The 2020 Democratic Nomination process is likely to be packed with eager candidates, tenured and newcomers, hoping to capture the energy of progressives, post-Trump. While most of the potential candidates will likely face uphill battles clamoring for support in first-election states like Iowa and New Hampshire and trying to appeal to the more diverse ones like South Carolina and Nevada, one candidate is a clear head and shoulders above the rest: Vermont US Senator Bernie Sanders.
During the 2016 Democratic Primary process it was widely assumed that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would glide to the nomination. She was (at the time) the only notable candidate willing to throw her hat in the ring. And along with heavy support from former President Barack Obama and well over 400 "super delegates" it seemed as sure a thing as football on Sundays.
But Hillary Clinton's politics and policies were predictably cookie cutter and safe. Considering there was nobody to challenge her, she had no reason to put forth a bold progressive agenda. The secretary and former Senator made her nest in the dead center of the political spectrum with calls for "pragmatism" and a rejection for "pie in the sky" cries for significant change. Clinton's failure to adhere to a hard left platform left the door wide open for a candidate to wake the sleeping bear that was unapologetic progressivism – the forgotten heart of the Democratic Party. This is precisely what Senator Sanders did.
Heavily favored by the younger voters by nearly an 80-20 margin, Sanders single handedly grew a grassroots campaign in stark contrast to Clinton's mega donor behemoth of Super PACs and closed-door billionaire fund-raisers. En route to a near colossal upset, Sanders managed to capture an impressive 46% of the popular vote along with outright victories in 23 states. If it we're not for the massive gap of recognizability between Secretary Clinton and Senator Sanders it's likely he would have won the nomination. But with the utter collapse of the Clinton campaign as a loss to Donald Trump, the door for a progressive 2020 Democratic candidate has been re-framed and Sanders will likely be the first one through it.
Sanders not only mounted a fierce "David and Goliath" campaign in 2016, but he has built upon it well after the campaign ended. Sanders has been at the forefront of the battle against Republican attempts to strip health care away whilst he continues pushing for a single payer Medicare-for-all platform. Sanders influence has even reached the pillars of Democratic Party leaders such as Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer conceding that single payer is on the table.
And Sanders is not simply pushing these progressive policies without any public support. The Senator from Vermont currently holds claim as the most popular politician in the country by a fairly wide margin. His approval rating among Democratic voters alone is astonishing.
However, there has been pushback within the Democratic establishment against a Sanders candidacy and more "party friendly" options have been rumored as challengers. For example, former President Barack Obama has been urging former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick to dive in to the 2020 Democratic Primary. Current US Senator from California and former State Attorney General Kamala Harris is another, and generally the most expected candidate to run. But Harris is a far cry from the progressive firebrand that Sanders has become. For example, she failed to prosecute Steven Mnuchin's OneWest Bank for foreclosure violations back in 2013 as Attorney General and furthermore failed to explain why. Just a few days ago Harris was also seen being hosted by major Democratic mega donors in the Hamptons, signaling a push to run for the presidency backed by dirty money and the wealthy elite.
The quality of candidates that the Democratic Party is attempting to put forth are a far cry from the standards of the millions of progressives across the country demanding real change. And the act of uniting against Donald Trump alone is not going to win votes. To this point there is only one potential candidate with the ability to ignite the Democratic base and with his newfound fame and popularity, engage millions of voters to volunteer, donate, and most importantly vote. Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton because there was no real message and no progressive fire within the campaign. The best medicine for conservative demagoguery will always be progressive populism.
If Senator Sanders chooses to run in 2020 he will jump out of the gate as the strongest horse in the race and likely cruise through the primary, whilst maintaining his respect and hunger for every single vote as if this was 2016 all over again. And that's precisely why the public loves the Vermont Senator. In contrast to Clinton's primary campaign in which many felt as though she just expected the votes, no matter what the polls said, what the pundits talked about, or what the establishment desired; Sanders speaks unapologetically about the issues effecting millions of Americans and earns their vote well after voting minds have been made up.
To defeat Donald Trump in 2020, following the same model from 2016 where a moderate, unexciting, uninspiring candidate yells "he's worse!" is simply not going to cut it for the American people. They demand bold, progressive change: a living minimum wage, an infrastructure investment, tuition free college, and last but not least, an aggressive action against climate change. Having a platform to believe in is what wins voters. And should Senator Bernie Sanders decide to take one more shot at the Democratic nomination, that's precisely what he will have.