Updated: Apr 9, 2020
Today Bernie Sanders announced that he would be dropping out of the 2020 presidential election (https://www.cnn.com/2020/04/08/politics/bernie-sanders-drops-out/index.html?fbclid=IwAR3XFIm3xs3q4P2H54ymcotd0Xc0h5xWGDMLiStrmnbxr-ZmIHP9ylbpFow). This marks the second time that Sanders has failed to secure the Democratic nomination, having lost to Hillary Clinton in 2016 as well (albeit with some help from the DNC). With Sanders turning 79 this year, he is already older than the oldest serving president to date (Reagan was just short of 78 at the end of his presidency). With this in mind, does this mean that 2020 was Sanders' last chance at the executive office? He still has four more years with his current senate seat, so at a minimum he will still hold an elected position until 2024. It has yet to be seen if he wants to continue past that.
Sanders isn't the only candidate to run multiple times unsuccessfully. Recent memory includes current senator Mitt Romney, who ran for the Republican party in 2008 and 2012, and former senator John Edwards, who ran for the Democratic party in 2004 (for president, and later vice president alongside John Kerry) and 2008. If we look further back there are several other candidates who ran even more frequently, but with significantly less notoriety. For example, Eugene V. Debs ran in 1900 for the Socialist Democratic Party, and in 1904, 1908, 1912, and 1920 for the Socialist Party. Most notably, Harold Stassen ran for the Republican nomination in 1944, 1948, 1952, 1964, 1968, 1980, 1984, 1988, and 1992 (the closest time coming in 1952).
The two candidates who have had the greatest impact on American history despite multiple presidential defeats are Henry Clay and William Jennings Bryan. Clay served as a member of both the House and Senate, earning the position of Speaker six times. During his time in Congress he helped pass the Missouri Compromise and the Compromise of 1850. He also served as Secretary of State under John Quincy Adams. Bryan served as a member of the House and as Secretary of State under Woodrow Wilson. He garnered further attention in 1925 when he served as the prosecution during the infamous "Scopes Monkey Trial". Regardless of whether Sanders chooses to continue his political career past 2024, we can already see his impact on current politics as the left leans closer and closer towards progressive socialism.
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