Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is expected to announce today that he is running for the Democratic nominee for president, becoming the first official challenger to Hillary Clinton.
Sanders has said he intends to challenge the wealthy who have gained power in the country. “Are we prepared to take on the enormous economic and political power of the billionaire class, or do we continue to slide into economic and political oligarchy?” he said on his website.
Though he isn’t likely to win the party’s nomination — he currently trails Clinton by 55.1 percentage points in polls — his presence in the campaign field will shift the debate left on a number of issues, from the economy to the environment. Here are a few ways Sanders could shape Clinton’s campaign:
One of the central components of self-described “socialist” Sanders’ campaign will be addressing the same economic problems that Clinton has recently vowed to prioritize. According to Vermont Public Radio, his message will be that the middle class has been decimated in the past two decades. “This country faces enormous problems,” he said on MSNBC. “Our middle class is disappearing. We have more people living in poverty than almost any time in the history of America.”
To show how far he is willing to go to fight inequality, Sanders held a nine-hour Senator filibuster in 2010 to protest a tax-cut extension for the wealthy. The speech turned into a book and made the senator an icon for liberal economic policy reform.
But when asked in January what he has heard from Clinton on income inequality, Sanders said “not much.”
Sanders is opposed to all trade deals including the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership, which the Obama administration plans to complete by the end of the year. He has called it “disastrous” and that it is “designed to protect the interests of the largest multi-national corporations at the expense of workers, consumers, the environment and the foundations of American democracy.”
Clinton has remained noncommittal when speaking about the TPP, but groups on both sides have been urging her to take a stance. Sanders has also pressured her to state a position, telling CNN that “it’s not a very difficult choice.”
“Are you on the side of working people who would suffer as a result of this disastrous trade agreement, and seeing their jobs go to China or Mexico, or are you on the side of corporate America and pharmaceuticals?” he said in the interview.
Sanders has said he is one of the leaders in trying to oppose the Keystone XL pipeline and has spoken out about the potentially disastrous environmental effects. Last year, he told CNN that “the idea that we would give a green light for the transportation of 800,000 barrels of some of the dirtiest oils all over the world makes no sense to me.”
While Sanders has been outspoken on the issue, Clinton has not yet detailed her position on the construction of the pipeline, a move that has been criticized by both liberals and conservatives. The issue is complicated for the former secretary of state, who served in the State Department when the agency was determining what to recommend with regards to the pipeline.
Sander stands further to the left than Clinton on health care and has criticized the United States’ lack of a national health system. “In every major country on Earth, health care is a right of all people,” he said during a Senate hearing. He has introduced legislation to provide health care through a Medicare-for-all, single-payer system, and while he supports the Affordable Care Act, he said in 2010 that it’s “only a modest step forward toward dealing with the dysfunction of the American health-care system.”
Sanders has made social security a central issue during his political career. He recently introduced legislation which would expand Social Security — which he calls the “most successful government program in our nation’s history” — by eliminating the cap on the payroll tax on all income above $250,000.
Clinton has criticized Republicans like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie for messing with Social Security. “I think there will be some big political arguments about Social Security,” she said during her first trip to New Hampshire. With Sanders entering the field as a candidate who is outspoken about the issue, those conversations may move to the left.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) insists she does not plan on running for president, so Sanders will likely be the most prominent Democratic challenger to take on Clinton’s ties to Wall Street. Some of Clinton’s longtime supporters work on Wall Street and would pull their contributions if she were to speak out against them.
“I believe we’ve got to break up these giant banks,” Sanders said in an interview. “They’re just too powerful. Where does Hillary Clinton stand on that?”