|United States Senator
January 3, 2007
Serving with Patrick Leahy
|Preceded by||Jim Jeffords|
|Chair of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee|
January 3, 2013 – January 3, 2015
|Preceded by||Patty Murray|
|Succeeded by||Johnny Isakson|
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Vermont's at-large district
January 3, 1991 – January 3, 2007
|Preceded by||Peter Plympton Smith|
|Succeeded by||Peter Welch|
|37th Mayor of Burlington|
April 6, 1981 – April 4, 1989
|Preceded by||Gordon Paquette|
|Succeeded by||Peter Clavelle|
September 8, 1941
Brooklyn, New York City, New York, U.S.
|Political party||Independent (1979–2015; 2016–present)|
|Liberty Union (before 1979)
|Spouse(s)||Deborah Shiling (m. 1964; div. 1966)
Jane O'Meara (m. 1988)
|Relatives||Larry Sanders (brother)|
University of Chicago (BA)
Bernard "Bernie" Sanders (born September 8, 1941) is an American politician who has been the junior United States Senator from Vermont since 2007. Sanders is the longest serving independent in U.S. congressional history. Since his election to the House of Representatives in 1991, he has caucused with the Democratic Party, which has entitled him to congressional committee assignments and at times given Democrats a majority. Sanders became the ranking minority member on the Senate Budget Committee in January 2015; he had previously been chair of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee for two years. Since January 2017, he has been Chair of the Senate Democratic Outreach Committee. Sanders's campaign against Hillary Clinton for the party's 2016 U.S. presidential nomination raised more money in small, individual contributions than any other in American history, and helped him rise to international recognition. A self-described democratic socialist, Sanders is pro-labor and emphasizes reversing economic inequality. Many scholars consider his views to be more in line with social democracy and New Deal-era American progressivism than democratic socialism.
Sanders was born and raised in the Brooklyn borough of New York City and graduated from the University of Chicago in 1964. While a student he was an active protest organizer for the Congress of Racial Equality and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee during the Civil Rights Movement. After settling in Vermont in 1968, Sanders ran unsuccessful third-party campaigns for governor and U.S. senator in the early to mid-1970s. As an independent, he was elected mayor of Burlington—Vermont's most populous city of 42,417 in 2010—in 1981, by a margin of ten votes. He went on to be reelected as mayor three times. In 1990, he was elected to represent Vermont's at-large congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives, where he co-founded the Congressional Progressive Caucus in 1991. He served as a congressman for 16 years before being elected to the U.S. Senate in 2006. In 2012, he was reelected with 71% of the popular vote. Polls indicate that he is among the senators most popular with their constituents, ranking third in 2014 and first in both 2015 and 2016.
Sanders rose to national prominence following his 2010 filibuster against the Middle Class Tax Relief Act of 2010, which extended the Bush tax cuts that favored the wealthiest Americans. He has built a reputation as a leading progressive voice on issues such as campaign finance reform, corporate welfare, global warming, income inequality, LGBT rights, parental leave, and universal healthcare. Sanders has long been critical of U.S. foreign policy and was an early and outspoken opponent of the Iraq War, the First Gulf War, and U.S. support for the Contras in Nicaragua. He is also outspoken on civil liberties and civil rights, particularly criticizing racial discrimination in the criminal justice system as well as advocating for privacy rights against mass surveillance policies such as the USA PATRIOT Act and the NSA surveillance programs.
Sanders announced his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination on April 30, 2015. Initially considered a long shot, Sanders won 23 primaries and caucuses and approximately 43% of pledged delegates to Clinton's 55%. His campaign was noted for the enthusiasm of its supporters, as well as his rejection of large donations from corporations, the financial industry, and any associated Super PAC. On July 12, 2016, Sanders formally endorsed Clinton against her Republican general election opponent Donald Trump, while urging his supporters to continue the "political revolution" his campaign had begun. In November 2016, Sanders's book Our Revolution: A Future to Believe In was released; upon its release, it was on The New York Times best-seller list at number 3. In 2016 Sanders formed a political organization, Our Revolution, to educate voters about issues, get people involved in the political process, and work to organize and elect progressive candidates. In February 2017, Sanders began webcasting The Bernie Sanders Show on Facebook.
Bernard Sanders was born on September 8, 1941, in Brooklyn, New York City. His father, Elias Sanders, was born on September 14, 1904, in Słopnice, Poland (then the Austro-Hungarian province of Galicia), to a Jewish family; in 1921, the 17-year-old Elias immigrated to the United States, where he became a paint salesman. His mother, Dorothy Sanders (née Glassberg), was born in New York City on October 2, 1912, to Jewish immigrant parents from Poland and Russia. Many of Elias's relatives back in German-occupied Poland were killed in the Holocaust.
Sanders became interested in politics at an early age: "A guy named Adolf Hitler won an election in 1932. He won an election, and 50 million people died as a result of that election in World War II, including 6 million Jews. So what I learned as a little kid is that politics is, in fact, very important."[nb 1]
Sanders lived on East 26th Street in Midwood, Brooklyn. He attended elementary school at P.S. 197 in Brooklyn, where he won a borough championship on the basketball team. He attended Hebrew school in the afternoons, and celebrated his bar mitzvah in 1954. Sanders's older brother, Larry, said that during their childhood, the family never lacked for food or clothing, but major purchases, "like curtains or a rug," were difficult to afford.
Sanders attended James Madison High School, also in Brooklyn, where he was captain of the track team and took third place in the New York City indoor one-mile race. In high school, Sanders lost his first election, finishing last out of three candidates for the student body presidency. Not long after his high school graduation, his mother died at the age of 46; his father died a few years later on August 4, 1962, at the age of 57.
Sanders studied at Brooklyn College for a year in 1959–60 before transferring to the University of Chicago and graduating with a bachelor of arts degree in political science in 1964. He has described himself as a mediocre college student because the classroom was "boring and irrelevant," while the community provided his most significant learning.
While at the University of Chicago, Sanders joined the Young People's Socialist League (the youth affiliate of the Socialist Party of America), and was active in the Civil Rights Movement as a student organizer for the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Under Sanders's chairmanship, the university chapter of CORE merged with the university chapter of SNCC. In January 1962, Sanders led a rally at the University of Chicago administration building to protest university president George Wells Beadle's segregated campus housing policy. "We feel it is an intolerable situation when Negro and white students of the university cannot live together in university-owned apartments," Sanders said at the protest. Sanders and 32 other students then entered the building and camped outside the president's office, performing the first civil rights sit-in in Chicago history. After weeks of sit-ins, Beadle and the university formed a commission to investigate discrimination. Joan Mahoney, a member of the University of Chicago CORE chapter at the time and a fellow participant in the sit-ins, described Sanders in a 2016 interview as "...a swell guy, a nice Jewish boy from Brooklyn, but he wasn't terribly charismatic. One of his strengths, though, was his ability to work with a wide group of people, even those he didn't agree with". Sanders once spent a day putting up fliers protesting against police brutality, only to eventually notice that a Chicago police car was shadowing him and taking them all down.
Sanders attended the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, where Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his "I Have a Dream" speech. That summer, he was convicted of resisting arrest during a demonstration against segregation in Chicago's public schools and was fined $25.
In addition to his civil rights activism during the 1960s and 1970s, Sanders was active in several peace and antiwar movements. He was a member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and the Student Peace Union while attending the University of Chicago. Sanders applied for conscientious objector status during the Vietnam War; his application was eventually turned down, by which point he was too old to be drafted. Although he opposed the war, Sanders never criticized those who fought and has been a strong supporter of veterans' benefits. Sanders also worked on the reelection campaign of Leon Despres, a prominent Chicago alderman who was opposed to mayor Richard J. Daley's Democratic Party machine. During his student years he also read a variety of American and European political authors, from Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and John Dewey to Karl Marx and Erich Fromm.
After graduating from college, Sanders returned to New York City, where he initially worked at a variety of jobs, including Head Start teacher, psychiatric aide, and carpenter. In 1968, Sanders moved to Vermont because he had been "captivated by rural life." After his arrival there he worked as a carpenter, filmmaker, and writer who created and sold "radical film strips" and other educational materials to schools. He also wrote several articles for the alternative publication The Vermont Freeman.
Liberty Union campaigns
Sanders began his electoral political career in 1971 as a member of the Liberty Union Party, which originated in the anti-war movement and the People's Party. He ran as the Liberty Union candidate for governor of Vermont in 1972 and 1976 and as a candidate for U.S. senator in 1972 and 1974. In the 1974 senatorial race, Sanders finished third (5,901 votes; 4.1%), behind 33-year-old Chittenden County State's Attorney Patrick Leahy (D, VI; 70,629 votes; 49.4%) and two-term incumbent U.S. Representative Dick Mallary (R; 66,223 votes; 46.3%).
The 1976 campaign proved to be the zenith of Liberty Union's influence, with Sanders collecting 11,000 votes for governor and the party. This forced the races for lieutenant governor and secretary of state to be decided by the state legislature when its vote total prevented either the Republican or Democratic candidates for those offices from garnering a majority of votes. The campaign drained the finances and energy of the Liberty Union, however, and in October 1977—less than a year after the conclusion of the 1976 campaign—Sanders and the Liberty Union candidate for attorney general, Nancy Kaufman, announced their retirement from the party.
Following his resignation from Liberty Union, Sanders worked as a writer and the director of the nonprofit American People's Historical Society (APHS). While with the APHS, he made a 30-minute documentary about American Socialist leader and presidential candidate Eugene V. Debs.
Mayor of Burlington
In 1980, Sanders ran for mayor of Burlington, Vermont (pop. 38,000), at the suggestion of his close friend and political confidante Richard Sugarman, a professor of religion at the University of Vermont. He was mayor for eight years, from April 6, 1981 to April 4, 1989.
The 39-year-old Sanders ran against incumbent Democratic mayor Gordon "Gordie" Paquette, a five-term mayor who had served as a member of the Burlington City Council for 13 years before that, building extensive community ties and a willingness to cooperate with Republican leaders in controlling appointments to various commissions. Republicans had found Paquette so unobjectionable that they failed to field a candidate in the March 1981 race against him, leaving Sanders as his principal opponent. Sanders's effort was further aided by the decision of the candidate of the Citizens Party, Greg Guma, to exit the race so as not to split the progressive vote. Two other candidates in the race, independents Richard Bove and Joe McGrath, proved to be essentially non-factors in the campaign, with the battle coming down to Paquette and Sanders.
Sanders castigated the pro-development incumbent as an ally of prominent shopping center developer Antonio Pomerleau, while Paquette warned of ruin for Burlington if Sanders was elected. The Sanders campaign was bolstered by a wave of optimistic volunteers as well as by a series of endorsements from university professors, social welfare agencies, and the police union. The final result came as a shock to the local political establishment, with the maverick Sanders winning by just 10 votes.
Sanders was reelected three times, defeating both Democratic and Republican candidates. He received 53% of the vote in 1983 and 55% in 1985. In his final run for mayor in 1987, Sanders defeated Paul Lafayette, a Democrat endorsed by both major parties.
In 1986, Sanders unsuccessfully challenged incumbent Governor Madeleine Kunin (D) in her run for reelection. Running as an independent, Sanders finished third with 14.4% of the vote. Kunin won with 47%, followed by Lt. Governor Peter P. Smith (R) with 38%.
After serving four two-year terms, Sanders chose not to seek reelection in 1989. He lectured in political science at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government that year and at Hamilton College in 1991.
During his mayoralty, Sanders called himself a socialist and was so described in the press. During his first term, his supporters, including the first Citizens Party City Councilor Terry Bouricius, formed the Progressive Coalition, the forerunner of the Vermont Progressive Party. The Progressives never held more than six seats on the 13-member city council, but they had enough to keep the council from overriding Sanders's vetoes. Under Sanders, Burlington became the first city in the country to fund community-trust housing.
During the 1980s, Sanders was a staunch critic of U.S. foreign policy in Latin America. In 1985, Burlington City Hall hosted a foreign policy speech by Noam Chomsky. In his introduction, Sanders praised Chomsky as "a very vocal and important voice in the wilderness of intellectual life in America" and said he was "delighted to welcome a person who I think we're all very proud of."
Sanders's administration balanced the city budget and drew a minor league baseball team, the Vermont Reds, then the Double-A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds, to Burlington. Under his leadership, Burlington sued the local television cable franchise, winning reduced rates for customers.
As mayor, Sanders led extensive downtown revitalization projects. One of his signature achievements was the improvement of Burlington's Lake Champlain waterfront. In 1981, Sanders campaigned against the unpopular plans by Burlington developer Tony Pomerleau to convert the then-industrial waterfront property owned by the Central Vermont Railway into expensive condominiums, hotels, and offices. Sanders ran under the slogan "Burlington is not for sale" and successfully supported a plan that redeveloped the waterfront area into a mixed-use district featuring housing, parks, and public space. Today, the waterfront area includes many parks and miles of public beach and bike paths, a boathouse, and a science center.
Sanders hosted and produced a public-access television program, Bernie Speaks with the Community, from 1986 to 1988. He collaborated with 30 Vermont musicians to record a folk album, We Shall Overcome, in 1987.
U.S. House of Representatives
Sanders's 1990 victory made him the first independent candidate to be elected to Congress since Frazier Reams in 1950. It was noted by The Washington Post and others as the first election of a socialist to the United States House of Representatives in decades. Sanders served in the House from 1991 until he became a senator in 2007.
In 1988, incumbent Republican Congressman Jim Jeffords decided to run for the U.S. Senate, vacating the House seat representing Vermont's at-large congressional district. Former Lieutenant Governor Peter P. Smith (R) won the House election with a plurality, securing 41% of the vote. Sanders, who ran as an independent, placed second with 38% of the vote, while Democratic State Representative Paul N. Poirier placed third with 19% of the vote. Two years later, Sanders ran for the seat again and defeated the incumbent Smith by a margin of 56% to 39%.
Sanders was the first independent elected to the U.S. House of Representatives since Frazier Reams's election to represent Ohio 40 years earlier. He served as a representative for 16 years, winning reelection by large margins except during the 1994 Republican Revolution, when he won by 3.3%, with 49.8% of the vote.
During his first year in the House, Sanders often alienated allies and colleagues with his criticism of both political parties as working primarily on behalf of the wealthy. In 1991, Sanders co-founded the Congressional Progressive Caucus, a group of mostly liberal Democrats that Sanders chaired for its first eight years, while still refusing to join the Democratic Party or caucus.
In 1993, Sanders voted against the Brady Bill, which mandated federal background checks and imposed a waiting period on firearm purchasers in the United States; the bill passed by a vote of 238–187.
In 1994, Sanders voted in favor of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act. Sanders said he voted for the bill "because it included the Violence Against Women Act and the ban on certain assault weapons". He was nevertheless extremely critical of the other parts of the bill. Though he acknowledged that "clearly, there are some people in our society who are horribly violent, who are deeply sick and sociopathic, and clearly these people must be put behind bars in order to protect society from them", he maintained in his intervention before the House that the government's ill-thought policies played a large part in "dooming tens of millions of young people to a future of bitterness, misery, hopelessness, drugs, crime, and violence". In this same intervention, he argued that the repressive policies introduced by the bill were not addressing the causes of violence, stating that "we can create meaningful jobs, rebuilding our society, or we can build more jails".
In 2005, he voted for the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act. The act's purpose was to prevent firearms manufacturers and dealers from being held liable for negligence when crimes have been committed with their products. In 2015, Sanders defended his vote, saying: "If somebody has a gun and it falls into the hands of a murderer and the murderer kills somebody with a gun, do you hold the gun manufacturer responsible? Not any more than you would hold a hammer company responsible if somebody beats somebody over the head with a hammer."
Sanders voted against the resolutions authorizing the use of force against Iraq in 1991 and 2002, and opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq. He voted for the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists that has been cited as the legal justification for controversial military actions since the September 11 attacks. Sanders voted for a non-binding resolution expressing support for troops at the outset of the invasion of Iraq, but gave a floor speech criticizing the partisan nature of the vote and the George W. Bush administration's actions in the run-up to the war. Regarding the investigation of what turned out to be a leak of CIA agent Valerie Plame's identity by a State Department official, Sanders stated: "The revelation that the President authorized the release of classified information in order to discredit an Iraq war critic should tell every member of Congress that the time is now for a serious investigation of how we got into the war in Iraq and why Congress can no longer act as a rubber stamp for the President."
Positions on legislation
Sanders was a consistent critic of the Patriot Act. As a member of Congress, he voted against the original Patriot Act legislation. After its 357-to-66 passage in the House, Sanders sponsored and voted for several subsequent amendments and acts attempting to curtail its effects, and voted against each re-authorization. In June 2005, Sanders proposed an amendment to limit Patriot Act provisions that allow the government to obtain individuals' library and book-buying records. The amendment passed the House by a bipartisan majority, but was removed on November 4 of that year in House–Senate negotiations and never became law.
In March 2006, after a series of resolutions passed in various Vermont towns calling for him to bring articles of impeachment against George W. Bush, Sanders stated that it would be "impractical to talk about impeachment" with Republicans in control of the House and Senate. Still, Sanders made no secret of his opposition to the Bush Administration, which he regularly criticized for its cuts to social programs.
Sanders was a vocal critic of Federal Reserve Chair Alan Greenspan; in June 2003, during a question-and-answer discussion with the then-Chairman, Sanders told Greenspan that he was concerned that Greenspan was "way out of touch" and "that you see your major function in your position as the need to represent the wealthy and large corporations". In October 2008, after Sanders had been elected to the Senate, Greenspan admitted to Congress that his economic ideology regarding risky mortgage loans was flawed. In 1998, Sanders voted and advocated against rolling back the Glass–Steagall Legislation provisions that kept investment banks and commercial banks separate entities.
Sanders entered the race for the U.S. Senate on April 21, 2005, after Senator Jim Jeffords announced that he would not seek a fourth term. Chuck Schumer, chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, endorsed Sanders, a critical move as it meant that no Democrat running against Sanders could expect to receive financial help from the party. Sanders was also endorsed by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and Democratic National Committee chairman and former Vermont governor Howard Dean. Dean said in May 2005 that he considered Sanders an ally who "votes with the Democrats 98% of the time". Then-Senator Barack Obama also campaigned for Sanders in Vermont in March 2006. Sanders entered into an agreement with the Democratic Party, much as he had as a congressman, to be listed in their primary but to decline the nomination should he win, which he did.
In the most expensive political campaign in Vermont's history, Sanders defeated businessman Rich Tarrant by an approximately 2-to-1 margin. Many national media outlets projected Sanders as the winner just after the polls closed, before any returns came in. He was reelected in 2012 with 71% of the vote.
Sanders was only the third senator from Vermont to caucus with the Democrats, after Jeffords and Leahy. His caucusing with the Democrats gave them a 51–49 majority in the Senate during the 110th Congress in 2007–08. The Democrats needed 51 seats to control the Senate because Vice President Dick Cheney would have broken any tie in favor of the Republicans.
Polling conducted in August 2011 by Public Policy Polling found that Sanders's approval rating was 67% and his disapproval rating 28%, making him then the third-most popular senator in the country. Both the NAACP and the NHLA have given Sanders 100% voting scores during his tenure in the Senate. In 2015 Sanders was named one of the Top 5 of The Forward 50. In a November 2015 Morning Consult poll, Sanders had an approval rating of 83% among his constituents, making him the most popular senator in the country. Fox News found Sanders to have the highest net favorability at +28 points of any prominent politician included in its March 2017 poll. A Harvard-Harris Poll published April 18, 2017 found Sanders to be the most popular active politician in the country.
As an independent, Sanders worked out a deal with the Senate Democratic leadership in which he agreed to vote with the Democrats on all procedural matters, except with permission from Democratic whip Dick Durbin (a request that is rarely made or granted). In return, he was allowed to keep his seniority and received the committee seats that would have been available to him as a Democrat; in 2013–14, he was chairman of the United States Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs (during the Veterans Health Administration scandal). Sanders was free to vote as he pleased on policy matters, but almost always voted with the Democrats.
Positions on tax and finance legislation
On September 24, 2008, Sanders posted an open letter to Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson decrying the initial bank bailout proposal; it drew more than 8,000 citizen cosigners in 24 hours. On January 26, 2009, Sanders and Democrats Robert Byrd, Russ Feingold, and Tom Harkin were the sole majority members to vote against confirming Timothy Geithner as United States Secretary of the Treasury.
On December 10, 2010, Sanders delivered an 8 1⁄2-hour speech against the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010, the proposed extension of the Bush-era tax rates that eventually became law, saying "Enough is enough! ... How many homes can you own?" In response to the speech, hundreds of people signed online petitions urging Sanders to run in the 2012 presidential election, and pollsters began measuring his support in key primary states. Progressive activists such as Rabbi Michael Lerner and economist David Korten publicly voiced their support for a prospective Sanders run against President Barack Obama. Sanders's speech was published in February 2011 by Nation Books as The Speech: A Historic Filibuster on Corporate Greed and the Decline of Our Middle Class, with authorial proceeds going to Vermont nonprofit charitable organizations.
Senate Budget Committee
In January 2015, Sanders became the ranking minority member of the Senate Budget Committee. He appointed economics professor Stephanie Kelton, a modern monetary theory scholar and self-described "deficit owl", as the chief economic adviser for the committee's Democratic minority and presented a report aimed at helping "rebuild the disappearing middle class", which included proposals to raise the minimum wage, boost infrastructure spending, and increase Social Security payments.
According to his senate website, Sanders's committee assignments during 2016 were as follows:
- Committee on the Budget (Ranking Member)
- Committee on Environment and Public Works
- Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
- Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions
- Committee on Veterans' Affairs (former Chair)
Sanders announced his intention to seek the Democratic Party's nomination for president on April 30, 2015, and his campaign was officially launched on May 26, 2015, in Burlington. In his announcement, Sanders said, "I don't believe that the men and women who defended American democracy fought to create a situation where billionaires own the political process," and made this a central idea throughout his campaign. Senator Elizabeth Warren welcomed Sanders's entry into the race, saying, "I'm glad to see him get out there and give his version of what leadership in this country should be."
Unlike the other major candidates, Sanders did not pursue funding through a Super PAC or by billionaires, instead focusing on small individual donations. His presidential campaign raised $1.5 million within 24 hours of his official announcement. At year's end the campaign had raised a total of $73 million from more than one million people making 2.5 million donations, with an average donation of $27.16. The campaign reached 3.25 million donations by the end of January 2016, raising $20 million in that month alone.
Sanders used social media to help his campaign gain momentum, posting content to online platforms such as Twitter and Facebook and answering questions on Reddit. He gained a large grassroots organizational following online. A July 29, 2015, meetup organized online brought 100,000 supporters to more than 3,500 simultaneous events nationwide.
Sanders's campaign events in June 2015 drew overflow crowds around the country, to his surprise. When Hillary Clinton and Sanders made public appearances within days of each other in Des Moines, Iowa, Sanders drew larger crowds, even though he had already made numerous stops around the state and Clinton's visit was her first in 2015. On July 1, 2015, Sanders's campaign stop in Madison, Wisconsin, drew the largest crowd of any 2016 presidential candidate to that date, with an estimated turnout of 10,000. Over the following weeks he gained even larger crowds: 11,000 in Arizona, 15,000 in Seattle, and 28,000 in Portland.
Party presidential debates
The 2016 Democratic Party presidential debates occurred among candidates in the campaign for the Democratic Party's nomination for the President of the United States. The DNC announced in May 2015 that there would be six debates. Critics alleged that the small number of debates and the schedule, with half of the debates on Saturday or Sunday nights, were part of the DNC's deliberate attempt to protect the front-runner, Hillary Clinton. In February 2016, Clinton's and Sanders's campaigns agreed in principle to holding four more debates for a total of ten. Clinton dropped out of the tenth debate, scheduled to take place just prior to the California elections, citing a need to devote her time making direct contact with voters in California. Sanders expressed disappointment that Clinton would cancel the debate "before the largest and most important primary in the presidential nominating process".
Polls and news coverage
A NBC/Wall Street Journal poll conducted in May found Clinton and presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump in a "dead heat", but the same poll found that if Sanders were the Democratic nominee, 53% of voters would support him to 39% for Trump. Clinton and Trump were the least popular likely candidates in the poll's history, while Sanders received a 43% positive, 36% negative rating. Polls showed that Democratic voters older than 50 preferred Clinton by a large margin but those under 50 overwhelmingly favored Sanders.
Some supporters raised concerns that publications such as The New York Times minimized coverage of the Sanders campaign in favor of other candidates', especially Trump's and Clinton's. A December 2015 report found that the three major networks – CBS, NBC, and ABC – had spent 234 minutes reporting on Trump and 10 minutes on Sanders, despite their similar polling results. The report noted that ABC World News Tonight had spent 81 minutes on Trump and less than 1 minute on Sanders during 2015. In November 2016, journalist Amy Goodman noted that on March 15, Super Tuesday III, the speeches of Trump, Clinton, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz were broadcast in full. Sanders was in Phoenix, Arizona on that date, speaking to a rally larger than any of the others, but his speech was not mentioned, let alone broadcast.
After the final primary election, Clinton became the presumptive Democratic nominee. On July 12, Sanders formally endorsed Clinton but he continued to work with the Democratic National Convention organizers to implement the progressive positions he had been campaigning for. Sanders spoke at the 2016 Democratic National Convention on July 25, giving Clinton his full support. Some of Sanders's supporters attempted to protest Clinton's nomination and booed when Sanders called for party unity. Sanders responded, "Our job is to do two things: to defeat Donald Trump and to elect Hillary Clinton...It is easy to boo, but it is harder to look your kids in the face if we are living under a Trump presidency."
To build on momentum gained during the 2016 election campaign, Sanders and supporters founded a political action committee and a political education organization:
- Brand New Congress – In April 2016, former Sanders presidential campaign staffers formed a political organization, Brand New Congress, to elect Congressional representatives in line with the campaign's political platform.
- Our Revolution – In August 2016, Sanders founded Our Revolution, an organization dedicated to educating voters about political issues, getting people involved in the political process, and recruiting and supporting candidates for local, state, and national office.
On February 16, 2017, Sanders began webcasting The Bernie Sanders Show using Facebook live streaming. As of April 2, 2017, guests have included William Barber, Josh Fox, Jane Mayer, and Bill Nye. Nye's episode has 4.6 million views and 25,000 shares.
Sanders is a self-described socialist, democratic socialist, and progressive who admires the Nordic model of social democracy and is a proponent of workplace democracy. In November 2015, Sanders gave a speech at Georgetown University about his view of democratic socialism, including its place in the policies of presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson. In defining what democratic socialism means to him, Sanders said: "I don't believe government should take over the grocery store down the street or own the means of production, but I do believe that the middle class and the working families who produce the wealth of America deserve a decent standard of living and that their incomes should go up, not down. I do believe in private companies that thrive and invest and grow in America, companies that create jobs here, rather than companies that are shutting down in America and increasing their profits by exploiting low-wage labor abroad." Based on Sanders's positions and votes throughout his political career, Noam Chomsky has described him as "basically a New Dealer".
Calling international trade agreements a "disaster for the American worker", Sanders voted against and has spoken for years against NAFTA, CAFTA, and PNTR with China, saying that they have resulted in American corporations moving abroad. He also strongly opposes the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which he says was "written by corporate America and the pharmaceutical industry and Wall Street."
Sanders focuses on economic issues such as income and wealth inequality, raising the minimum wage, universal healthcare, reducing the burden of student debt, making public colleges and universities tuition-free by taxing financial transactions, and expanding Social Security benefits by eliminating the cap on the payroll tax on all incomes above $250,000. He has become a prominent supporter of laws requiring companies to give their workers parental leave, sick leave, and vacation time, noting that such laws have been adopted by nearly all other developed countries. He also supports legislation that would make it easier for workers to join or form a trade union.
Sanders advocates bold action to reverse global warming and substantial investment in infrastructure, with "energy efficiency and sustainability" and job creation as prominent goals. He considers climate change the greatest threat to national security. Sanders opposes the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline on the grounds that, like the Keystone XL Pipeline, it "will have a significant impact on our climate."
Sanders has advocated greater democratic participation by citizens, campaign finance reform, and a constitutional amendment or judicial decision that would overturn Citizens United v. FEC. He calls for comprehensive financial reforms, such as breaking up "too big to fail" financial institutions, restoring Glass–Steagall legislation, reforming the Federal Reserve Bank and allowing the Post Office to offer basic financial services in economically marginalized communities.
Sanders has liberal stances on social issues, having advocated for LGBT rights and against the Defense of Marriage Act. He considers himself a feminist, is pro-choice on abortion, and opposes the de-funding of Planned Parenthood. Sanders has denounced institutional racism and called for criminal justice reform to reduce the number of people in prison, advocates a crackdown on police brutality, and supports abolishing private, for-profit prisons and the death penalty. Sanders supports Black Lives Matter. He supports legalizing marijuana at the federal level.
War and peace
Sanders strongly opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq and has criticized a number of policies instituted during the War on Terror, particularly mass surveillance and the USA PATRIOT Act. Sanders criticized Israel's actions during the 2014 Gaza war. On November 15, 2015, in response to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)'s attacks in Paris, Sanders cautioned against "Islamophobia" and said, "We gotta be tough, not stupid" in the war against ISIL, adding that the U.S. should continue to welcome Syrian refugees.
Born into a Democratic-voting family, Sanders was first introduced to political activism when his brother Larry joined the Young Democrats of America and campaigned for Adlai Stevenson II in 1956. Although elected mayor of Burlington as an independent, Sanders endorsed Democratic presidential candidates Walter Mondale in 1984 and Jesse Jackson in 1988. His endorsement of Mondale was lukewarm (telling reporters that "if you go around saying that Mondale would be a great president, you would be a liar and a hypocrite"), but he supported Jackson enthusiastically. The Washington Post reported that the Jackson campaign helped inspire Sanders to work more closely with the Democratic Party.
Once elected to the House of Representatives, Sanders joined the Democratic caucus, though some conservative southern Democrats initially barred him from the caucus as they believed that allowing a self-described socialist to join it would harm their electoral prospects. He soon came to work constructively with Democrats, voting with the party more than 90 percent of the time during his tenure in the House and Senate.
Starting in November 2015, in connection with his presidential campaign, Sanders's announcements suggested that not only was he running as a Democrat, but that he would run as a Democrat in future elections. When challenged by Clinton about his party commitment, he said, "Of course I am a Democrat and running for the Democratic nomination." During the campaign, news sources often referred to him as a Democrat. Since he remained a senator, elected as an independent, the United States Senate website continued to refer to Sanders as an independent during the campaign and upon his return to the senate. He confirmed at the end of the campaign that he remained an independent in the senate for the balance of his term, since that was how he was elected.
Sanders advocated that, following Trump's victory in the 2016 elections, the Democratic Party undergo a "series of reforms" and that it had to "break loose from its corporate establishment ties and, once again, become a grass-roots party of working people, the elderly and the poor."
Critiques of the Trump administration
On January 4, 2017, Sanders spoke on the Senate floor in support of retaining the essential elements of Obamacare. To highlight Trump's campaign position to Republican legislators, Sanders displayed a May 2015 tweet of Trump's in which he claimed, "I was the first & only potential GOP candidate to state there will be no cuts to Social Security, Medicare & Medicaid". On March 12, Sanders charged Republicans with trying to "shove" through—by not holding hearings—the American Health Care Act, a bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. After House Speaker Paul Ryan pulled the bill on March 24, Sanders called the cancellation "a major victory for the working families of this country and for the hundreds of thousands who attended rallies and town hall meetings in opposition to this bill."
On February 5, 2017, Sanders said Trump was a "fraud" for appointing multiple billionaires to his cabinet after committing during his campaign to tackle Wall Street, and predicted Trump would "sell out" the middle and working class. In Los Angeles on February 19, Sanders called Trump "a pathological liar" and swore to defeat "Trump and Trumpism and the Republican right-wing ideology."
On March 30, two days after Trump signed an "Energy Independence" executive order, Sanders called Trump's choice to prioritize job creation over climate change "nonsensical, and stupid, and dangerous", and noted that scientists report that human activity is causing "devastating problems" while Trump and his allies believe climate change is a "hoax".
Sanders opposed Neil Gorsuch's nomination to the Supreme Court, outlining his objections to Gorsuch in an April 4, 2017 appearance on the Senate floor. Sanders said he believed Gorsuch would support eliminating restrictions on campaign finance and vote to overturn Roe v. Wade.
In an April 7, 2017 statement, Sanders expressed disapproval of Trump's ordered airstrike on Syria from the previous day: "If there's anything we should've learned from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, in which the lives of thousands of brave American men and women and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi and Afghan civilians have been lost and trillions of dollars spent, it's that it's easier to get into a war than out of one."
In 1963, Sanders and Deborah Shiling, whom he met in college, volunteered for several months on the Israeli kibbutz Sha'ar HaAmakim. They married in 1964 and bought a summer home in Vermont; they had no children and divorced in 1966. Sanders's son, Levi Sanders, was born in 1969 to girlfriend Susan Campbell Mott. In 1988, Sanders married Jane O'Meara Driscoll (née Mary Jane O'Meara), who later became president of Burlington College, in Burlington, Vermont. The day after their wedding, the couple visited the Soviet Union as part of an official delegation in his capacity as mayor, a trip he ironically called a honeymoon. Sanders considers Jane's three children — Dave Driscoll, Carina Driscoll, and Heather Titus (née Driscoll) — to be his own. He also has seven grandchildren.
In December 1987, during his tenure as mayor, Sanders recorded a folk album titled We Shall Overcome with 30 Vermont musicians. As Sanders was not skilled at singing, he performed his vocals in a talking blues style. Sanders appeared in a cameo role in the 1988 comedy-drama film Sweet Hearts Dance, playing a man who distributes candy to young trick-or-treaters. In 1999, he acted in the film My X-Girlfriend's Wedding Reception, playing the role of Rabbi Manny Shevitz. In this role he mourned the Brooklyn Dodgers moving to Los Angeles, reflecting Sanders's own upbringing in Brooklyn. On February 6, 2016, Sanders was a guest star alongside Larry David on Saturday Night Live, playing a Polish immigrant on a steamship that was sinking near the Statue of Liberty.
Sanders's elder brother, Larry, lives in England. He was a Green Party county councillor, representing the East Oxford division on Oxfordshire County Council, until he retired from the Council in 2013. Larry ran as a Green Party candidate for Oxford West and Abingdon in the 2015 British general election and came in fifth. Sanders told CNN, "I owe my brother an enormous amount. It was my brother who actually introduced me to a lot of my ideas."
Religion and heritage
As Sanders described his upbringing as an American Jew in a 2016 speech: his father generally attended synagogue only on Yom Kippur; he attended public schools while his mother "chafed" at his yeshiva Sunday schooling at a Hebrew school; and their religious observances were mostly limited to Passover seders with their neighbors. Larry Sanders said, "They were very pleased to be Jews, but didn't have a strong belief in God." Bernie had a bar mitzvah at the historic Kingsway Jewish Center in Midwood, Brooklyn, where he grew up.
In 1963, in cooperation with the Labor Zionist youth movement Hashomer Hatzair, Sanders and his first wife volunteered at Sha'ar HaAmakim, a kibbutz in northern Israel. His motivation for the trip was as much socialistic as it was Zionistic.
As mayor of Burlington, Sanders allowed a Chabad public menorah to be placed at city hall, an action contested by the local ACLU chapter. He publicly inaugurated the Hanukkah menorah and performed the Jewish religious ritual of blessing Hanukkah candles. His early and strong support played a significant role in the now widespread public menorah celebrations around the globe. When asked about his Jewish heritage, Sanders has said he is "proud to be Jewish".
Sanders rarely speaks about religion. He describes himself as "not particularly religious" and "not actively involved" with organized religion. A press package issued by his office states "Religion: Jewish". He has said he believes in God, though not necessarily in a traditional manner: "I think everyone believes in God in their own ways," he said. "To me, it means that all of us are connected, all of life is connected, and that we are all tied together." In October 2015, on the late-night talk show, Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Kimmel asked Bernie, "You say you are culturally Jewish and you don't feel religious; do you believe in God and do you think that's important to the people of the United States?" Sanders replied:
I am who I am, and what I believe in and what my spirituality is about is that we're all in this together. That I think it is not a good thing to believe as human beings we can turn our backs on the suffering of other people ... and this is not Judaism, this is what Pope Francis is talking about, that we can't just worship billionaires and the making of more and more money. Life is more than that.
In 2016, he stated he had "very strong religious and spiritual feelings" and explained, "My spirituality is that we are all in this together and that when children go hungry, when veterans sleep out on the street, it impacts me."
Sanders does not regularly attend synagogue, and he works on Rosh Hashanah, a day when Jews typically take a holiday from work. He has attended yahrzeit observances in memory of the deceased, for the father of a friend, and attended a Tashlikh, an atonement ceremony, with the mayor of Lynchburg on the afternoon of Rosh Hashanah in 2015. According to Sanders's close friend Richard Sugarman, a professor of religious studies at the University of Vermont, Sanders's Jewish identity is "certainly more ethnic and cultural than religious". Deborah Dash Moore, a Judaic scholar at the University of Michigan, has said that Sanders has a particular type of "ethnic Jewishness" that is somewhat old-fashioned. Sanders's wife is Roman Catholic, and he has frequently expressed admiration for Pope Francis, saying that "the leader of the Catholic Church is raising profound issues. It is important that we listen to what he has said." Sanders has said he feels "very close" to Francis's economic teachings, describing him as "incredibly smart and brave". In April 2016, Sanders accepted an invitation from Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, an aide close to the pope, to speak at a Vatican conference on economic and environmental issues. While at the Vatican, Sanders met briefly with the pontiff.
- Hitler lost the election for the presidency of Germany on March 13, 1932, when Hindenburg received 49.6 percent of the vote to Hitler's 30.1 percent. But the Nazi Party, led by Hitler, won a plurality in the Reichstag, Germany's lower house of parliament, in July 1932, and retained its status as the largest party thereafter.
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He's basically a New Dealer. Now, in the current American political spectrum, to be a New Dealer is to be way out on the left. Eisenhower, for example, who said anyone who questions the New Deal doesn't belong in the political system, would be regarded as a raving leftist. So Bernie Sanders is a decent, honest New Dealer. I agree with him on a lot of things, not on other things. I think in our system of mainly bought elections he doesn't have much of a chance, but if he were elected, I think that, of the current candidates, I think he'd be the one who would have, from my point of view, the best policies."
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Soltys told them that at the time the Nazis invaded Poland, Romek was the leader of Slopnice's Jewish community. "Which of course," Larry said, "meant he was one of the first to be killed."
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He graduated from Brooklyn's P.S. 197 and James Madison High School where he was captain of his high school track team.
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Sanders said in a statement that although the Bush administration 'has been a disaster for our country, and a number of actions that he has taken may very well not have been legal,' given the reality that the Republicans control the House and the Senate, 'it would be impractical to talk about impeachment.'
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Back in March 2006, the future president traveled to Vermont to headline a rally and fundraiser for then-Rep. Bernie Sanders, an independent running for Senate, and Pete Welch, a Democrat seeking election to Sanders's House seat.
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... the candidate who had been anointed by the entire establishment, was winning, but at the same time was losing state after state by huge margins.
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Election days come and go, but the struggle for economic, social, racial and environmental justice must continue. We have the guts and the energy to take on the special interests, win critical battles on the most important issues of our time, and redefine what's possible in this country. Now it's time for all of us to get to work.
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I am a socialist and everyone knows that
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Representative Spencer Bachus is one of the only people I know from Alabama. I bet I'm the only socialist he knows.
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The self-described 'democratic socialist' enters the race as a robust liberal alternative...
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You go to Scandinavia, and you will find that people have a much higher standard of living, in terms of education, health care, and decent paying jobs.
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Senator Bernie Sanders is one of the Senate's fiercest advocates for real healthcare reform that puts Americans, not private insurance companies, first. Recently, Sanders told The Nation's Katrina vanden Heuvel, '[I]f you are serious about real healthcare reform, the only way to go is single-payer.'
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Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-VT, said Monday he was making good on at least one of a handful of campaign promises – introducing a bill designed to cut U.S. contributions to global greenhouse gas emissions in the next decade. ... Sanders added that construction of new power plants is "extraordinarily expensive" and he would prefer to see federal funding support used to expand the development of sustainable energy, as well as biofuels.
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Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders called for an end to the death penalty on Thursday, laying out his case in a Senate floor speech just one day after Hillary Clinton—the party's 2016 frontrunner and Sanders' main rival for the nomination—said she was opposed to abolishing the practice.
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Sanders says he'll run as a Democrat in future elections. He says, 'I am running as a Democrat obviously, I am a Democrat now.'
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- Biography at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
- Profile at Project Vote Smart
- Financial information (federal office) at the Federal Election Commission
- Legislation sponsored at The Library of Congress
- Appearances on C-SPAN
- Bernie Sanders at DMOZ