Bernie Sanders

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Bernie Sanders
Bernie Sanders.jpg
Sanders in 2007
United States Senator
from Vermont
Incumbent
Assumed office
January 3, 2007
Serving with Patrick Leahy
Preceded by Jim Jeffords
Chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs
In office
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
In office
January 3, 1991 – January 3, 2007
Preceded by Peter Smith
Succeeded by Peter Welch
Mayor of Burlington
In office
April 6, 1981 – April 1989
Preceded by Gordon Paquette
Succeeded by Peter Clavelle
Personal details
Born Bernard Sanders
(1941-09-08) September 8, 1941 (age 73)
Brooklyn, New York, United States
Political party Independent (caucuses with the Democratic Party)
Other political
affiliations
Liberty Union (1971–1979)
Independent (1979–2015)
Vermont Progressive (affiliated)
Spouse(s) Jane O'Meara Driscoll
Children 4
Alma mater Brooklyn College
University of Chicago
Signature
Website Senate website
Presidential campaign website

Bernard "Bernie" Sanders (born September 8, 1941) is an American politician. The junior United States Senator from Vermont, Sanders has been a U.S. Senator since 2007. An independent politician since 1979, Sanders is associated with the Vermont Progressive Party and was a member of the Liberty Union Party from 1971 to 1979. Sanders announced his intentions to seek the Democratic Party's nomination for President on April 30, 2015, in an address on the Capitol lawn.[1][2][3]

After several unsuccessful runs for office, Sanders was elected Mayor of Burlington, Vermont's largest city, in 1981. He was re-elected to three more two-year terms before being elected to represent Vermont's at-large congressional district in the United States House of Representatives in 1990. He served as a Congressman for 16 years before being elected to the U.S. Senate in 2006 to succeed the retiring Republican-turned-independent Jim Jeffords. He was re-elected in 2012 by a landslide.

Sanders is a self-described democratic socialist[4][5][6][7] who favors the creation of employee-owned cooperative enterprises[8][9] and has praised Scandinavian-style social democracy.[10][11][12] He runs for office as an independent but caucuses with the Democratic Party and is counted as a Democrat for purposes of committee assignments. He was the only independent member of the House during most of his service and is the longest-serving independent in U.S. congressional history. Since January 2015, Sanders has been the ranking Democratic member on the Senate Budget Committee.[13] He is running as a Democrat in 2016 in order to facilitate nationwide ballot access, to participate in primary debates and to be taken seriously by the media.[14]

Early life and education[edit]

Bernie Sanders was born on September 8, 1941, in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Eli and Dorothy (Glassberg) Sanders.[15][16] His father was a Jewish immigrant from Poland; most of his family was killed during the Holocaust.[17] His mother was born to Jewish parents in New York.[18][19] He graduated from James Madison High School in Brooklyn, where he had competed on his school's track team.[20][21]

Sanders spent his freshman year studying psychology at Brooklyn College, then transferred to the University of Chicago.[22] While there, he was active in the Civil Rights Movement, and a student organizer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.[23] He was one of thousands of students who traveled by bus to Washington, D.C., to take part in the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.[24] He graduated in 1964 with a Bachelor of Arts in political science.[25]

Sanders next spent several months on an Israeli kibbutz [22] and moved to Vermont upon his return to the United States. He worked as a carpenter, filmmaker, writer, and researcher, as well as other occupations.[26]

Early political career[edit]

Liberty Union campaigns[edit]

Sanders' political career began in 1971 when he joined the anti-Vietnam War Liberty Union Party (LU) in Vermont. Thereafter he ran in and lost several elections, including for the U.S. Senate in 1972 and 1974, and for governor of Vermont in 1972 and 1976.[27] In the 1974 race, Sanders finished third (5,901; 4.1%) behind the victor, 33-year-old Chittenden County State’s Attorney Patrick Leahy (D, VI; 70,629; 49.4%), and two-term incumbent U.S. Representative Dick Mallary (R; 66,223; 46.3%).[28][29] In 1979, Sanders resigned from the LU and worked as a writer and the director of the nonprofit American People's Historical Society.[27]

Mayor of Burlington[edit]

In 1981, at the suggestion of his friend Richard Sugarman, a professor of religion at the University of Vermont, Sanders ran for mayor of Burlington and defeated six-term Democratic incumbent Gordon Paquette by 10 votes [30] in a four-way contest. Sanders won three more terms, defeating both Democratic and Republican candidates. In his final run for mayor in 1987, Sanders defeated a candidate endorsed by both major parties.[31]

During Sanders' first term, his supporters, including the first Citizens Party City Councilor Terry Bouricius, formed the Progressive Coalition, the forerunner of the Vermont Progressive Party.[citation needed] The Progressives never held more than six seats on the 13-member city council but had enough votes to keep the council from overriding Sanders' vetoes.[citation needed] Under Sanders, Burlington became the first city in the country to fund community-trust housing. His administration also sued the local cable television provider and won considerably reduced rates and a substantial cash settlement.[citation needed]

After serving four terms, Sanders chose not to seek reelection in 1989. He briefly taught political science at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government that year and at Hamilton College in 1991.[32]

U.S. House of Representatives[edit]

Elections[edit]

In 1988, incumbent Republican Congressman Jim Jeffords decided to run for the U.S. Senate, vacating Vermont's at-large congressional district. Republican Lieutenant Governor Peter Smith won the House election with a plurality of 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.[33] In 1990, Sanders ran for the seat again and defeated Smith in a rematch, 56%–40%. Sanders became the first independent elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 40 years,[34] since Frazier Reams of Ohio. Thereafter Sanders continually won reelection with high margins, with his closest bid in 1994 during the Republican Revolution, when he won by 3.3% with just 49.8% of the vote.[35]

Tenure[edit]

In 1991, Sanders co-founded the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and chaired the grouping of mostly liberal Democrats for its first eight years. In 1993, Sanders voted for a National Rifle Association (NRA)-supported bill to restrict lawsuits against gun manufacturers[36] and against the Brady Bill.[37] Upon the resignation of Democrat Ron Dellums in 1998, Sanders became the only Congressman to describe himself as a socialist.[citation needed]

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 initial 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists[38] that has been cited as the legal justification for controversial military actions since the September 11 attacks.[39] Sanders has been a consistent critic of the Patriot Act. As a member of Congress, he voted against the original Patriot Act legislation.[40] After its 357 to 66 passage in the House, Sanders sponsored and voted for several subsequent amendments and acts attempting to curtail its effects,[41] and voted against each reauthorization.[42] Sanders also 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. On April 7, 2006, about the investigation of what turned out to be a leak of CIA agent Valerie Plame's identity by a Pentagon official, Sanders said, "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."[43]

In June 2005, Sanders proposed an amendment to limit 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 that year in House-Senate negotiations and never became law.[44] Sanders followed this vote on November 5, 2005, by voting against the Online Freedom of Speech Act, which would have exempted the Internet from the restrictions of the McCain-Feingold Bill.

In March 2006, after a series of resolutions calling for him to bring articles of impeachment against the President passed in various towns in Vermont, Sanders stated it would be impractical to impeach George W. Bush, given the "reality that the Republicans control the House and the Senate." Still, Sanders made no secret of his opposition to the Bush Administration, which he regularly criticized for its cuts to social programs.[45][46][47]

Sanders was a critic of Alan Greenspan; in June 2003, during a question-and-answer discussion with the then-Federal Reserve 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."[48] Sanders said in 1998 that investment banks and commercial banks should remain as separate entities.[49]

Republicans have described Sanders as "an ineffective extremist" for successfully sponsoring only one law and 15 amendments in his eight terms in the House.[50][51] Sanders responded by saying that he had passed "the most floor amendments of any member of the House since 1996."[52]

U.S. Senate[edit]

Elections[edit]

Sanders being sworn in by Vice President Dick Cheney

Sanders had mentioned on several occasions that he would run for the Senate if Senator Jim Jeffords were to retire, and after Jeffords' announcement that he would not seek a fourth term, Sanders entered the race on April 21, 2005. New York Senator Chuck Schumer, the 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."[53] Then-Senator Barack Obama also campaigned for Sanders in Vermont. 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.[54]

In the most expensive political campaign in Vermont's history,[55] Sanders defeated businessman Rich Tarrant by an approximately 2-to-1 margin. Many national media outlets projected Sanders the winner before any returns came in.

Sanders was reelected in 2012 with 71% of the vote.[56]

Tenure[edit]

Polling conducted in August 2011 by Public Policy Polling found that Sanders' approval rating was 67% and his disapproval rating 28%, making him then the third-most popular senator in the country.[57]

Sanders has an agreement with the Democratic leadership in the Senate under which he votes with the Democrats on all procedural matters except with permission of Democratic whip Dick Durbin—a request rarely made or granted—in exchange for the committee seats and seniority that would be available to him as a Democrat. He is free to vote as he pleases on policy matters, but almost always votes with the Democrats.

Budget[edit]

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.[58] 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.[59]

On December 10, 2010, Sanders delivered an 8½-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?" (A long speech such as this is commonly known as a filibuster, but because it didn't block action, it was not technically a filibuster under Senate rules.[60]) 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.[61] Progressive activists such as Rabbi Michael Lerner and economist David Korten publicly voiced their support for a prospective Sanders run against President Barack Obama.[61][61] [61]

Sanders's "filibuster" 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.[62]

Senate Budget Committee[edit]

In January 2015 Sanders became the Ranking Democratic Member on the Senate Budget Committee.[13] He appointed economics professor Stephanie Kelton, a distinguished Modern Monetary Theory scholar and self-described "deficit owl," the Chief Economic Advisor of the committee's Democratic minority[63] and presented a report aimed at helping "rebuild the disappearing middle class," which includes proposals to raise the minimum wage, boost infrastructure spending, and increase Social Security payments.[64]

Committee assignments[edit]

2016 presidential campaign[edit]

In an interview with The Nation on March 6, 2014, Sanders stated that he was "prepared to run for President of the United States" in 2016[65] but did not officially announce a campaign. On April 28, 2015, Vermont Public Radio reported that Sanders would announce his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination on April 30.[66][67]

In a preview of his campaign, Sanders told the Associated Press on April 29 that he would release "very specific proposals" to increase taxes on the wealthy and corporations and offer tuition-free higher education at public universities. He also noted his support for more effective regulation of Wall Street and his opposition to free-trade agreements and the Keystone XL pipeline. A cornerstone of his campaign was to be decreasing income and wealth inequality:

On April 30, Sanders announced he was running for president in an address on the Capitol lawn, saying, "I don’t believe that the men and women who defended American democracy fought to create a situation where billionaires own the political process."[1][2] His entry into the race was praised by Senator Elizabeth Warren, who has resisted calls to become a candidate herself.[69]

Unlike the other presidential candidates, Sanders stated he will not pursue funding through a Super PAC, instead focusing on small individual donations.[70] Sanders' presidential campaign raised $1.5 million within 24 hours of his official announcement.[71] After four days, Sanders' campaign had raised $3 million from small donors, with an average of $43 per donation.[72]

Sanders has used social media to help his campaign gain momentum.[73] Along with posting content on Twitter and Facebook, he held an "Ask Me Anything" on Reddit on May 19, 2015, where his answers garnered thousands of upvotes.[74][75]

Political positions[edit]

Nuclear energy[edit]

Following the 2011 Japanese nuclear accidents, Sanders called for a moratorium on the licensing of new nuclear plants and re-licensing of existing ones, in an effort to slow down what has been touted as a nuclear renaissance in the United States.[76] Sanders wrote to President Barack Obama asking for him to appoint a special commission to review the safety of U.S. nuclear plants. Sanders also wants to repeal a federal law that he says leaves the taxpayers to pick up most of the costs of a major nuclear accident. He says, "in a free-enterprise system, the nuclear industry should be required to insure itself against accidents."[76]

Global warming[edit]

Sanders is a vocal advocate about the ramifications of global warming.[77] In a speech on the Senate floor on July 26, 2012, Sanders addressed claims made by fellow Senator Jim Inhofe: "The bottom line is when Senator Inhofe says global warming is a hoax, he is just dead wrong, according to the vast majority of climate scientists."[78] He was Climate Hawks Vote's top-rated senator on climate leadership in the 113th Congress.[79]

Along with Senator Barbara Boxer, Sanders introduced the Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act of 2007 on January 15, 2007. The measure would have provided funding for research and development on geologic sequestration of carbon dioxide; set emissions standards for new vehicles and a renewable fuels requirement for gasoline beginning in 2016; established energy efficiency and renewable portfolio standards beginning in 2008 and low-carbon electric generation standards beginning in 2016 for electric utilities; and required periodic evaluations by the National Academy of Sciences to determine whether emissions targets are adequate.[80]

Taxes[edit]

Sanders supports closing some of the tax deductions that benefit hedge funds and corporations and raising taxes on capital gains and the wealthiest two percent of Americans. He would use the added revenues to lower the taxes of the middle and lower classes.[81]

Public disclosure and transparency[edit]

Sanders supports the DISCLOSE Act, which would make campaign finances more transparent and ban U.S. corporations controlled by foreign interests from making political expenditures.[82]

Media reform[edit]

Sanders has been a leader in calling for media reform and opposes increased concentration of ownership of media outlets,[83] as well as being a contributing author for OpEdNews.[84] He appeared in Orwell Rolls in His Grave and Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism, two documentaries on the subject.[85]

Health care[edit]

Sanders is a staunch supporter of a universal health care system, and has said, "If you are serious about real healthcare reform, the only way to go is single-payer."[86] Sanders advocates lowering the cost of drugs that are high because they remain under patent for years. Some drugs that cost thousands of dollars per year in the U.S. are available for hundreds, or less, in countries where they can be obtained as generics. Drug companies justify the high costs by saying that they need to recoup the expense of drug research and development. Speaking before Congress in 2012, Sanders introduced legislation that would offer pharmaceutical companies a large up-front sum for developing new, innovative AIDS drugs, in return for which the companies would agree to allow immediate generic versions.[87]

LGBT equality[edit]

Sanders is a social liberal, supporting LGBT rights, same-sex marriage, and pro-choice legislation.[26] In the House he voted against the Defense of Marriage Act.[88] As the Supreme Court took up the issue of gay marriage, Sanders issued a statement on his website reaffirming his support, saying gay Americans in every state should be allowed to marry: "Of course all citizens deserve equal rights. It’s time for the Supreme Court to catch up to the American people and legalize gay marriage."[89]

College funding[edit]

Sanders is in favor of public funding for college students. He believes "we live in a highly competitive global economy and, if our economy is to be strong, we need the best-educated work force in the world." He further maintains that many other developed nations in Western Europe have long taken this approach to higher education. Sanders expects his plan to meet strong opposition from the Republican Party, but says it is ultimately "the American people" who will determine its failure or success.[90] On May 19, 2015, Sanders introduced the College for All Act, which would use a Robin Hood tax of 50 cents on every "$100 of stock trades on stock sales" to fund tuition at four-year colleges and universities for students who meet admission standards.[91][92][93]

Wall Street reform[edit]

On May 6, 2015, Sanders introduced legislation to break up "too big to fail" financial institutions. With three of the four banks that were bailed out during the 2007–08 Global Financial Crisis now larger than they were then, Sanders believes that "no single financial institution should have holdings so extensive that its failure would send the world economy into crisis. If an institution is too big to fail, it is too big to exist."[94][95]

Trade agreements[edit]

Sanders is opposed to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, which he has called "a continuation of other disastrous trade agreements, like NAFTA, CAFTA, and permanent normal trade relations with China." He has said he believes Americans need to rebuild their own manufacturing base by utilizing American factories and supporting decent-paying jobs for American labor rather than outsourcing to China and other countries.[81][96]

The Middle East[edit]

On March 3, 2015, Sanders was the first senator to decline to attend Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech to Congress.[97] He said that the address, arranged without consultation with President Obama, improperly interfered with the President's role. He also argued that it was inappropriate for Netanyahu to use the U.S. Congress for his own political purposes so close to the Israeli legislative election.[98] After the speech, Sanders released a statement supporting the Obama administration's diplomatic effort to address Iran's nuclear program and regretting that Netanyahu's speech did not offer "any serious alternatives" to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.[98] Sanders joined in passing a Senate resolution in 2014 supporting “the State of Israel as it defends itself against unprovoked rocket attacks from the Hamas terrorist organization.”[99]

Veterans[edit]

Sanders won the 2014 Col. Arthur T. Marix Congressional Leadership Award from the Military Officers Association of America for his leadership in support of veterans.[100] Sanders introduced the Veterans' Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2013 (S. 893; 113th Congress) into the Senate on May 8, 2013.[101] The bill would increase the disability compensation rate for American veterans and their families.[102] Sanders co-wrote, with Senator John McCain, the Veterans' Access to Care through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act of 2014, a bill intended to reform the United States Department of Veterans Affairs in response to the Veterans Health Administration scandal of 2014.[103]

Personal life[edit]

Sanders is married to Jane O'Meara Driscoll, a former president of Burlington College; he has one child and three stepchildren.[15][104][105] His brother, Larry Sanders, was a Green Party County Councillor representing the East Oxford division on Oxfordshire County Council, in England, until his retirement in 2013.[106][107][108] Larry ran as a Green Party candidate for Oxford West and Abingdon in the 2015 general election and came in fifth.[109][110]

Further reading[edit]

  • Tom W. Rice, "Who Votes for a Socialist Mayor?: The Case of Burlington, Vermont," Polity, vol. 17, no. 4 (Summer 1985), pp. 795–806. In JSTOR
  • Steven Rosenfeld, Making History in Vermont: The Election of a Socialist to Congress. Wakefield, NH: Hollowbrook Publishing, 1992.
  • Steven Soifer, The Socialist Mayor: Bernard Sanders in Burlington, Vermont. Westport, CT: Bergin & Garvey, 1991.
  • Bernie Sanders, The Speech: A Historic Filibuster on Corporate Greed and the Decline of Our Middle Class (2011)
  • Bernie Sanders, Outsider in the House (1998, Verso)

References[edit]

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External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Gordon Paquette
Mayor of Burlington
1981–1989
Succeeded by
Peter Clavelle
United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Peter Smith
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Vermont's At-large congressional district

1991–2007
Succeeded by
Peter Welch
Party political offices
Preceded by
Ed Flanagan
Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Vermont
(Class 1)
Affiliated

2006, 2012
Most recent
United States Senate
Preceded by
Jim Jeffords
U.S. Senator (Class 1) from Vermont
2007–present
Served alongside: Patrick Leahy
Incumbent
Preceded by
Patty Murray
Chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee
2013–2015
Succeeded by
Johnny Isakson
United States order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Ben Cardin
United States Senators by seniority
37th
Succeeded by
Sherrod Brown