Can America Still Feel The Bern?

We all probably remember November 8, 2016. The day Donald Trump was elected President of the United States. It was an highly emotional election for many of us, and the next one is inching closer by the minute. One of the most notable players in the 2016 election was self-proclaimed democratic socialist, Bernie Sanders. Just over a week ago, he declared his 2020 presidential campaign. Does he still have a chance? Is the Bern still there?

There are plenty of advantages that come with the name recognition Sanders gained in 2016. He already has an existing base of passionate supporters, which will come in handy in such a crowded Democratic field. Within 24 hours after he announced his 2020 run for President, he received almost $6 million in individual donations. The impressive grassroots movement he established years ago gives him a head start in garnering support for the next election. If he is able to maintain momentum through 2020, Sanders will no doubt be a powerful contender.

In 2016, his platform was extremely influential, despite his loss in the primary. It brought many major leftist issues to the forefront of American politics, like universal healthcare and free college education. Unfortunately, his influence might actually be a weakness. Other Democratic candidates have adopted his positions on many issues. This makes it much harder for Sanders to stand out among a field of similarly-aligned politicians. Unless he comes out with new ways to differentiate himself from the others, it might prove difficult for him to convince voters to side with him over new faces. The fact that he is a well-known name could help him, though, especially with voters who aren’t willing to thoroughly research all the candidates. If people know they will vote liberal, they might vote for Sanders in the primary just because his platform is already so familiar to them.

Another major weakness is Sanders’ lack of solid support from voters of color. In his interview with Vermont Public Radio, he said, “We have got to look at candidates, you know, not by the color of their skin, not by their sexual orientation or their gender and not by their age." This was a misstep on his part and a weak attempt to assure voters that he could listen to minority voices. Sanders doesn’t quite seem to understand how important representation in politics is. When he is running against women and people of color like Kamala Harris who have more firsthand experience with sexism and racism, Sanders might be overlooked in favor of someone who is more capable of truly understanding the issues many voters are passionate about. At the end of the day, he is still an old, straight, white man, albeit a progressive one. It’s true he shouldn’t be discredited just because of his demographic. But, it is still important to note that he simply cannot relate to the struggles other Americans go through, and they might be tempted to vote for someone who can.

If he wants to win, Bernie Sanders definitely has a chance. However, he cannot take a victory for granted. Sanders’ supporters from 2016 might feel a sense of loyalty to him, but he still must work hard to persuade them to stay by his side when there may be other tempting options. When the time comes, Sanders and his team must commit to mobilizing his younger supporter base to actually go to the polls and vote. He is undoubtedly an important voice in the political sphere. Whether this is enough to secure a victory is still up in the air.