- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Sen. Bernard Sanders‘ 2016 presidential campaign shaped the contemporary Democratic Party, pushing it to embrace “democratic socialism” in a way that would have been unthinkable just a few years before.

Mr. Sanders jumped into the 2020 race Tuesday with hopes that the party hasn’t left him behind.

The Vermont independent said he is looking to take care of unfinished business. He said his ideas of a $15-per-hour minimum wage, universal government-sponsored “Medicare for all” health care and tuition-free college have yet to become reality — though they are now staples of Democratic campaigns.

“Three years ago, when we talked about these and other ideas, we were told that they were ‘radical’ and ‘extreme,’” Mr. Sanders said in his campaign launch. “Well, three years have come and gone. And, as a result of millions of Americans standing up and fighting back, all of these policies are now supported by a majority of Americans.

“Together, you and I and our 2016 campaign began the political revolution,” he said. “Now, it is time to complete that revolution and implement the vision that we fought for.”

Mr. Sanders starts his second bid with a loyal band of supporters across the country and a proven ability to raise money through small-dollar donations. Indeed, he raised his first $1 million in just four hours Tuesday, the campaign announced.

The University of New Hampshire Institute of Politics released a poll last week that found Mr. Sanders is among the most well-known and well-liked candidates in the Democratic field.

Yet that field — far larger and full of intriguing figures — is far different from what Mr. Sanders faced in his 2016 bid, when a few less-than-compelling candidates quickly dropped out, leaving the race to Mr. Sanders and Hillary Clinton. Mrs. Clinton waffled between trying to match Mr. Sanders‘ liberal positions and criticizing them as too outlandish.

Although the left wing of the Democratic Party appears to be ascendant heading into 2020, more candidates are squatting on that ideological ground. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Sen. Kamala D. Harris of California and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York are running on like-minded populist agendas.

Mr. Sanders was the novelty in 2016, but the party now has more than a dozen fresh faces who might appeal to voters on the hunt for something newer than a 77-year-old lawmaker with 28 years in Washington.

“It was either Hillary or him two years ago, and I think that worked for him,” said Gene Martin, chairman of the Democratic Party in Manchester, New Hampshire. “I think it is going to be much harder for him this time.”

Mr. Martin credited Mr. Sanders with bringing a lot of new voters, including his younger brother, into the fold in 2016. But the political landscape has changed, and so has his younger brother, who recently informed him, “I like Bernie and I like what he is doing, but I think I am going to look at other candidates.”

Former Iowa Lt. Gov. Patty Judge said, “Bernie was sort of far left and his policies were there, and Hillary’s were in the center. So there were clear paths for both of them,” Ms. Judge said. “And now, while he goes in with some name identification, he has a path that is pretty crowded.

“There are other very legitimate candidates who are very liberal on their issues,” she said. “So he is not going to find the same kind of race here.”

Mr. Sanders launched his second presidential bid in an online video and followed it up with a series of TV and radio interviews in which he spelled out his plans to build a grassroots army “coming together to not only defeat Donald Trump, not only to win the Democratic nomination, but also to lay the groundwork for transforming the economic and political life of this country.”

“At the end of the day, the only way that real change takes place is when millions of people stand up, fight and say, ‘Enough is enough. We are going to have a government that works for all of us, not just the few,’” he said on the CBS program “This Morning.”

President Trump’s campaign welcomed Mr. Sanders to the race by saying he “has already won the debate in the Democrat primary, because every candidate is embracing his brand of socialism.”

“But the American people will reject an agenda of sky-high tax rates, government-run health care and coddling dictators like those in Venezuela,” said Trump campaign national press secretary Kayleigh McEnany. “Only President Trump will keep America free, prosperous and safe.”

The independent Bernie Delegates Network predicts that Mr. Sanders‘ previous supporters are ready to return.

“The progressive base that he energized several years ago is largely committed to his upcoming run for president,” said Norman Solomon, one of the network’s coordinators.

Some liberal groups were more reserved.

“Blessed with a diverse field of candidates committed to inclusive populist reforms, we’re looking forward to seeing how Sanders and the movement behind him make the case for ‘political revolution’ in a very different 2020 contest,” said Yvette Simpson, chief executive officer of Democracy for America.

Adam Green and Stephanie Taylor, co-founders of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, said Mr. Sanders is not their top choice but adds to the race.

“While we believe Elizabeth Warren will be the most electable Democrat and the ideal president, Warren and Sanders in the race together is a one-two punch that assures a high-speed race to the top among all candidates on bold progressive issues that are popular with voters,” they said.

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