Despite my disagreement with his politics, I genuinely respect Bernie Sanders. The man is a true maverick, and he delivered a much-needed challenge to the Clinton democratic orthodoxy in 2016.
Sanders' 2019 campaign also widened the Overton window and embraced a label that, for the longest time in American politics, had its use solely as a scare word: socialist.
Still, I don’t believe he should be running for president in 2020.
One undeniable fact of the matter is that Sanders is old. He will be 79 by Election Day in 2020. The job he’s campaigning for is so stressful that the people who hold it often come out looking decades older than they did at the beginning. For a man of Sanders' age, such extreme stress is should be avoided at all costs.
Stress can exacerbate the cognitive decline associated with advanced age and can hasten the development of Alzheimer’s, for instance. That risk must be considered when evaluating a potential Sanders presidency. Just as we don’t allow the very young to run for president, it might be wise to restrict those above a certain age too.
In addition to concerns about his advanced age, there also doesn’t seem to be much of a point in a second run for Sanders. In a sense, he’s served his purpose. I see Sanders and his 2016 campaign as analogous to the Ron Paul campaign of 2012. Like the ill-fated Republican, Sanders entered the 2016 race with a set of cardinal principles on which he refused to compromise even when it would've been politically advantageous to do so.
Rather than march in lockstep with his party’s establishment wing, Sanders strove to reorient the democratic mindset, just as Paul attempted to do in the GOP. As Paul introduced libertarianism to a wider audience, Sanders helped to make it OK to identify as a democratic socialist in America, an identity that is becoming increasingly popular.
While Paul was ultimately only able to inspire a fleeting, ephemeral libertarian moment, it seems like Sanders-style socialism might become the new face of the Democratic Party. While other democrats may not self-apply the socialist label, the embrace of single-payer health care and the Green New Deal shows that Sanders has won.
Instead of actively running for office himself, Sanders should take on the role of mentor to the new batch of young democratic socialists and try to steer the direction of the Democratic Party instead of lead it himself.
The presidency isn’t a place for a man as old as him, but it doesn’t really matter. The Democratic Party is the party of Sanders now, and may continue to move in a more socialist direction regardless.