Why Bernie Sanders Cannot and Should Not Run in 2020
By GABRIEL MORAN | July 12, 2017
With President Donald Trump sitting in the oval office for nearly the past five months and the conclusion of disappointing Congressional special elections, the Democratic party can now soul search for its direction going forward. During this past election cycle, American voters witnessed the interesting and divisive rise of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. Sanders battled Donald Trump for support in the Rust Belt states, a demographic that later propelled Trump into the White House.
Beyond the Rust Belt, Sander’s popularity among young voters was palpable at debates and rallies. His platform excited voters with the possibility of meaningful reform in the United States. With this in mind, it seems almost strategically necessary to say that Bernie Sanders should be the party’s nomination for president in 2020. However, his progressive non-establishment platform has cleaved the Democratic party into two sections and clouded its future. Centrist establishment Democrats wince at the prospect of coming to the decision table with the progressive left. If Bernie Sanders were to run in 2020 against the contemptible President Donald Trump, he would most certainly lose due to his age and progressive platform.
Chief among Democrats’ concerns is Senator Sanders’ age. Now age 75, Sanders will be 79 by the New Hampshire primary. Age is an incredibly fragile aspect of politics. To be too young leads to questions about lack of experience; this argument was employed effectively by current Congresswoman Karen Handel against her 30 year old, Democratic opponent Jon Ossoff in the Congressional race in Georgia. To be too old leads to questions of one's stamina and mental health.
These same questions loomed over President Ronald Reagan’s second term as President, as his speeches became increasingly jumbled and he became known for frequent spells of absent mindedness. As one of the oldest presidents of the United States, Ronald Reagan was assailed with accusations of suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s while in office. These sentiments were not unfounded. Ronald Reagan’s son, Ron Reagan, wrote in his book “My Father at 100” that the 40th president exhibited the tell-tale signs of Alzheimer’s three years into his first term. Furthermore, research published in The Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease by researchers from Arizona State University assert that the Reagan exhibited signs linked to the onset of Alzheimer’s in his unscripted presidential speeches. Of course, the former president would be diagnosed with Alzheimers in 1994, at the age of 82, some five years after leaving office.
For many political analysts, Reagan’s presidency strongly hinted towards the disqualifying age for a president. Had Senator Sanders been elected as President during this last election cycle, he would have become the oldest president in the nation’s history.
If Senator Sanders runs in 2020, his age, not his platform, would be the subject of debate. The likely Republican challenger, President Donald Trump, clearly has no restraint when it comes to such questions, as exhibited by his many attacks on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s stamina during the 2016 presidential race. In fact, his fondness for attaching colorful monikers to his opponents even reached Senator Sanders, whom the president called, “Crazy Old Bernie.”
With fickle voters, the question of age would too likely be the seed of doubt that prevents many from voting for Senator Sanders. All it would take would be one missed rally or voter event to sear this notion into the American voter’s psyche. By the time we reach 2020, the world is sure to be a much more volatile and tumultuous place, and voters will be looking for a vigorous and mentally agile president.
One of the greatest and perhaps most unpredictable elements of a potential Sanders candidacy is how his progressive platform will fare in 2020. His platform champions such expensive initiatives, including 1 trillion dollars in infrastructure spending and tuition free public college education. According to Senator Sanders’ campaign website, many of these proposals would be paid for through various taxes or rearrangements of existing federal funding. Of course, the future of such proposals would hinge almost entirely on our legislative bodies, whose future is similarly uncertain. Such pricey initiatives could cause centrist and fiscally conservative voters to balk at many of the senator’s idealistic policies and, consequently, the prospect of Sanders as president.
With growing concern about the rapidly increasing national debt in the United States, it may be a hard sell to voters to support such policies and willfully continue plunging the United States into deeper debt. This is an issue that President Donald Trump certainly emphasized on the campaign trail and as president, with the roll out of his proposed budget.
Furthermore Sanders’ identification as a “socialist” has the likely potential to scare off incredibly valuable moderate voters and establishment conservative voters. The label of socialist is a political pariah in the United States. The cult of Donald Trump has certainly latched onto the conservative mainstay of small government with renewed vigor that will not have faded in the least by the time 2020 rolls around. With a candidate so closely tied with “socialism,” even if in the form of democratic socialism, such social welfare policies are easy fodder for conservatives to demonize as inane socialist falsehoods.
Another problematic issue for Sanders’ platform is his plan for the preservation and return of American manufacturing jobs. Much of his popularity in the former manufacturing hubs of the United States has been his opposition to trade deals and promise of job creation. Indeed, while these sentiments do reflect growing concern for economic inequality in the United States, such an audacious promise is frankly naive and tantamount to dishonesty to the American people. There is no way for real competitive American manufacturing jobs to come back over technological innovation, and a combination of unbridled capitalism and globalization. Senator Sanders’ platform seems to be willfully ignorant of the fact that the modern United States economy is a service-based economy. The days of the well-paying manufacturing or retail jobs are long gone.
These promises are primarily why both Senator Sanders and President Donald Trump were so popular; they addressed some form of economic inequality in the United States. However, a policy purporting to revive the American manufacturing sector to the level seen in the fifties and sixties lacks feasibility.
For all the criticism of Bernie Sanders and his platform, it would be wrong not to acknowledge how Senator Sanders has positively shaped the Democratic party. Sanders has energized many young people to take part in politics with a unique grassroots, social justice focus. Furthermore, last year, following his defeat to Clinton in the primaries, he had the opportunity to help focus the Democratic platform. Senator Sanders etched his legacy into the platform by adding such planks as the expansion of Social Security, an increase in the minimum wage, support for carbon taxes, Wall Street reform and regulation, and a pathway to the legalization of marijuana.
Sanders holds incredible sway in the future of the party. However, the prudent decision would be for him to stay out of the next presidential election. In 2020, the Democratic party will be searching for younger (or relatively younger) political figures for the country to rally behind. The most effective way that Sanders can help the party now is to make his presidential intentions known. By releasing his book “Our Revolution,” many began to speculate that it was his indirect announcement of his intentions to run in 2020. If Sanders announces that he will not run, it will help the party to focus and think more critically about who will run in 2020.