By Jamelle Bouie
Feb. 21, 2019, 24c
Image Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont leaving a news conference after the final Yemen Resolution vote in December.
Credit Sarah Silbiger/The New York Times
Bernie Sanders’s most prominent message is economic, organized around a critique of capitalist inequality, an indictment of the ultrawealthy and a call for expansive new social programs. It helped propel him to a strong second in the 2016 Democratic primary campaign and has returned as the marquee message for his 2020 campaign, which he announced on Tuesday with a promise to “complete the revolution.”
Unfortunately for his 2020 campaign, Sanders is less distinct on economic policy than he was in 2016. His rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination have either embraced broad ideas like Medicare for all or unveiled their own: Elizabeth Warren’s universal child care proposal; Cory Booker’s plan to drastically reduce housing costs; Kamala Harris’s LIFT Act, which would build on the earned-income tax credit and create a new monthly cash payment for most middle-class households.
But Sanders isn’t without an advantage. If in 2016 his foreign-policy thinking was underbaked, then in 2019 he stands as one of the few candidates with a fully formed vision for American foreign policy. It’s one that ties his domestic focus on political and economic justice to a larger project of international cooperation and solidarity, anti-authoritarianism and promotion of democratic values. It’s a vision that rests on the conviction that progressive politics must continue past the water’s edge.
Sanders articulated the substance of his foreign policy views in two speeches: one in 2017 at Missouri’s Westminster College — speaking from the stage where Winston Churchill delivered his “Iron Curtain” speech — and one last October at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.