There’s been widespread speculation among the left that Bernie Sanders may be eyeing a 2020 Presidential run, and debates back and forth about whether it’s a good idea. Some say he’s too old while others retort that he’s far healthier than President Trump.
Thus far, the Sanders 2020 Presidential bid speculation has been just that. The latest developments in Sanders world suggest that Bernie 2020 has moved from the speculative realm to an assured fact. Obviously a lot can happen in three years and there’s no guarantee that he actually runs, but if he’s not gearing up for a Presidential run his latest behavior makes little sense.
Touring the Country
Bernie Sanders has been travelling the country in recent months, going to all the places a Presidential candidate needs to visit. He traveled to important swing states including Arizona, Nevada, and New Hampshire on the “Unity Tour” with newly appointed DNC Chair Tom Perez.
Sanders also visited Iowa in early July, giving speeches to loyalists in a state that Clinton won by razor thin margins in the 2016 primary. This is a great political strategy for the Senator if he were to be interested in securing the Democratic nomination. As has been noted by Vox’s Matthew Yglesias, Sanders’ huge base of support and grassroots army of fundraisers would truly make him the frontrunner in 2020. Add a convincing victory in Iowa to begin the primaries, and Sanders would be set up to cruise to the nomination.
Sanders has also kept in place his nationwide campaign infrastructure, giving him a leg up on any Democrat who wants to challenge his nomination. The Senators national organization would make it all but suicidal for the DNC to tacitly oppose his nomination as they did in 2016, and DNC Chair Perez is clearly ready to promote Sanders even if he does so gritting his teeth.
Of course the media loves speculation, so they’ve been asking Sanders of his plans for 2020 at every opportunity they get. While Sanders always steers the conversation back to policy and opposing Trump, he flat out refuses to say he’s not running in 2020.
“I am not taking it off the table,” Sanders told Mark Thompson, host of popular Sirius XM talk show Make it Plain, “I just have not made any decisions. And I think it’s much too early.”
This in and of itself doesn’t mean Bernie Sanders is running. Politicians say they are running/aren’t running/aren’t ruling it out and then change their minds all of the time. That said, Sanders is clearly interested. If he wasn’t, he would unequivocally deny that he would run in 2020 and instead choose to focus on policy as a Senator. That’s the Sanders way. The blunt honesty is what endeared so many to him.
Here’s where the rubber meets the road. The Senators touring of the country and refusal to say he won’t run in 2020 are fishy, but not definitive. His behavior on the foreign policy front is.
As was well noted, Sanders was lacking on foreign policy in the 2016 election. Not that Sanders’ didn’t know what he was talking about, he just didn’t have any agenda or vision for international affairs. He was wishy washy on whether he supported Obama’s drone strikes, how the U.S. should enforce redlines, and what a good trade deal would look like. Critics correctly pointed out that while this wasn’t a death knell in the primaries, it would have been a big problem in the general election.
Last month the Senator hired Matt Duss, a respected policy expert on Middle Eastern affairs, to advise him on international affairs. Strange behavior for somebody not planning to run for President, no?
Then there’s the Senators podcast. The Bernie Sanders Show, as it’s called, has recently featured Sanders in discussions with foreign policy experts, and Sanders promotes these shows on Twitter and Facebook heavily. On Wednesday he sat down for a discussion with former Secretary of Defense William Perry. This is a notable divergence from the 2016 primary, when Sanders used social media nearly exclusively to talk about domestic policy like college education and healthcare.
Maybe the Senator has just recently gained a robust interest in foreign policy and wants the world to share in his interest on social media. At this point, the far more likely scenario is that he’s setting himself up for a Presidential run in 2020. If he does run and becomes the Democratic nominee, he’ll now have a foreign policy agenda to match his populist domestic agenda, which will make him a formidable opponent to President Donald Trump.