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U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) announced his intention to run for president in 2020. Sanders became a household name during the 2016 presidential election cycle, in which he rallied grassroots support to become the main Democratic primary opponent to Hillary Clinton (D-NY). Although Sanders ultimately lost to Clinton, who went on to run against Donald J. Trump in the presidential election, the 2016 election cycle turned Sanders into a symbol for leftist politics and the rise of democratic socialism within the left wing of American discourse.
Before Sanders became the face of a Democratic party moving more and more to the left, he spent 16 years as an Independent representing Vermont in the House of Representatives. He was elected to the Senate in 2006, where he is one of two independents out of 100 senators; Sanders caucuses with Democrats. As compared to when Sanders first took office in the Senate, though, he is now a nationally-renowned political figure; in the wake of his Democratic primary run, Sanders became such a potent force in left-wing politics that he now stands as the frontrunner to secure the Democratic nomination for the 2020 presidential election. This progress is remarkable considering that, when he first announced his run in 2016, many dismissed him as a fringe candidate unlikely to make any significant gains.
Sanders’ 2020 run is already off to the kind of start that indicates how far public perception of him has progressed since he first campaigned to run for president. One of Sanders’ aides told CNN this morning that, within moments of Sanders’ campaign announcement, people living in all 50 states had either signed up or donated to his campaign.
In an interview with CBS This Morning, Sanders expressed early confidence about his chances at winning the race. “We’re gonna win,” he said, in no uncertain terms, to This Morning co-host John Dickerson. In this same conversation, Sanders expressed that the top goal for any Democratic presidential candidate should be to oust Trump.
“It is absolutely imperative that Donald Trump [is] defeated… we have a president who is a pathological liar,” Sanders told CBS from his home in Vermont. “We have a president… who is a racist, who is a sexist, who is a xenophobe, who… is trying to divide us up.”
In his quest to defeat President Trump, Sanders will face strong competition. Over a dozen politicians have announced campaigns for the Democratic primary, including two of Trump’s most outspoken critics in the Senate: Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).
Many of Sanders’ competitors share leftist ideas and ideals, but he is perhaps the face most strongly associated with them, which might give him a unique advantage in the Democratic primary race. A headline from Vanity Fair best summarizes Sanders’ position: “Bernie Sanders, the original lefty radical, faces an army of mini-mes.” Only one thing is clear this early on in the 2020 presidential election cycle: even though Sanders was the second-place candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, he has far more competitors than he did previously, even if these competitors might not stand a shot without his influence.