Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders announced his candidacy for the presidency early last Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2019. He’ll be competing in the “crowded field” of the 2020 Democratic Primary where 15 candidates have announced, at the time of writing, as opposed to 2016’s six.
The first of the 15 to announce, Richard Ojeda, a Democratic State Senator from West Virginia, withdrew his bid last month, citing fears that his lack of national name recognition and donor base would be insufficient for the “gruelling” 21-month democratic primary campaign. The 48-year-old, retired Army Major and vocal supporter of the 55 United West Virginia teachers’ strike said in a Facebook post declaring the suspension of his campaign “was never about me, but about the issues we care about, checking big pharma, ending corruption and elevating the working class citizen.”
The remaining 14 include Tulsi Gabbard (Rep. D HI), who made headlines in 2016 when she resigned her post as vice-chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in order to publicly support Senator Sanders, citing “interventionist wars of regime change” as a common point of concern. Fourth-year biology major Patrick Leicht (canvasser with the Sanders campaign in 2016 as well as the Jess King for Congress campaign in 2018) said in an interview with The Quad that, “it’s a breath of fresh air when national politicians like Gabbard and Bernie condemn the wars … issues like that are easy to talk about, out canvassing especially, everyone’s fed up with the wars, even Republicans are more comfortable with medicare for all now. When I’d discuss with Republicans and Independents about things Jess King supported such as Medicare-for-all and ending the drug wars and ending the very real wars a lot of them would support them, but we get wrapped up in my team versus your team, but, out canvassing those policies cut through that.”
Elizabeth Warren (Sen. D MA) will also run. Hillary Chabot says in the Boston Herald that Warren, Sander’s “fellow progressive darling,” known for heading the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and her Anti-Wall street rhetoric, will be “vying for the same Democratic voters.”
In an interview with The Quad, Jamie Berg, fourth year women and gender studies major and organizer with Pennsylvania Student Power Network (PSPN) said, “I think what Sanders does so well is to get folks to start thinking about their material conditions… the unpaid value of our labor, the sexism/racism/homophobia/ableism/etc. that we experience systematically is often obfuscated. Sanders, and I would argue Warren to a certain degree, undoes this obfuscation.” Berg, who works on PSPN’s College for All campaign to support APSCUF’s PA Promise said that while “[Sanders] should really focus in on combatting the sexism that was occurring among campaign staff … I definitely have more trust in Bernie, just because his campaign definitely pushed for [free college] when no one else was. To me that signals that Bernie is basing his political platform on the campaigns that are currently happening on the left … So it’s not that the other candidates are fake, it’s that they’re probably not listening to what we’re doing. I trust Warren too, but I don’t think she’s signed onto a free college proposal yet.”
Berg also said of the election season, “as someone who organizes, this represents an amazing opportunity. It’s hard to get folks to think introspectively … So with Sanders, there’s already this large built-in audience that are starting to think about the massive inequities in our society.” Berg also said the senator should focus more on policy in his campaign.
During his Presidential Exploratory Tour last month, Sanders made a two day visit to South Carolina, a state which he lost in 2016 with 14 percent to Clinton’s 87 percent. Jaime Harrison, a former chair of the state Democratic Party, was quoted in a recent Politico article saying: “[South Carolina] is important because it’s the first state that these candidates will get an opportunity to vet their message with a population that reflects the heart of the Democratic Party, which is African-Americans and specifically African-American women,” a group which the Sanders campaign in 2016 failed to win. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, South Carolina’s longest serving black representative, said of Sanders that “He’s learned from his last run and he recognizes if he’s serious about winning the presidency or the nomination, that he needs to do more to get black voters to know who he is and what he stands for,” quoted in The Post and Courier by Caitlin Byrd.
Aaron Gallant is a fourth-year student majoring in anthropology with minors in Latin studies, geography and Spanish. AG851503@wcupa.edu