With an interview with Vermont Public Radio that aired early Tuesday morning, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) officially announced his candidacy for president in 2020, telling listeners in his home state he is determined to defeat President Donald Trump while building a grassroots-style campaign — with a network of “at least a million people” — designed to win Medicare for All, a national $15 minimum wage, reduced student debt, bold climate action, criminal justice and immigration reform, and create a political and economic system that works for the many and not just the few.
“I wanted to let the people of the state of Vermont know about this first,” Sanders told VPR‘s Bob Kinzel. “And 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 added, “We began the political revolution in the 2016 campaign, and now it’s time to move that revolution forward.”
Shortly after his radio appearance, Sanders released the following campaign video via Twitter:
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
Highlighting some of the key issues he has fought for throughout his political career — and notable victories he has achieved as a lawmaker in the Senate — the video concludes with a unifying theme and a voiceover of Sanders declaring, “If we are prepared to stand together, there is no limit to what the great people of our nation can accomplish.”
In his interview with VPR, Sanders explained he was running for president for two basic reasons: “Number one, I think the current occupant of the White House is an embarrassment to our country. I think he is a pathological liar, everyday telling one lie after another — and it gives me no pleasure to say that. 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 that he “cannot recall — certainly not in my lifetime or in modern history — that we’ve had a president that actually goes out of his way to try and divide the American people up based on where we were born or the color of our skin or our gender or whatever it may be. I think what a president has got to do is bring our people together and not divide us up.”
The second reason, he added, is to complete the progress he started in the 2016 campaign by bringing serious solutions to the table — solutions once said to be too radical but, in fact, supported by large majorities of the American people.
In a letter sent to supporters, Sanders declared: “Together we can create a nation that leads the world in the struggle for peace and for economic, racial, social and environmental justice. And together we can defeat Donald Trump and repair the damage he has done to our country.”
Asked by CBS News in a separate interview that will air Tuesday what would be different in 2020 compared to 2016, Sanders said: “We’re going to win.”
In addition to vowing victory, Sanders said his campaign is going to “launch what I think is unprecedented in modern American history and that is a grassroots movement.”
Powerful special interests may have the money, but we have the people. Supporters from all 50 states have donated to our unprecedented grassroots campaign. Say you’re in: https://t.co/4YhCuNlKEk pic.twitter.com/d32UxxRi9q
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) February 19, 2019
Though not unexpected — with speculation rife in recent days and weeks about making his decision known — Sanders’ status as the former candidate who won a number of state primaries and caucuses in 2016 and still the most popular elected lawmaker in the country, according to many polls, puts him in a strong position as the crowded Democratic field comes into further focus.
Supporters of Sanders who have been waiting patiently for the official announcement, celebrated the news:
IT’S HAPPENING: @BernieSanders is running.
— People for Bernie (@People4Bernie) February 19, 2019
— #RunBernieRun (@OFB2020) February 19, 2019
Norman Solomon, national coordinator of the independent Bernie Delegates Network in 2016 and now a coordinator of the relaunched Bernie Delegates Network, said Sanders is by far the most exciting candidate now in the running, especially because of his long history as a champion of grassroots campaigning and a proven commitment to transformative change.
“Bernie is the only candidate for the Democratic nomination who has always been part of progressive movements,” Solomon told Common Dreams. “For decades he has made it clear he understands that the transformational power we need isn’t handed down from on high — it’s gained through grassroots activism and organizing to challenge injustice and the vast numbers of ills related to corporate power.”
Despite the virtues of other candidates in the Democratic field, Solomon believes Sanders “is qualitatively way ahead” of them all.
“The Bernie Sanders 2020 campaign offers us a much deeper and more sweeping vision of a humanistic society, in which great wealth and huge corporations will not only be strictly regulated — they’ll also be compelled to serve the common good instead of the drive to maximize profits,” Solomon said. “Whether the goal is Medicare for All, truly progressive taxation, tuition-free public college or absolute dedication to environmental protection, Bernie has been there first — and, by far, he remains the clearest, most authentic and most trustworthy candidate. For progressives, he’s the real deal, not someone trying on progressive garb because of current political fashion.”
Will it be easy? Not even close, Solomon acknowledged.
“Hold onto your hat,” he warned. “The anti-Bernie mass media onslaught will become gale force. The only way to overcome that manifestation of corporate power will be via people power.”