Sydney Ember

c.2019 New York Times News Service

Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent and 2016 Democratic primary runner-up whose populist agenda has helped push the party to the left, embarked Tuesday on a second run for president, in a bid that will test whether he retains his anti-establishment appeal or loses ground to newer faces who have adopted many of his ideas.

A professed democratic socialist whose calls for “Medicare for all,” a $15 minimum wage and tuition-free public colleges have become pillars of the party’s left wing, Sanders joins the race at a time when Republicans are trying to define the Democratic field and its ideas as out of the political mainstream. In Sanders, who has not joined the Democratic Party, Republicans have an easy target to try to make the face of the opposition.

But Sanders, 77, starts with stronger support from small-dollar donors and liberal voters than most other candidates. And he is among the best-known Democrats in a crowded field, as well as one of the most outspoken against President Donald Trump, whom he has called a “pathological liar” and a “racist.”

“During our 2016 campaign, when we brought forth our progressive agenda, we were told that our ideas were ‘radical’ and ‘extreme,’” Sanders said Tuesday in an email to supporters. “Three years have come and gone. And, as result of millions of Americans standing up and fighting back, all of these policies and more are now supported by a majority of Americans.”

This time around, Sanders, enters the race at a far different electoral moment. Much of his populist agenda has been embraced by other Democrats, at a time when many voters are eager to elevate female and nonwhite standard-bearers. He will no longer have the Clinton dynasty as a foil; instead, his competition will include progressives like Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who has supported many of the same economic positions for years.

And he will face far more scrutiny than three years ago, when much of the news media and political class treated him as more of an outlier than as a genuine challenger for the nomination. Already, he has had to quell the unease about his campaign’s treatment of women that has been disclosed in recent weeks and prompted two public apologies.