He’s back — but is the moment? Bernie Sanders announced that he will join the Democratic cast of thousands running for the party’s presidential nomination. Sanders nearly beat Hillary Clinton to the prize three years ago, but as CBS This Morning points out, Hillary didn’t have much competition either:
NEW: Vermont Senator @BernieSanders is running for president again. The 77-year-old former mayor & congressman is the 10th candidate to join the most diverse Democratic party field in U.S. history.
— CBS This Morning (@CBSThisMorning) February 19, 2019
Sanders, ever the politician, made sure he announced the run first on Vermont Public Radio. He then posted the de rigueur campaign launch video at nearly the same time as his appearance on CBS. This one’s shorter than those put together by Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren, and it mostly consists of pseudo-headlines and banal sound bites set to dramatic music:
I'm running for president. I am asking you to join me today as part of an unprecedented and historic grassroots campaign that will begin with at least 1 million people from across the country. Say you're in: https://t.co/KOTx0WZqRf pic.twitter.com/T1TLH0rm26
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) February 19, 2019
Give Bernie this much credit. His campaign launch video has as little of substance to say as his competitors, but at least he takes less time to say it.
The CBS interview and his VPR appearance sound pretty much like a rehash of 2016, including the attacks on Donald Trump:
“What I promise to do is, as I go around the country, is to take the values that all of us in Vermont are proud of — a belief in justice, in community, in grassroots politics, in town meetings — that’s what I’m going to carry all over this country,” Sanders told the station. …
Sanders also emphasized the urgency of unseating President Donald Trump, who he called “an embarrassment to our country.”
“I think he is a pathological liar … I also think he is a racist, a sexist, a homophobe, a xenophobe, somebody who is gaining cheap political points by trying to pick on minorities, often undocumented immigrants,” Sanders said.
All of that worked for Sanders in 2016. Three years later, though, Sanders faces a much different situation. Hillary Clinton has not tied up all of the establishment money and endorsements, forcing significant competition to the sidelines. This time voters looking for a real choice in the primaries won’t have to toss a vote to a septuagenarian gadfly as their only non-establishment option. Upward of two dozen candidates are expected to enter this race, including a half-dozen or more from the Senate Democratic caucus.
This time around, Sanders won’t be the only progressive in the race either. Harris, Warren, and Cory Booker will encroach on Sanders’ socialist turf, plus they will be able to use identity politics to their political advantage. In fact, the rarity in this cycle will be a non-progressive Democrat in the race. Sanders can take that as vindication from 2016, but that shift in the Democrats’ trajectory means his presidential nomination is no longer essential to that agenda. “We’re going to win,” Sanders tells John Dickerson about what’s different this time around, but it’s far more likely that Sanders will get lost in the background, the same way he did for most of his political career before 2015.
Finally, has anyone asked yet … is Bernie back to being a Democrat?