Sen. Bernie Sanders has a reputation for breaking from the norm as an independent senator, so naturally this week will be no different. Sanders will deliver a State of the Union response separate from the Democratic Party's for a second year in a row, his office announced Monday. Sanders also informed supporters in an email that he'd be addressing the nation immediately after Trump's message concludes.
Beyond the fact that his response will be streamed on Facebook live, YouTube, and Twitter, the Vermont senator's office didn't explain why he wanted to give his own speech or what issues he plans to address. However, The Hill reports that in an email to supporters, Sanders asserted that Trump certainly won't "be apologizing for the many lies he told American voters" or address "the role that he has played in significantly lowering the respect that people all over the planet have for the United States."
Democratic leaders announced last week that Massachusetts Rep. Joe Kennedy III will deliver the party's official response following President Trump's first State of the Union address Tuesday night. California Rep. Maxine Waters also announced her own response, adding to an ever-growing list of Democratic speeches that also includes Virginia state delegate Elizabeth Guzman's Spanish-language response.
Congress has officially organized a response to the president's State of the Union address since 1966. Keeping with tradition, Republicans chose someone to deliver a rebuttal to President Obama's annual speeches for the last seven years (president don't give official SOTU addresses their first year in office). However, Sanders started his own tradition last year of giving his own personal response to a Trump speech.
In the wake of his own 2016 presidential election defeat and Trump's first address to a joint session of Congress, the Vermont senator pointed out in a 14-minute video that Trump didn't mention social security, voter suppression, wealth inequality, or climate change once his message. He also urged the resistance to "continue the fight" to challenge the Trump administration's policies. Sanders' email to supporters Monday suggested this year's response will follow a similar trajectory of criticizing what the president didn't say before touching on what he did tell the nation.
As the longest serving independent member of Congress in history, it makes sense that Sanders wants to offer an alternative to the Democratic Party's rebuttal. The senator ran for president as a Democrat, but continuously pushed the party further to the left and disagreed with the Democratic establishment on issues ranging from minimum wage to the North American Free Trade Agreement.
He's also reportedly considering another bid for president in 2020. The Hill reported last summer that Sanders would run against Trump in 2020 to keep former Vice President Joe Biden from claiming the Democratic nomination, and POLITICO's Gabriel Debenedetti reported last week that Sanders met with a team of advisers to discuss another presidential campaign.
The Democratic socialist's response to the series of presentations, according to multiple Democrats: I haven't yet made a decision about 2020, but I still think beating Donald Trump is the most important thing for this country. And I want to be ready if I do decide to run.
If rumors that Sanders still wants to chase the White House are true, giving his own speech would help him maintain his reputation as a progressive leader in Washington who's not afraid to take on the establishment.
Trump's State of the Union message will be streamed live on the White House's official YouTube channel Tuesday at roughly 9 p.m. ET. Sanders will soon follow with his own response via his social media accounts.