Bernie Sanders to Run Again?
The Vermont senator stokes 2020 presidential election rumors with upcoming second Iowa appearance
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) declined to rule out a 2020 presidential bid during an interview Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union,” while his planned visit to the key state of Iowa in late August continues to stoke rumors about his future political ambitions.
The progressive senator who briefly switched parties to run against Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential primaries utilized his “outsider” status as an anti-establishment candidate to ignite enthusiasm among young liberals. But when Sanders finally caved in to Democratic pressure to endorse Clinton against President Donald Trump after Clinton clinched the party’s nomination, many of Sanders’ most enthusiastic supporters felt betrayed by their political hero.
Now that the 2016 presidential election has come and gone and Trump has completed six months in office, Sanders’ multiple campaign-style appearances in 2017 have fueled speculation concerning the 75-year-old senator’s 2020 plans as the Democratic Party struggles to rebuild and field viable contenders.
"You were asked recently about the possibility of running for president again in 2020. You said, 'I am not taking it off the table,'" host Jake Tapper asked Sanders. "On August 31, you're going to be back in Iowa, specifically in Iowa City, to promote your new book: 'Bernie Sanders' Guide to Political Revolution.' Are you testing the waters for 2020? Is this still possible, that you're going to run for president?"
Sure enough, when asked about his 2020 intentions earlier in July and whether he was preparing for the 2020 Iowa caucus, Sanders told SiriusXM's Mark Thompson: "I am not taking it off the table. I just have not made any decisions. And I think it's much too early ... It's just too early to be talking about an election three-and-a-half years from now."
In response to Tapper's follow-up questions, Sanders said, "I know, hard to believe, Jake! You know, Jake, one of the things that I always get a kick out of is that in Canada, they have elections, I think it's [over a] two-month period. In the U.K., it's even shorter than that. In the United States, we have never-ending elections."
"Right now, as the United States senator from the state of Vermont, I am dealing with enormous issues," Sanders continued. "It's not just health care. It's trying to create an economy that works for all Americans, and not just the one percent. It's developing a tax system that does not give huge tax breaks to the wealthiest people in this country. It's rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure. It's dealing with climate change. Transforming our energy system."
"Those are the issues that I and other members of Congress should be dealing with right now," Sanders concluded. "We've got three years before the presidential election. We've got plenty of time for candidates or potential candidates to make decisions."
Although Sanders refrained from answering Tapper's question about his 2020 intentions directly, the "State of the Union" host said: "I'm going to take that as a 'yes,' still on the table."
Despite Sanders' insistence that it was still too early to declare a 2020 presidential bid, the Vermont senator's upcoming visit to Iowa comes shortly after he appeared in the Hawkeye State for a campaign-style event in mid-July that drew an enthusiastic crowd of about 1,100.
"I'd love for him to run again," said attendee Rick Thomas, a former volunteer on Sanders' campaign, according to USA Today. "I just saw a lady here with a T-shirt that said 'Hindsight is 2020.'"
"The thing that I love about him so much is he's changed the conversation that has been going on in our culture for 20 or 30 years," Thomas added.
Sure enough, Sanders' socialist-progressive policies disrupted the conventional Democratic Party platform and shifted the conversation on issues, such as free college and single-payer health care, even further to the left. When Clinton clinched the Democratic nomination, she adapted some of her more naturally moderate policies to include Sanders' policies in an attempt to woo his supporters.
But Sanders' status as a political "outsider," which earned him such enthusiastic support in the 2016 election cycle, suffered some blows when he endorsed Clinton in her campaign against Trump and urged his supporters to come out and vote for her against Trump, leaving many of his followers feeling betrayed.
"You chose her over us," Sanders supporter Jessica Watrous Boyer of Rhode Island wrote on Sanders's Facebook page following his Clinton endorsement, The New York Times reported in July 2016. "Truly shocked and saddened by this."
"You broke my heart and betrayed the left Senator Sanders," New Yorker Cesar Agusto Diaz wrote on Sanders' Facebook page.
"Intelligent Bernie supporters will NEVER support her because she stands for everything were fighting against," Daniel Whitfield, The Times reported. "Just because Bernie has left our movement does not mean it is over."
"We shouldn't be fear-mongered into voting for somebody that's equally as horrible," Sanders supporter Taylor Baker of West Virginia told the BBC in July 2016, adding that Clinton was able to "rig herself in as the nominee" using the Democratic National Committee.
In response to his "betrayed" supporters, Sanders told ABC News' "Good Morning America" in July 2016: "What I say is it is absolutely imperative for the future of this country that Donald Trump not be elected President of the United States."
"At a time when this country has enormous crises, we do not, and can not have a man with Trump's temperament with the nuclear code and running the country," Sanders added. "If you look at issue by issue, we have Hillary Clinton who wants to significantly raise the minimum wage — we have millions of workers in this country working on starvation wages."
"We have Hillary Clinton who wants to expand health care. Hillary Clinton wants to make public colleges and universities in this country tuition free for all those families in this country making $125,000 or less," Sanders added. "Donald Trump wants to end the Affordable Care Act and put 20 million people off of health insurance."
But Sanders' age, the ongoing investigation into his wife and her role at Burlington College, and the Democratic Party's public struggle to unite behind a common message could all imperil a 2020 presidential bid.