Bernie Sanders, from gadfly to serious White House contender

New York

ONCE dismissed by many as a fringe candidate with wacky socialist ideas, Bernie Sanders campaigned to the brink of the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016 and has now set his sights on the White House once again.

Mr Sanders, a 77-year-old US Senator from Vermont, announced on Tuesday that he will join an already crowded field of candidates seeking to challenge President Donald Trump in 2020."I wanted to let the people of the state of Vermont know about this first," Mr Sanders said on Vermont Public Radio.

He called Mr Trump a national embarrassment and a pathological liar."I also think he is a racist, a sexist, a homophobe, a xenophobe, somebody who is gaining cheap political points by trying to pick on minorities, often undocumented immigrants," Mr Sanders said.

Like Mr Trump, Mr Sanders was an outsider when the 2016 presidential primaries began, little known to the public at large and initially not given much of a chance against the Hillary Clinton machine.

But he came close to pulling off the upset and ended up winning 23 primaries or caucuses against the better-funded Mrs Clinton.

Mr Sanders galvanised a broad coalition with his anti-Wall Street rhetoric and talk of a "political revolution". Though the oldest candidate in the field, Mr Sanders garnered passionate support among young liberals with his calls for universal health care, a US$15 minimum wage and free public university education.

He made the fight against income inequality, which he has called the greatest moral, economic and political issue of our times, the centrepiece of his insurgent campaign.

Years later, Mr Sanders' policies remain the same but much has changed on the political landscape.

Mr Trump won the election and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a young congresswoman from New York, is a rising Democratic star, embracing many of the positions held by Mr Sanders.

"We have had more success in ideologically changing the party than I would have dreamed possible," Mr Sanders said in an interview with GQ magazine. "The world has changed."

While Mr Sanders remains popular among many Democrats, some in the party are questioning whether their champion this time around should be a septuagenarian white man.

Mr Sanders claims that he does not have a burning desire to occupy the White House and that the priority is defeating Mr Trump. "If there's somebody else who appears who can, for whatever reason, do a better job than me, I'll work my ass off to elect him or her," he told New York magazine. AFP

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