Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders hasn’t ruled out a 2020 run, and is, in fact, actively considering one, according to a weekend report by The Hill. And in the language of politicians who tend to keep their thoughts on potential presidential runs ambiguous, the report has all kinds of significance.
Sanders is wildly popular, even with those who don’t agree with him. His candor and authentic, homegrown nature are likable across the political spectrum, and his name recognition only continues to increase as he’s stayed just as vocal after losing the Democratic party nomination as he was, on the campaign trail against Hillary Clinton.
I personally adore Bernie and voted for him in 2016, but a second presidential run by Sanders isn’t going to help anyone.
Some obvious flaws just off the bat include his age; Sanders would be 79 on January 20, 2021, or Inauguration Day, and after a Trump presidency, we would need a leader with energy and stamina that, beloved as he may be, Sanders just physically wouldn’t be able to offer. But of course, it’s not even just that.
It’s widely agreed upon that the Democratic party needs to offer a fresh face. It’s not as if Sanders has many political scandals to worry about being bogged down by, but it’s a matter of reenergizing a party that’s struggling to make people show up to the polls.
It’s about presenting a message that transcends the cliched “anti-establishment vs. establishment” rhetoric that dominated 2016, that wound up sowing internal warfare among progressives that splintered the Democratic party, perhaps contributed to lowering voter turnout among Democrats and, ultimately, unfairly demonized many hard working progressive political leaders.
Additionally, it’s clear that Sanders has a stark vision for the America he would like to lead — one with a $15 minimum wage, universal health care, tuition-free public education, a submissive, reined-in Wall Street, and so on and so forth. In the past two years, he’s been nothing but specific about what he wants. But the problem is his single-mindedness in backing his own, individual political agenda. This has, in many ways, alienated him from the Democratic party, and could render him an ineffective, even inefficient president.
The Democratic field of potential 2020 contenders has no shortage of fresh, even relatively youthful faces. The best part of all is that aside from former Vice President Joe Biden, New Jersey Sen. Corey Booker, and, of course, Sanders himself, the field is rife with female candidates to pick up what will arguably always be former Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton‘s most important legacy as one of the nation’s most vocal and successful female political leaders.
There’s New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, whose candor and passion for public service have made her a household name; there’s Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren whose progressive economic platform and reputation for “telling it like it is” are arguably the sharpest foil to President Trump imaginable; and then, of course, there’s California Sen. Kamala Harris, a charismatic freshman senator who is the very definition of a fresh face, with a far-reaching resume laden with bipartisan appeal, as well as a profile and background story that could bring out millions of women and people of color who sat out on Election Day rather than vote for Hillary Clinton.
All of these women could be phenomenal presidents who would pay attention to women’s rights in a way that Sanders, who previously endorsed an abortion-opposing Democratic candidate and opted to focus broadly on economic issues rather than intersectionality as a candidate, was never quite able to.
And, of course, contrary to the narrative that “identity politics” ought to be shunned — a narrative that’s in part been espoused by Sanders and his supporters — the Democratic party needs a candidate who can recognize that the white working class is far from the only demographic that’s frustrated and struggling in today’s socioeconomic climate, that acting as if we’re in a post-sexist, post-racist, post-homo/transphobic society, is the last thing any of us need. The well-meaning political gas lighting of Sanders and his supporters isn’t going to create an America that works for everyone.
Their presidential candidates could mark a turning point for women’s rights after the dark day that was November 8, 2016. They could each go far with the support of a progressive star like Sanders, while a presidential run by Sanders could further splinter a party that needs to move on from, not revert back to, 2016.
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.