US Senator Bernie Sanders has launched a 2020 presidential campaign that’s expected to connect his working-class childhood to his populist political views that have reshaped America’s Democratic Party.
Senator Sanders, a Vermont independent and the runner-up in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary, on Saturday spoke to a crowd of thousands who came out in the snow and freezing temperatures to see him at Brooklyn College in New York City, which he attended for a time.
Mr Sanders launched his 2016 campaign from Vermont, the bucolic state that he has represented in the Senate for nearly two decades. But this time around, seeking to showcase more of his personal story, Mr Sanders made his first stop Brooklyn, where he grew up as the son of a Jewish immigrant and lived in a rent-controlled apartment.
Amid his calls for “Medicare-for-all,” a US $15-an-hour minimum wage and addressing climate change, Mr Sanders discussed his working-class roots and how his family’s financial struggles have shaped his populist political views.
In those reflections is an implicit contrast to another New Yorker, President Donald Trump, a billionaire who hails from Queens.
Mr Sanders has been among the most vocal critics of Mr Trump, calling him, a racist, a sexist and a xenophobe.
At the exact same time as Mr Sanders was hosting his Brooklyn rally, Mr Trump spoke at CPAC (the Conservative Political Action Conference) in Washington.
After Brooklyn, Mr Sanders will travel to Selma, Alabama, where he will be among the politicians commemorating the anniversary of the 1965 clash known as Bloody Sunday, when peaceful demonstrators were beaten back by Alabama state troopers as they attempted to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge. He’ll hold his second campaign rally in Chicago, where he attended the University of Chicago and was involved in civil rights protests.
Mr Sanders had previously frustrated some aides and supporters with his reticence to share more of his personal story. But at the pair of weekend rallies, Sanders’ aim is to shed light on how his childhood and his activism have informed the policies and ideas he’s championed.
Mr Sanders joins the presidential race not as an outlier as he was in his campaign against Hillary Clinton but as one of the best-known candidates in a crowded field of Democrats. He also has a strong base of small-dollar donors: In the first week of his campaign, Sanders raised US$10 million, far outpacing his rivals.
The political moment that he faces in his second bid, however, is far different than when he ran four years ago.
A number of the liberal positions that Sanders has championed, in some cases for years, have been backed by other Democrats in the field, notably Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, who is campaigning with similar populist notes.