Bernie Sanders said Tuesday that he is running for president, telling supporters that Democrats must not only unite to defeat Donald Trump in 2020, but finally combat the systemic economic and racial injustice he says has deeply wounded the country.
“Together, you and I and our 2016 campaign began the political revolution,” Sanders wrote in an early morning email. “Now, it is time to complete that revolution and implement the vision that we fought for.”
The 77-year-old Sanders, an independent senator from Vermont, will try to top his second-place finish from the 2016 Democratic primary, when he ran an unexpectedly strong campaign against Hillary Clinton.
This time around, the senator will attempt to prove he can be more than a foil to an establishment-backed frontrunner, running against a deep and diverse field of rivals who have excited a new generation of Democratic voters.
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As he often does, Sanders framed his campaign not as a normal political candidacy, but as part of a larger movement dead-set on curing the country’s sweeping set of problems.
“Our campaign is not only about defeating Donald Trump, the most dangerous president in modern American history,” Sanders wrote. “It is not only about winning the Democratic nomination and the general election. Our campaign is about transforming our country and creating a government based on the principles of economic, social, racial and environmental justice.”
The party Sanders seeks to lead in 2020 has changed since 2016, becoming more liberal and confrontational since Trump’s election. It now embraces many once-fringe policy positions the senator help popularize, like instituting a $15 federal minimum wage or implementing a national single-payer healthcare system.
And it has experienced a shakeup in its leadership ranks, after self-identified democratic socialists like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez defeated entrenched Democratic incumbents in 2018.
The party’s lurch to the left might make a 2020 campaign easier for Sanders, but he must now also face a bevy of new, liberal Democratic candidates who will claim the mantle of progressive champion -- including Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who will likely be his chief rival in the race.
Sanders will also need to prove he can win over voters of color, especially in states with an early nominating contest like Nevada and South Carolina, who voted overwhelmingly for Clinton in 2016.
“I’m running for president because, now more than ever, we need leadership that brings us together – not divides us up,” Sanders wrote in his email. “Women and men, black, white, Latino, Native American, Asian American, gay and straight, young and old, native born and immigrant. Now is the time for us to stand together.”