Three years after losing the Democratic nomination to Hillary Clinton, \Sanders’ progressive ideas have increasingly become part of the Democratic mainstream. Here's a refresher on where he stands on key issues and what challenges he faces this time around.

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Sen. Bernie Sanders may have been the runner-up in the last Democratic primary, but by the time he gave Hillary Clinton his endorsement in July 2016, he had garnered the fervent support of millions. With messages about income inequality and proposals like universal health care, free public college and a higher minimum wage, Sanders sought what he framed as a transformation of the Democratic Party — a platform that many voters enthusiastically rallied around.

Three years later, many of Sanders’ progressive ideas have increasingly become part of the Democratic mainstream, with other candidates echoing them during the race for the party’s 2020 presidential nomination. Now that Sanders has announced that he will run for it again, here is a refresher on where he stands on key issues and what challenges he faces this time around.

The economy

Perhaps the most indelible rhetoric offered by Sanders has been his continued insistence that Wall Street and billionaires have “rigged” the system such that wealth and income flow to the country’s richest and most powerful people. The result of this rigging, he argues, is a continuing decline of the middle class and a growing gap between the rich and everyone else.

To combat these forces, Sanders has introduced legislation that would increase the number of wealthy Americans subject to the estate tax; called for raising the national minimum wage to $15 an hour (while criticizing companies like Amazon for paying its workers too little); and asked for a $1 trillion infrastructure investment that would create jobs.

Sanders has also repeatedly railed against the political campaign finance system, which he contends is controlled by wealthy people and special interest groups that can contribute unlimited amounts of money to campaigns. He rejected corporate political action committee money when he sought the Democratic nomination in 2016 — a practice that caught on among Democrats in the 2018 midterms — and is well positioned to again raise funds via small-donation contributors. The New York Times has reported that he would begin his 2020 presidential bid with 2.1 million online donors, a huge lead on his competitors.

Health care

Sanders, now in his third term representing Vermont in the Senate, drafted a Medicare-for-all bill in 2017 that has since been endorsed by several other Democratic senators, including the presidential candidates Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Kamala Harris of California and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

“Medicare for all” has become a rallying cry for progressive Democrats, though it means different things to different people, and exactly which version candidates embrace has become something of an early policy test.

Supporters generally agree that it is a way to achieve universal coverage with a system of national health insurance in which a single public program would pay most of the bills, but care would still be delivered by private doctors and hospitals. Such a single-payer, government-run health plan would increase federal spending by at least $2.5 trillion a year, according to several estimates.

The environment

This month, liberal Democrats formally proposed a Green New Deal with a sweeping resolution that addresses climate change by calling for the United States to eliminate additional emissions of carbon by 2030.

The measure, drafted by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Sen. Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts, was co-sponsored by Sanders as well as Gillibrand and Booker.


One set of proposals Sanders presented in 2016 that drew widespread attention was the idea of making public colleges and universities tuition-free and significantly lowering student loan interest rates. He continued to highlight the cost of higher education in the months after the 2016 campaign.

A victim of his own success

As some of Sanders’ supporters have pointed out, the 2020 Democratic primary landscape looks far different from the one in 2016. This time, Sanders, an independent, will not be the only progressive opponent facing an establishment-backed front-runner. Instead, the 2020 Democratic primary field is already crowded with candidates, some who are newer to the national political scene than he is, and some who have embraced the very policies he championed in 2016.

As The Times reported in December, Sanders is struggling to retain the support he garnered two years ago, when he was far less of a political star than he is today. His supporters have conceded that in some ways, Sanders is a victim of his own success.

“Ironically, Bernie’s agenda for working families will be the Democratic Party’s message in 2020, but he may not be the one leading the parade,” Bill Press, a talk show host who supported Sanders in 2016, said last year.

Recent turmoil

Sanders has also had a weak track record with black voters — a vital base in the Democratic Party — which could be a potential threat to his candidacy. On Sunday, The Times reported that interviews with nearly two dozen current and former advisers and staff members revealed an uneven commitment on the part of Sanders and his top advisers to organize and communicate effectively with black voters and leaders during his 2016 campaign.

And this year, Sanders is already dealing with another problem involving his 2016 staff: allegations from women who say they were mistreated or harassed during the campaign. Last month, after The Times published an investigation into complaints by female staff members, Sanders publicly apologized and later met with former staff members in an effort to calm the unrest.