ISU Speaker: Bernie Sanders Still Sets Progressive Bar In 2020 Field | WGLT

ISU Speaker: Bernie Sanders Still Sets Progressive Bar In 2020 Field

Feb 19, 2019

A journalist with expertise in progressive politics says Bernie Sanders is a welcome addition to a crowded, predominantly centrist group of candidates seeking the 2020 Democratic nomination.

Briahna Joy Gray, columnist and senior politics editor of The Intercept, said Sanders will again “set the actual standard for the left-most candidate in the race.” The independent senator from Vermont formally entered the race Tuesday.

Many of the issues that Sanders has promoted for years—most notably a Medicare-for-all national health care plan and a $15 an hour minimum wage—have shifted from the party's fringe to its mainstream, and are now seen as effective litmus tests for presidential candidates.

"To the extent that everyone (the Democratic candidates) has kind of adopted his 2016 platform over the course of the last two years," Gray said, "he's drawing a real affirmative line in the sand in actually participating in the race, and they will actually have to substantiate more fully the extent to which they've committed to his policies now that he's there to actually defend them himself."

Gray was in Normal on Tuesday to deliver a Black History Month talk at Illinois State University, titled “The Identity Politics War: 2020 Edition.”

Appearing on GLT’s Sound Ideas, Gray said that much of the controversy over identity politics is that there so many competing definitions.

“Identity politics (is) a recognition that there are people who come from marginalized backgrounds who have non-white, non-male, non-straight identities, (and) in order to achieve equality (they) have specific concerns that are related to their identity,” she said.

She said it makes sense that those who face marginalization because of their identity would then draw attention to it, thus shedding light on issues that need to be compensated for.

Gray said she hopes her speech at ISU will show there’s “no bifurcation” between the interests of various identity groups and these new populist themes preferred by so many Americans. She noted that 80 percent of registered voters—not just Democrats—supported the Green New Deal in a recent poll.

“How do we message in a way that makes people understand that advocacy for black issues is advocacy for a lot of these universalist issues? And how can we say that in a way that doesn’t say that it’s also not relevant to highlight the extent to which economics alone isn’t enough? That you can do both and in fact must do both together to achieve anything substantial,” she said.

NPR contributed to this report.

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