Bernie Sanders has officially joined the 2020 presidential race. After losing the Democratic nomination to Hillary Clinton in 2016, the 77-year-old Vermont senator announced on Tuesday, February 19th, that he would once again be campaigning for the nation’s top job. “I wanted to let the people of the state of Vermont know about this first,” Sanders told Vermont Public Radio in a chat published in the early morning on Tuesday, teasing an official announcement video.
Though he said he would be running a “very different campaign” than in 2016, the senator maintained that many of the progressive ideas he championed then—including a $15 minimum wage, the reduction of student debt, free higher education, climate change, criminal justice reform, and the need for universal health care—would remain. “We began the political revolution in the 2016 campaign and now it’s time to move the revolution forward and make sure that vision, those ideas, are implemented into policy,” Sanders said.
Mainly, he’s hoping to oppose President Donald Trump. “I think the current occupant of the White House is an embarrassment to our country,” Sanders said. “I think he is a pathological liar every day, he’s telling one lie or another.…I also think he is a racist, a sexist, a homophobe, a xenophobe, [and] somebody who is gaining cheap political points by trying to pick on minorities, often undocumented immigrants.”
“I cannot recall in my lifetime, certainly in my lifetime, that we have had a president who actually goes out of his way to try to divide the American people up based on where we were born, the color of our skin, our gender or whatever it may be,” Sanders told the outlet. “I think what a president must do is bring our people together, not divide people up.”
Of course, Sanders will face stiff competition in the Democratic field: Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and California Sen. Kamala Harris have all announced their campaigns in recent weeks. Since Sanders first announced his candidacy in 2015, the Democratic socialist has moved from the political fringe to one of the most visible liberal politicians. In the 2016 primary, Sanders won 23 primaries and caucuses.
Asked if his age would be a detriment to his election, Sanders both celebrated the “freshman class” of politicians who have been elected in the wake of his 2016 campaign while insisting that voters look at the totality of his candidacy.
“I have been very blessed in my life with good health,” he said in the interview. “There are folks out there today who are 90 years of age and working hard. There are folks who are 45 or 50, who are lethargic and don’t have a lot of energy. I’m very lucky that as a kid, I was a long distance runner. I think I have and still have a great deal of energy.”
For his 2020 campaign, Sanders hopes to enlist one million people in a “grassroots movement of people prepared to stand up and fight.”
“This is tough stuff,” he admitted to VPR. “We intended to run a campaign which stands up for working people, whether they’re black, white, latino, Native American, Asian America … We’re going to run a campaign which tells the people on top that their greed has got to end. They cannot get it all. … There’s a lot to be discussed and I intend to run a strong, issue-oriented campaign.”
In the interview, Sanders also addressed allegations of pay disparity and sexual harassment among staffers on his 2016 campaign. Sanders previously apologized “to any woman who felt that she was not treated appropriately,” in a January interview with Anderson Cooper, admitting that he was unaware of the alleged harassment at the time but that his Senate re-election team subsequently instituted policies such as “mandatory training” and retaining an independent firm for future incidents.
Once again, Sanders doubled down on that messaging. “We are gonna be providing a whole lot of education … and training to all of our employees,” Sanders told VPR. “And we have on board as part of this campaign a very, very experienced and professional team of folks who do exactly this — they deal with sexual harassment and discrimination.”
“That reality hurt me very much,” he said. “It upset me and it should never have happened. We started that campaign with four or five people. Our ideas caught on, they exploded … and we started hiring people in a very rapid way. … In a few months, we had 1,200 people. As I have since learned, some of those people should never been hired.”