator Bernie Sanders enters the 2020 Democratic presidential primary as one of the candidates with the highest name identification in the field. Sanders, who identifies as a Democratic Socialist, famously sought the Democratic nomination in 2016 before ultimately losing to Hillary Clinton.
Sanders was first elected to political office in 1980, serving as mayor of Burlington, Vermont for eight years. In 1990, Sanders became the first independent elected to Congress in 40 years. Sanders served in the US House of Representatives until 2007, when he became Vermont’s junior senator. While serving in Congress, Sanders has always caucused with Democrats but still identifies as an independent.
Senator Sanders officially announced his second presidential bid on February 19th, 2019 on Vermont Public Radio. He raised six million dollars within the first 24 hours of his announcement, solidifying his status as a frontrunner in the race. At age 77, Sanders would become the oldest president elected to serve in their first term. Sanders has dismissed the notion of age potentially hindering his candidacy, suggesting that voters should instead look at the totality of the candidate and determine if they agree with his policies.
Sanders has expressed a desire to run an issue-oriented campaign devoid of personal insults. He has frequently criticized Biden for much of his record in the Senate, including his vote for the Iraq War. Sanders has also attacked the former vice president for not going far enough in many of his policy proposals.
Sanders often discusses the need for a “grassroots political revolution”. His campaign is centered around significant structural change within the federal government. Sanders’ policies are considered more progressive than any other Democratic candidate in the field. His signature policy proposal features single-payer health care. Sanders has endorsed Medicare-For-All, which aims to achieve universal coverage over a four year period. Sanders’ health care proposal also calls for eliminating private insurance.
Senator Sanders is also a co-sponsor of the Green New Deal, a sweeping plan to address climate change and economic inequality. The Green New Deal calls for universally net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. It also suggests that the federal government guarantee a job for all Americans. Sanders has also called for an end to exports of crude oil, coal, and natural gas. He has vowed to confront the fossil fuel industry and convert the United States to sustainable energy. Sanders’ environmental plan is the most expensive of all the candidates’; he has committed $16 trillion to combating climate change. He intends to achieve completely renewable energy by 2030 and complete decarbonization by 2050.
Sanders has the most expansive and expensive plan to address student debt. He has pledged to cancel all student loan debt, totaling 1.6 trillion dollars. In addition, Sanders has proposed to make public colleges, universities, and trade schools tuition free. He also plans to make college debt free for all. Sanders has proposed imposing a tax on Wall Street to pay for the cancellation of student loan debt and debt-free college.
With his progressive agenda, Sanders has been widely credited with shifting the Democratic party further left. There has been significant media coverage over the apparent ideological divide within the democratic party, as moderates clash with progressives like Senators Sanders and Warren over issues like health care and combating climate change. Sanders had many fiery exchanges with more moderate democratic candidates in the second debate in Detroit. When challenged by Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan over providing unions with benefits under Medicare, Bernie yelled “I do know, I wrote the damn bill”.
Sanders consistently appears near the top of most national and early-state polling. However, he trails former Vice President Joe Biden in virtually every poll conducted. In the most recent poll conducted by Politico, Sanders trailed by 14 percentage points, receiving 18 percent support among likely Democratic voters. He polled ahead of fellow progressive Senator Elizabeth Warren by three percentage points. Warren has cut into Sanders’ support in recent months, sometimes polling ahead of Sanders. The two senators have similar policy positions, but Warren labels herself a capitalist, as opposed to Sanders who unabashedly identifies as a democratic-socialist. Warren and Sanders are thought to share the progressive vote within the Democratic party.
Sanders has received significant media coverage throughout his campaign. Many right-leaning news outlets have framed his campaign as a symbol of the democratic party becoming socialist and out of touch with most Americans. Several right-leaning articles have derided Sanders’ policies as overly expensive and achievable. Meanwhile, left-leaning news outlets have focused on the grassroots energy surrounding the Sanders campaign. The campaign has received millions of small-dollar donations and raised over 18 million dollars in the second quarter of 2019. Centrist news outlets have highlighted the ideological differences between Sanders and many of his moderate democratic opponents, most notably Joe Biden. Sanders’ Medicare-for-all proposal has received the most media scrutiny, with many outlets analyzing its potential cost and effectiveness.