After losing the 2016 Democratic presidential primary to Hillary Clinton, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is giving the whole running for president thing another go.
Sanders has been in the political game for decades. He ran his first campaign for a Vermont Senate seat in the ‘70s. He lost. But eventually went on to serve as mayor of Burlington, VT before heading to the US House, then becoming a US senator in 2007. He’s the longest serving independent member of Congress in history.
The Elephant in the Room
There are a few. Earlier this year, female staffers from his 2016 campaign came forward with allegations that they had been sexually harassed or assaulted by male staffers. Sanders publicly apologized. And his 2020 campaign updated its guidelines for dealing with sexual misconduct. Outside of this, there’s a broader issue: as the Democratic party has moved further left, Sanders is no longer the only progressive on the block. And some voters who were Team Bernie in 2016 are switching their allegiances to other candidates this time around. Meanwhile, there are concerns about Sanders’ health. He suffered a heart attack in Oct 2019 but has since jumped back on the campaign trail.
The 2020 Policies…
On health care...Medicare for All is his baby. As in a government-run health insurance program available to all Americans. He’s been talking about it since his 2016 run. This time around, he unveiled a new plan that goes even further by pretty much getting rid of private health insurance. Critics say this will cost way too much.
On climate change...he’s telling the other Dems, ‘I see your climate change plans and raise you all of the money.’ At $16.3 trillion, his is the most expensive plan in the game, with other plans ranging between $1 and $10 trillion. Here’s what Sanders says you’d get for it: 100% sustainable electricity and transportation by 2030 and a carbon-neutral economy by 2050. His plan also promises 20 million new jobs plus assistance for farmers and former fossil fuel workers adjusting to a new economy. Sanders says he’d pay for his plan in large part by taxing and suing fossil fuel companies for trillions of dollars. How? Unclear. Would it stop climate change? Probably not. Could it mitigate some of the worst effects? Possibly – especially if other major greenhouse gas emitters pull similar moves. Sanders says averting the worst effects of climate change could save the US tens of trillions of dollars over decades).
On abortion...he says his Medicare for All plan will cover reproductive health care, including abortions. Although he has voted in favor of the Hyde Amendment in the past, he now says he would get rid of it. The amendment limits federal funding for abortions.
On education...part of his 2016 run was a proposal to make four-year public college tuition-free and lower student loan interest rates. He hasn’t changed his mind.
On guns…he has a complicated history. In the past, he’s taken positions in line with the NRA. Including voting against legislation to establish a national background check system. Now he’s turned it around and says he wants to expand background checks and ban assault weapons.
On the economy...for years he’s pushed the message that the economy is “rigged” in favor of Wall Street and the rich. To combat this, Sanders wants to do things like enact a $15/hr minimum wage (although he’s reportedly had issues implementing this even with his campaign staff) and increase tax rates on the wealthy. He also thinks employees should have more ownership stake in the companies they work for. Also, he doesn’t think billionaires “should exist.” He proposes a wealth tax on Americans worth more than $32 million – and wants to use the money to fund his housing plan, universal child care, and to help fund Medicare for All.
In 2016, Sanders’ far-left policies helped him stand out on the campaign trail, and had a huge group of supporters saying ‘Bernie or bust.’ Now he’s competing with a larger pool of Democratic candidates who have embraced those policies themselves. So far though, polling shows he’s one of the top contenders in the Dem race.