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Bernie Sanders

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Bernie Sanders
Bernie Sanders.jpg
Sanders's official Senate portrait
United States Senator
from Vermont
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 Plympton Smith
Succeeded by Peter Welch
Mayor of Burlington, Vermont
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, U.S.
Nationality American
Political party Independent
Other political
affiliations
Liberty Union (1971–1979)
Vermont Progressive (affiliated) Democratic (caucusing)
Spouse(s) Deborah Shiling (1964–1966)
Jane O'Meara Driscoll (1988–present)
Children Levi (with Susan Mott)
3 stepchildren
Alma mater University of Chicago
Religion Judaism[citation needed]
Signature
Website Senate website
Presidential campaign website
Bernie Sanders.jpg This article is part of a series about
Bernie Sanders

U.S. Senator from Vermont


U.S. Representative for Vermont's At-large


Mayor of Burlington


Bernie Sanders signature.svg
Seal of the United States Senate.svg

Bernard "Bernie" Sanders (born September 8, 1941) is an American politician who currently serves as the junior United States Senator from Vermont.

Sanders is the longest-serving independent in U.S. congressional history. A self-described democratic socialist,[1][2][3][4] he favors policies similar to those of social democratic parties in Europe, particularly those instituted by the Nordic countries.[5][6][7] He caucuses with the Democratic Party and has been the ranking minority member on the Senate Budget Committee since January 2015.[8]

Born in Brooklyn, New York, Sanders attended Brooklyn College before transferring to and graduating from the University of Chicago. While a student, he was a member of the Young People's Socialist League and active in the Civil Rights Movement as a protest organizer for the Congress of Racial Equality and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.[9][10] In 1963, he participated in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

Sanders settled in Vermont in 1968, and ran unsuccessfully for Governor and U.S. Senator in the early to mid-1970s as a member of the Liberty Union Party. As an independent, Sanders was elected mayor of Burlington, Vermont's most populous city, in 1981. He was reelected to three more two-year mayoral 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 succeed the retiring Republican-turned-independent Jim Jeffords in the U.S. Senate in 2006. In 2012, he was reelected by a large margin, capturing almost 71% of the popular vote.

Since his election to the Senate, Sanders has emerged as a leading progressive voice on issues such as income inequality,[2] universal healthcare, parental leave, climate change,[11] LGBT rights, and campaign finance reform.[12] He rose to national prominence on the heels of his 2010 filibuster[13][14] against the proposed extension of the Bush-era tax rates for the wealthy. Sanders is also outspoken on civil rights and civil liberties, and has been particularly critical of mass surveillance policies such as the USA PATRIOT Act,[15] as well as racial discrimination in the criminal justice system. He has long been critical of U.S. foreign policy, and was an early and outspoken opponent of the Iraq War.

Sanders is a candidate for the Democratic Party's nomination for President in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.[16][17][18]

Youth, education and family[edit]

Sanders was born in Brooklyn, New York to Eli Sanders and Dorothy Glassberg.[19][20] His father was a Jewish immigrant from Poland whose family was killed in the Holocaust,[9][19][21] while his mother was born to Jewish parents in New York City.[22][23]

Sanders has said that he 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.[24]

Sanders attended elementary school at P.S. 197, where he won a state championship on the basketball team. He attended Hebrew school in the afternoons and had his bar mitzvah in 1954. Sanders attended James Madison High School, where he was captain of the track team.[25] While at Madison, Sanders lost his first election, finishing last out of three for the student body presidency. Sanders's mother died in June 1959 at the age of 46 shortly after Sanders graduated from high school.[21]

Sanders went to Brooklyn College for a year before transferring to the University of Chicago. He was a member of the Young People's Socialist League, the youth affiliate of the Socialist Party of America.[26]

While attending the University of Chicago, he was active in the Civil Rights Movement, and a student organizer for the Congress of Racial Equality and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.[9][10] One of the actions he took was the coordination of sit-in protests against segregated campus housing, for which he was arrested.[27] Sanders also participated in the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.[28]

In 1964, Sanders graduated from the University of Chicago with a bachelor of arts degree in political science. He married Deborah Shiling and they bought a summer home in Vermont; they had no children and divorced in 1966. Over the next few years he took various jobs in New York and Vermont and spent several months on an Israeli kibbutz.[26] His son, Levi Sanders, was born in 1969 to Susan Campbell Mott. In 1988 Sanders married Jane (O'Meara) Driscoll, a former president of Burlington College, in Burlington, Vermont.[29] With her he has three stepchildren, whom he considers his own.[26][30]

Sanders's brother, Larry Sanders, lives in the United Kingdom.[31] He was a Green Party County Councillor representing the East Oxford division on Oxfordshire County Council, in England, until his retirement in 2013.[32][33] Larry Sanders ran as a Green Party candidate for Oxford West and Abingdon in the 2015 British general election and came in fifth.[34][35]

Sanders has said he is "proud to be Jewish" but "not particularly religious."[24] Sanders's wife is Roman Catholic and he has frequently expressed admiration for Pope Francis, saying: "the leader of the Catholic Church is raising profound issues. It is important that we listen to what he has said." Sanders often quotes Francis on economic issues and has described him as "incredibly smart and brave."[22][36]

Early political career[edit]

Liberty Union campaigns[edit]

Sanders began his political career in 1971 as a member of the Liberty Union Party, which originated in the anti-war and people's party movement. He ran as the Liberty Union candidate for governor in 1972 and 1976 and as a candidate for senator in 1972 and 1974.[37] 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%).[38][39] In 1979, Sanders resigned from the party and worked as a writer and the director of the nonprofit American People's Historical Society.[40] While with the APHS, he made a 30-minute documentary about American Socialist leader and presidential candidate Eugene V. Debs.[26][41]

Mayor of Burlington[edit]

In 1981, at the suggestion of his close 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 in a four-way contest.[42] Sanders won three additional terms, defeating both Democratic and Republican candidates in successive elections. In his final run for mayor in 1987, Sanders defeated Paul Lafayette, a Democrat endorsed by both major parties.[43]

During Sanders's first term, his supporters, including the first Citizens Party City Councilor Terry Bouricius, formed the Progressive Coalition, the forerunner of the Vermont Progressive Party.[44] 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's vetoes. Under Sanders, Burlington became the first city in the country to fund community-trust housing.[45]

During the 1980s, Sanders was a staunch critic of U.S. foreign policy in Latin America.[46] 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."[47][48]

Sanders's administration balanced the city budget, and drew a minor league baseball team, the Vermont Reds, to Burlington.[19] Under Sanders's leadership Burlington sued the local television cable franchise, winning reduced rates for customers.[19]

As mayor, Sanders undertook extensive downtown revitalization projects; one of his signature achievements was the improvement of Burlington's Lake Champlain waterfront.[19] In 1981, Sanders campaigned against the unpopular plans by Tony Pomerleau, a Burlington developer, to convert the then-industrial[49] waterfront property owned by the Central Vermont Railway into expensive condominiums, hotels, and offices.[50] 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.[50] Today the waterfront area includes many parks and miles of public beach and bike paths, a boathouse and science center,[50] and Burlington is reported to be one of the most livable cities in the nation.[51][52] In 2015, Sanders announced his candidacy for president at Waterfront Park.[49]

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.[53]

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 P. Smith 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.[54] Two years later Sanders ran for the seat again, and defeated the incumbent Smith by a margin of 56% to 40%.

Sanders was the first independent elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 40 years,[55] the last having been Frazier Reams of Ohio. He continually won reelection with high margins, with his closest bid during the 1994 Republican Revolution, when he won by 3.3% with 49.8% of the vote.[56]

Tenure[edit]

Sanders in 1991

During his first year in the House, Sanders often alienated allies and colleagues with his criticism of both political parties as tools of the wealthy.[19] In 1991, Sanders co-founded the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and chaired the group of mostly liberal Democrats for its first eight years.

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.[57][58] In 2005, he voted for the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act.[59] The act's purpose is 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."[60]

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[61] that has been cited as the legal justification for controversial military actions since the September 11 attacks.[62] 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. About the investigation of what turned out to be a leak of CIA agent Valerie Plame's identity by a State Department 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."[63]

Sanders has been a consistent critic of the Patriot Act. As a member of Congress, he voted against the original Patriot Act legislation.[64] After its 357-to-66 passage in the House, Sanders sponsored and voted for several subsequent amendments and acts attempting to curtail its effects,[65] and voted against each reauthorization.[66]

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 it would be "impractical to talk about impeachment" with Republicans in control of the House and Senate.[67] Still, Sanders made no secret of his opposition to the Bush Administration, which he regularly criticized for its cuts to social programs.[68][69][70]

Sanders has been 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."[71][72] Sanders said in 1998 that investment banks and commercial banks should remain separate entities.[73] In October 2008 Greenspan admitted to Congress that his economic ideology was flawed.[74]

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.[75] On November 2, 2005, Sanders voted against the Online Freedom of Speech Act, which would have exempted the Internet from the restrictions of the McCain–Feingold Bill.[76]

U.S. Senate[edit]

Elections[edit]

Sanders being sworn in by Vice President Dick Cheney

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."[77] Then-Senator Barack Obama also campaigned for Sanders in Vermont in March 2006.[78] 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.[79][80]

In the most expensive political campaign in Vermont's history,[81] 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. He was reelected in 2012 with 71% of the vote.[82]

Tenure[edit]

Sanders testifying to Congress, 2014

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.[83] Both the NAACP and the NHLA have given Sanders 100 percent voting scores during his tenure in the Senate.[84]

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.[85] 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.[86]

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?"[87] (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.[14]) 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.[88] Progressive activists such as Rabbi Michael Lerner and economist David Korten publicly voiced their support for a prospective Sanders run against President Barack Obama.[88]

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.[89]

Senate Budget Committee[edit]

In January 2015, Sanders became the ranking minority member of the Senate Budget Committee.[8] 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[90] 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.[91]

Committee assignments[edit]

2016 presidential campaign[edit]

Sanders campaigning in Arizona

Sanders announced his intention to seek the Democratic Party's nomination for president on April 30, 2015, in an address on the Capitol lawn.[16][17][18] His campaign was officially launched on May 26 in Burlington.[17]

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."[16][17] His entry into the race was welcomed by Senator Elizabeth Warren, saying "I'm glad to see him get out there and give his version of what leadership in this country should be." Warren has resisted calls to become a candidate herself.[92] On June 19, 2015, the "Ready For Warren" organization endorsed Sanders and rebranded itself "Ready to Fight."[93]

Unlike other presidential candidates, Sanders stated he will not pursue funding through a "Super PAC", instead focusing on small individual donations.[94] Sanders's presidential campaign raised $1.5 million within 24 hours of his official announcement.[95] After four days, Sanders's campaign had raised $3 million from small donors, with an average of $43 per donation.[96] On July 2, the campaign announced it had raised $15 million from 250,000 donors.

Sanders speaking in Minneapolis

Sanders has used social media to help his campaign gain momentum.[97] Along with posting content on Twitter and Facebook, he held an "Ask Me Anything" on Reddit on May 19. Sanders has also gained a large grassroots organizational following online. A July 29 meetup organized online brought 100,000 supporters to more than 3,500 simultaneous events nationwide.[98]

On June 25, 2015, The New York Times noted that Sanders was "running right alongside [Clinton] in a statistical dead heat for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination" in the New Hampshire primaries, citing a CNN/WMUR poll.[99] The Guardian pointed out that when Clinton and Sanders made public appearances within days of each other in Des Moines, Iowa, Sanders drew the larger crowds, although he had already made numerous stops around the state while it was Clinton's first visit of the year.[100]

Sanders's campaign events in June 2015 drew overflow crowds around the country, to his surprise.[101][102][103] 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.[104][105] On July 18, he drew an even larger crowd in Arizona, with an estimated turnout of over 11,000.[106] On August 8, Sanders drew an estimated 15,000 in Seattle at the University of Washington's arena.[107] A day later, some 28,000 people attended a Sanders rally in Portland, Oregon.[108]

Political positions[edit]

Sanders is a self-described democratic socialist who admires the Nordic model of social democracy and is a proponent of workplace democracy.[1][7][109] Many commentators have noted the consistency of his views throughout his political career.[110][111] He focuses on economic issues such as income and wealth inequality,[2][112] raising the minimum wage,[113] universal healthcare,[114] reducing the burden of student debt,[115] making public colleges and universities tuition-free by taxing financial transactions,[116] and expanding Social Security benefits.[117] Sanders has become a prominent supporter of laws requiring companies to provide their workers paternity leave, sick leave, and vacation time, noting that such laws have been adopted by almost every developed country.[118] Sanders also advocates bold action to reverse global warming and infrastructure investment in the United States, with "energy efficiency and sustainability" as a prominent goal.[119][120] He is opposed to the Trans-Pacific Partnership.[121]

Sanders has advocated for more democratic participation by citizens, campaign finance reform and the overturn of Citizens United.[122][123] He has decried institutional racism, called for criminal justice reform to reduce the number of people in prison and advocates a crackdown on police brutality and abolishing private, for-profit prisons.[124][125] He is an advocate of comprehensive financial reforms and favors breaking up "too big to fail" financial institutions and restoring Glass–Steagall.[126][127] Sanders was a strong opponent of the U.S. invasion of Iraq and has been critical of a number of policies instituted during the War on Terror, particularly mass surveillance and the USA PATRIOT Act.[128][129] He takes a liberal approach to social issues, advocating for LGBT rights and lobbying against the Defense of Marriage Act, and maintains a pro-choice stance on abortion, opposing the defunding of Planned Parenthood.[130][131]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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  2. ^ a b c "Bernie Sanders confirms presidential run and damns America's inequities". The Guardian. Associated Press. April 30, 2015. Retrieved June 19, 2015. 
  3. ^ Lerer, Lisa (July 16, 2009). "Where's the outrage over AIG bonuses?". The Politico. Retrieved April 19, 2010. 
  4. ^ Powell, Michael (November 6, 2006). "Exceedingly Social But Doesn't Like Parties". The Washington Post. Retrieved November 26, 2012. 
  5. ^ Sanders, Bernie (May 26, 2013). "What Can We Learn From Denmark?". The Huffington Post. Retrieved August 19, 2013. 
  6. ^ Issenberg, Sasha (January 9, 2010). "Sanders a growing force on the far, far left". Boston Globe. Retrieved August 24, 2013. 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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  11. ^ Totten, Shay (January 15, 2007). "Sanders to push global warming legislation in Senate". Vermont Guardian. Retrieved August 4, 2009. 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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  67. ^ "Vermont Town Votes to Impeach President". Associated Press. March 8, 2006. Retrieved July 19, 2015. 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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Further reading[edit]

  • Rice, Tom W. (Summer 1985). "Who Votes for a Socialist Mayor?: The Case of Burlington, Vermont". Polity (Palgrave Macmillan Journals) 17 (4): 795–806. doi:10.2307/3234575. JSTOR 3234575. 
  • Rosenfeld, Steven (1992). Making History in Vermont: The Election of a Socialist to Congress. Wakefield, NH: Hollowbrook Publishing. ISBN 978-0893416980. 
  • Soifer, Steven (1991). The Socialist Mayor: Bernard Sanders in Burlington, Vermont. Westport, CT: Praeger. ISBN 978-0897892193. 
  • Sanders, Bernie (2012). The Speech: A Historic Filibuster on Corporate Greed and the Decline of Our Middle Class. CreateSpace Independent Publishing. ISBN 978-1468178470. 
  • Sanders, Bernie (1998). Outsider in the House. Contributions by Huck Gutman. Verso. ISBN 978-1859841778. 

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