Bernie Sanders‘ brain trust gathered for a retreat in Vermont over the weekend. In attendance were some of his biggest supporters, including big names from Hollywood, as well as staff and volunteers from his run for the presidency in 2016.
The group discussed the top progressive ideas, but many attendees also spoke openly about a Sanders 2020 White House bid as if it was a foregone conclusion.
“This time, he starts off as a front-runner, or one of the front-runners,” Sanders’ 2016 campaign manager John Weaver told The Associated Press. Weaver also pointed out his former boss’s proven ability to generate massive amounts of money through small-dollar donations, and his large existing network of staff and volunteers.
Weaver then added: “It’ll be a much bigger campaign if he runs again, in terms of the size of the operation.”
Bernie Sanders is no longer an insurgent underdog. And it is apparent that he has been busy in recent months laying the groundwork to launch a presidential campaign that will be much larger than his first one.
Reportedly the Vermont senator’s final decision has not yet been made. But in talking to those closest to the 77-year-old “democratic socialist” it is apparent that his age won’t hold him back. He also is not daunted by the large number of other progressive presidential candidates who may join the field in 2020.
His advisers say that he would begin the 2020 Democratic presidential primary season as a frontrunner and also as a political powerhouse. And apparently nothing will stop him from taking a second shot at the presidency.
The weekend group of his celebrity supporters, former campaign staff and progressive policy leaders was full of optimism and enthusiasm. Some of them, however, are still taking a “wait and see” approach as they assess the prospective 2020 Democratic field. Because there may be several prominent progressive leaders running, the contrast to Sanders will not be as great as it was with the establishment candidate Hillary Clinton in 2016.
All three of these senators have strongly embraced Sanders’ progressive agenda, such as “Medicare for All” and a $15 minimum wage.
Hollywood actor Danny Glover would not yet commit to a second Sanders’ candidacy when asked, even though he had campaigned alongside Sanders in 2016.
“I don’t know what 2020 looks like right now,” Glover said. “I’m going to support who I feel to be the most progressive choice.”
Another prominent Sanders supporter, Cornel West, said the Vermont senator is “the most consistently progressive one out there.” He said that some would-be 2020 candidates have spoken about supporting Sanders’ ideas, but have not given up their ties to Wall Street and “militarism.”
Sanders’ wife Jane O’Meara Sanders said although many Democrats are now embracing Sanders’ “bold progressive ideas” on health care and the economy, they need to go further on other important issues such as climate change, affordable housing and student debt.
She also said her husband has not yet made definite plans to run again in 2020. Then she added that one big question would guide their decision: “Who can beat Donald Trump?”
“That has to be the primary goal. To win. We think you win by a very strong progressive commitment,” she told AP. When asked if Sanders could win in 2020, she said “every single poll” showed that Sanders would have beaten Donald Trump two years ago.
2016 campaign manager Weaver also said that the senator would step aside if he believes another candidate has a better shot at denying Trump a second term. But he also said that Sanders and those closest to him do not have that belief.
O’Meara Sanders made clear that the demands of a presidential campaign don’t bother her.
“It was extremely inspiring meeting all the people all over the country,” she said of the 2016 campaign. “And what might be difficult for me is not as important as what might be difficult for them and whether or not we can help them with those difficulties.”
“It’s not about us,” O’Meara Sanders concluded. “It’s about what’s right for the country.”
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.