The frenzied, two-year countdown to the 2020 presidential election has begun amid photo ops and speculation from cable news talking heads. On the left, support is growing for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, a career progressive who has pushed for the rights of the working poor through policies such as Medicare for All and a $15-an-hour minimum wage.
“Voters trust Sanders because he has maintained the same class-struggle message for 40 years,” Ben Beckett wrote in Jacobin. “And this leads to the most important reason Sanders must run and the Left must support him: no other candidate has either the desire or the ability to polarize the country along class lines.”
“For those of us who believe in radically transformative political change, the choice is already clear – Bernie Sanders is the only viable option,” Nathan Robinson, the editor of Current Affairs, wrote in the Guardian.
Sanders’ potential competition includes establishment Democrats like Joe Biden—who has been criticized for his treatment of Anita Hill’s sexual harassment allegations against Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas during his confirmation hearings in 1991—and Sen. Kamala Harris, who defended the death penalty as California state attorney general. Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke broke a pledge not to accept campaign contributions from fossil fuel companies when he took money from oil and gas executives.
Early polls indicate Sanders has a wide support base. Among 1,015 people surveyed in a recent CNN poll, he had approval from 58 percent of non-white voters, 74 percent of people who disapproved of Trump, and 57 percent of respondents age 18 to 34. A poll by progressive PAC Democracy for America found Sanders had the majority of support at 36.14 percent among 94,163 members.
A survey of women of color in politics by advocacy group She the People placed Harris as the top 2020 candidate with 71.1 percent of support. Sanders had 12.1 percent of the respondents’ support. But only 256 women responded to the survey, and nearly half of the women surveyed were campaign donors—in other words, insiders who might not buy into Sanders’ anti-establishment message. Other women surveyed included current and former elected officials, campaign managers and women who run political organizations.
Nearly half of women who responded to the survey identified as African-American and nearly 40 percent identified as Latinx. A viral tweet by Sanders critic Clara Jeffery, editor-in-chief of the magazine named for famed labor organizer Mother Jones, incorrectly identified the survey as one only among black women.
Robinson argued that while Sanders is not flawless, myths persist throughout the Democratic Party about the demographics of his support base. Robinson wrote:
Attempts to portray Sanders as the candidate of white ‘Bernie Bros’ ignore the facts—Sanders has higher favorability ratings among people of color than any other Democratic politician. It’s obvious that he’s the party’s best shot. He has a formidable team of experienced organizers, national popularity and name recognition, and a clear, bold agenda that can win over working-class people of all genders and races.
As pundits and voters alike learned in 2016, polls, like Meyers-Briggs tests, horoscopes and tea leaf readings, only project an illusion of certainty in a chaotic world. The 2020 race is nowhere near finished.