Sen. Bernie Sanders Launches 2020 Presidential Campaign

Mar 4, 2019
Originally published on March 5, 2019 11:15 am
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Over the weekend, Bernie Sanders launched his second presidential campaign.

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BERNIE SANDERS: This is going to be a 50-state campaign.

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SANDERS: We're not going to concede one state to Donald Trump.

INSKEEP: Unlike his last run in 2016, Sanders starts off as one of the frontrunners in a crowded Democratic primary field. He's raised more than 10 million in the early days and has signed up a million volunteers, his campaign says. He traveled over the weekend to Brooklyn, N.Y., to Chicago, Ill., to Selma, Ala. And NPR political reporter Danielle Kurtzleben followed him to a couple of those stops.

Hi there, Danielle.

DANIELLE KURTZLEBEN, BYLINE: Hey, Steve.

INSKEEP: Why that itinerary?

KURTZLEBEN: Well, there's two apparent reasons behind it. And the first is - appears to be getting at Sanders' backstory. I mean, he's really strongly associated with Vermont - right? - 'cause he's lived there since the 1960s. But what a lot of Americans might not know from his last run is that he grew up in Brooklyn. He went to college in Brooklyn, then he went to college in Chicago. Now back in his last run, he didn't really delve very deeply into this. But this time, he did.

And talking about growing up, you know, lower middle class in Brooklyn, the son of an immigrant in a rent-controlled apartment - it allowed him to put a new spin on those lines we know so well about millionaires and billionaires and inequality, to connect them to himself and really say, listen. Yes, I believe all these things; you know I believe these things. Here are the formative experiences that show why I believe these things.

INSKEEP: Did you say he didn't really discuss these things the first time around? - because presidential candidates, by definition, have to talk about themselves all day long.

KURTZLEBEN: He got into it some, but he's talking about it all in a more deep way this weekend and in a different way. And this gets at the second reason behind the schedule, and that's race. Like, one way to look at this is to look back at his announcement in Vermont in 2015, his kickoff there. Vermont is a really white state, and it showed. It was a very white group of people that introduced him - Ben and Jerry, for example. But this time, you know, he's in more diverse places, Chicago and Brooklyn. And he had much more diverse people up stumping for him and introducing him. One of them was 18-year-old activist Destiny Harris. She spoke ahead of Sanders' speech here in Chicago.

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DESTINY HARRIS: When we build movements that make bold and visionary calls, there are politicians such as Bernie who will be willing to stand on the side of justice when it comes to addressing each issue, no matter the cost.

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KURTZLEBEN: She told stories about him. He told stories from his past that reinforce this, like being arrested for protesting segregation when he lived in Chicago.

INSKEEP: OK. So the knock on Bernie Sanders is democratic socialist, has a lot of passionate supporters, maybe can't win a general election. Does he seem to have broader appeal this time?

KURTZLEBEN: Well, not only that but on top of what you just said, Steve, he did very poorly among black voters in 2016. He lost them in a big way to Hillary Clinton. Now, I did speak to an undecided voter in Brooklyn who said, yes, she thinks Sanders had problems on race as well as age in 2016 - that he was only appealing to young white voters. But she said she came out because she wants to defeat Trump, and she thinks Sanders may be able to do that. So yeah, you're right. He needs to give this unifying message, and part of that is convincing voters he can defeat Trump.

INSKEEP: OK. That's Danielle Kurtzleben. Thanks so much.

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