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Bernie Sanders

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Bernie Sanders
Bernie Sanders.jpg
Official Senate portrait of Sanders, 2007
United States Senator
from Vermont
Assumed office
January 3, 2007
Serving with Patrick Leahy
Preceded by Jim Jeffords
Chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee
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
In office
April 6, 1981 – April 4, 1989
Preceded by Gordon Paquette
Succeeded by Peter Clavelle
Personal details
Born Bernard Sanders
(1941-09-08) September 8, 1941 (age 74)
New York City, New York, United States
Political party Liberty Union (Before 1979)
Independent (1979–2015)
Democratic (2015–present)
Spouse(s) Deborah Shiling (1964–1966)
Jane O’Meara (1988–present)
Domestic partner Susan Mott (1969)[1]
Children Levi (with Mott)
Dave (stepchild)
Carina (stepchild)
Heather (stepchild)
Alma mater University of Chicago
Website Senate website
Campaign website

Bernard "Bernie" Sanders (born September 8, 1941) is an American politician and the junior United States Senator from Vermont. He is a candidate for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

A Democrat as of 2015,[2] Sanders had been the longest-serving independent in U.S. congressional history, though his caucusing with the Democrats entitled him to committee assignments and at times gave Democrats a majority.[3] Sanders has been the ranking minority member on the Senate Budget Committee since January 2015, and previously served for two years as chair of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee.[4][5]

Sanders was born and raised in the New York City borough of Brooklyn and graduated from the University of Chicago in 1964. While a student, he was an active civil rights protest organizer for the Congress of Racial Equality and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.[6][7] 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, in 1981, and was reelected three times. In 1990, he was elected to represent Vermont's at-large congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives. In 1991, Sanders co-founded the Congressional Progressive Caucus. 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. In the 2016 Presidential Primaries Sanders became the first self-described democratic socialist and first Jewish American to win a U.S. presidential primary.[8][9][10]

Sanders rose to national prominence following his 2010 filibuster[11][12] against the proposed extension of the Bush tax cuts. He favors policies similar to those of social democratic parties in Europe, particularly those instituted by the Nordic countries,[16] and is a leading progressive voice on issues such as income inequality,[17] universal healthcare, parental leave, climate change,[18] LGBT rights, and campaign finance reform.[19] Sanders has long been critical of U.S. foreign policy and was an early and outspoken opponent of the Iraq War. He is also outspoken on civil rights and civil liberties, and has been particularly critical of racial discrimination in the criminal justice system[20] and mass surveillance policies such as the USA PATRIOT Act[21] and the NSA surveillance programs.[22]

Early life

Sanders was born in the borough of Brooklyn, in the city of New York, New York. His father, Eli Sanders, was born on September 19, 1904, in Słopnice, Poland,[23][24] to a Jewish family, and emigrated to the United States in 1921,[25] at the age of seventeen.[23][26] His mother, Dorothy Sanders (née Glassberg), was born in New York City on October 2, 1912,[27][28] to Jewish immigrant parents from Poland and Russia.[29][30] Many of Eli's relatives who remained in Poland were killed in the Holocaust.[6][28][31] His paternal uncle, Romek, who was the leader of the Jewish community in Słopnice, was the first Jew to be murdered by the Nazis when they invaded the town.[26]

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."[32][33][34]

Sanders attended elementary school at P.S. 197 in Brooklyn, where he won a borough championship on the basketball team.[35][36] He attended Hebrew school in the afternoons, and celebrated his bar mitzvah in 1954.[37] Sanders attended James Madison High School, also in Brooklyn, where he was captain of the track team and finished in third place in the New York City indoor one-mile race.[35] In high school, Sanders lost his first election, finishing last out of three candidates for the student body presidency. Sanders's mother died in June 1959 at the age of 46, shortly after Sanders graduated from high school.[31] Sanders's father later died on August 4, 1962, a month short of his 58th birthday.[24]

Sanders studied at Brooklyn College for a year in 1959–60[38] before transferring to the University of Chicago and graduating with a bachelor of arts degree in political science in 1964.[38]

Sanders' older brother, Larry, has recalled that during Bernie's childhood, the family never lacked for food or clothing, but major purchases, "like curtains or a rug," were difficult to afford.[39]

Early political career

Early political activism

Sanders speaks to students participating in Chicago's first civil rights sit-in in protest of University of Chicago's segregated campus housing policy, January, 1962. [40]

While at the University of Chicago, Sanders joined the Young People's Socialist League,[41] 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 and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.[6][7] Under Sanders' chairmanship, the university chapter of CORE merged with the university chapter of SNCC.[42] 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.[43][44] After weeks of sit-ins, Beadle and the university formed a commission to investigate discrimination.[45] He 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.[46]

Sanders attended the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, where Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his "I Have a Dream" speech.[6][46][47] That summer, he was convicted of resisting arrest during a demonstration against segregation in Chicago's public schools and was fined $25.[48]

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 placed any blame on those who fought and has been a strong supporter of veterans' benefits.[49][50]

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.[51] In the 1974 Senatorial race, Sanders finished third (5,901 votes; 4.1%) behind the victor, 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%).[52][53]

The 1976 campaign proved to be the zenith of Liberty Union's influence, with Sanders collecting 11,000 votes for Governor and the party forcing 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.[54] 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.[55]

Following his resignation from Liberty Union, Sanders worked as a writer and the director of the nonprofit American People's Historical Society (APHS).[56] While with the APHS, he made a 30-minute documentary about American Socialist leader and presidential candidate Eugene V. Debs.[41][57]

Mayor of Burlington

Burlington City Hall, constructed in 1928

In 1980, at the suggestion of his close friend and political confidante Richard Sugarman, a professor of religion at the University of Vermont, Sanders ran for mayor of Burlington, Vermont. The 39-year-old Sanders ran against incumbent Democratic mayor Gordon "Gordie" Paquette, a 5-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.[58] Indeed, the Republicans had found Paquette so unobjectionable that they had failed to even field a candidate in the March 1981 race against him, leaving Sanders as the principal opponent to the long-entrenched mayor.[59]

Sanders' 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 in the mayoral race.[60] 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 a battle between Paquette and Sanders.[61]

Sanders castigated the pro-development incumbent as an ally of prominent shopping center developer Antonio Pomerleau, while Mayor Paquette promised ruin for Burlington if Sanders was elected.[62] 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.[63] The final result came as a shock to the local political establishment, with the maverick Sanders winning election by a final margin of just 10 votes.[64]

Sanders was reelected three times, defeating both Democratic and Republican candidates. He received 53% of the vote in 1983 and 55% in 1985.[65] In his final run for mayor in 1987, Sanders defeated Paul Lafayette, a Democrat endorsed by both major parties.[66]

During his years as mayor, Sanders called himself a socialist and was so described in the press.[67][68] 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.[69] The Progressives never held more than six seats on the 13-member city council, but they 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.[70]

During the 1980s, Sanders was a staunch critic of U.S. foreign policy in Latin America.[71] 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."[72][73]

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.[28] Under Sanders's leadership, Burlington sued the local television cable franchise, winning reduced rates for customers.[28]

As mayor, Sanders led extensive downtown revitalization projects. One of his signature achievements was the improvement of Burlington's Lake Champlain waterfront.[28] In 1981, Sanders campaigned against the unpopular plans by Burlington developer Tony Pomerleau to convert the then-industrial[74] waterfront property owned by the Central Vermont Railway into expensive condominiums, hotels, and offices.[75] 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.[75] Today, the waterfront area includes many parks and miles of public beach and bike paths, a boathouse, and a science center.[75]

Sanders hosted and produced a public-access television program, Bernie Speaks with the Community, from 1986 to 1988.[76][77] Sanders collaborated with thirty Vermont musicians to record a folk album, We Shall Overcome, in 1987.[78][79]

In 1986, Sanders unsuccessfully challenged incumbent Governor Madeleine Kunin (D) in her run for reelection. Running as an Independent, Sanders finished in 3rd place with 14.4% of the vote. Kunin won with 47%, followed by Lt. Governor Peter P. Smith (R) with 38%.

In 1987, U.S. News & World Report ranked Sanders as one of America's best mayors.[80] Today, Burlington is regarded as one of the most livable cities in the nation.[81][82]

After serving four two-year 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.[83]

U.S. House of Representatives

Sanders' 1990 victory was heralded by The Washington Post and others as the "First Socialist Elected" to the United States House of Representatives in decades.[84][85] 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.[86] Two years later, Sanders ran for the seat again and defeated the incumbent Smith by a margin of 56% to 40%.[citation needed]

Sanders was the first independent elected to the U.S. House of Representatives since Frazier Reams' election to represent Ohio 40 years earlier.[85] 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.[87]


Sanders in 1991

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.[28]

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.[88][89] In 2005, he voted for the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act.[90] 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."[91]

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[92] that has been cited as the legal justification for controversial military actions since the September 11 attacks.[93] 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."[94]

Sanders was a consistent critic of the Patriot Act. As a member of Congress, he voted against the original Patriot Act legislation.[95] After its 357-to-66 passage in the House, Sanders sponsored and voted for several subsequent amendments and acts attempting to curtail its effects,[96] and voted against each reauthorization.[97] 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.[98]

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.[99] Still, Sanders made no secret of his opposition to the Bush Administration, which he regularly criticized for its cuts to social programs.[100][101][102]

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".[103][104] 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.[105][106] In 1998, Sanders voted and advocated against rolling back the Glass–Steagall Legislation provisions that kept investment banks and commercial banks separate entities.[107]

On November 2, 2005, Sanders voted against the Online Freedom of Speech Act, which would have exempted the Internet from the campaign finance restrictions of the McCain–Feingold Bill.[108]

U.S. Senate


Bernie Sanders being sworn in as a U.S. Senator by then Vice President Dick Cheney in the Old Senate Chamber, January 2007

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".[109] Then-Senator Barack Obama also campaigned for Sanders in Vermont in March 2006.[110] 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.[111][112]

In the most expensive political campaign in Vermont's history,[113] 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.[114]

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.[3] When he officially announced his intention to seek the Democratic nomination for president, Sanders set himself on a path to become only the second Democrat to represent Vermont in the Senate, the other being Leahy.[citation needed]


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.[115] Both the NAACP and the NHLA have given Sanders 100% voting scores during his tenure in the Senate.[116] In 2015 Sanders was named one of the Top 5 of The Forward 50.[117] 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.[118]

As an independent, Sanders worked out a deal with the Senate Democratic leadership in which he agrees to vote with the Democrats on all procedural matters except with permission from Democratic whip Dick Durbin (a request that is almost never made or granted). In return, he is 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).[4] Sanders is free to vote as he pleases on policy matters, but has almost always voted with the Democrats.[citation needed]


Sanders spoke for over eight hours in his December 2010 filibuster.

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.[119] 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.[120]

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?"[12][121] 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.[122] Progressive activists such as Rabbi Michael Lerner and economist David Korten publicly voiced their support for a prospective Sanders run against President Barack Obama.[122]

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.[123]

Senate Budget Committee

In January 2015, Sanders became the ranking minority member of the Senate Budget Committee.[5] He appointed economics professor Stephanie Kelton, a modern monetary theory scholar and self-described "deficit owl", as the chief economic advisor for the committee's Democratic minority[124] 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.[125]

Committee assignments

Senator Sanders listening to testimony by then acting U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Sloan D. Gibson, in 2014

2016 presidential campaign

Sanders at a campaign event in Littleton, New Hampshire, August 2015

Sanders announced his intention to seek the Democratic Party's nomination for president on April 30, 2015, in an address on the Capitol lawn.[126][127][128] His campaign was officially launched on May 26, 2015, in Burlington.[127]

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.[126][127] Senator Elizabeth Warren welcomed Sanders' 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." On June 19, 2015, the "Ready For Warren" organization (Warren resisted calls to become a candidate herself) endorsed Sanders and rebranded itself "Ready to Fight".[129][130]

Sanders stated that he would not pursue funding through a "Super PAC", instead focusing on small individual donations.[131] His presidential campaign raised $1.5 million within 24 hours of his official announcement.[132] 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.[133] The campaign reached 3.25 million donations by the end of January 2016, raising $20 million in that month alone.[134]

Sanders has used social media to help his campaign gain momentum.[135] He posts content to online platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, and has answered questions on Reddit. 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.[136] Sanders has received over one million individual online donations. He has credited this to his "organic" approach to social media, and to writing his campaign's online postings himself.[137]

Sanders before a crowd in Conway, New Hampshire, August 2015

Sanders' campaign events in June 2015 drew overflow crowds around the country, to his surprise.[138][139][140] 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.[141] On July 1, 2015, Sanders' campaign stop in Madison, Wisconsin, drew the largest crowd of any 2016 presidential candidate to that date, with an estimated turnout of 10,000.[142][143] Over the following weeks he gained even larger crowds of 11,000 in Arizona,[144] 15,000 in Seattle,[145] and 28,000 in Portland.[146]

On December 4, 2015, Sanders won Time's 2015 Person of the Year readers' poll with 10.2% of the vote[147][148] but did not receive the editorial board's award.[149]

In December 2015, the Democratic National Committee suspended the campaign's access to its voter data after a campaign staffer viewed data from Hillary Clinton's campaign during a firewall failure. The staffer denied accessing the data but the DNC confirmed it and Sanders apologized.[150] The Sanders campaign criticized the DNC's reaction as excessive and threatened possible legal action unless the Committee restored its access.[151] The campaign claimed it had warned the DNC about glitches in the voter file program months before.[152][153] On December 18, 2015, the campaign filed a lawsuit, stating the Committee had unfairly suspended its access.[154] Former Obama adviser David Axelrod contended on Twitter that the DNC was "putting a finger on the scale" for Clinton.[155] The DNC and the Sanders campaign struck a deal the same day that restored the campaign's access to voter data.[156]

Sanders narrowly lost the 2016 Iowa Democratic caucuses by 0.25% of the vote.[157] On February 9, Sanders won the 2016 New Hampshire Democratic primary by a margin of more than 20%,[158] one of the largest in decades.[10][159][160] He swept nearly every demographic with the exception of those over the age of 65 and those making over $200,000 annually.[161] Sanders became the first self-described democratic socialist and as a Jewish American, the first non-Christian to win a U.S. presidential primary.[8][9][10]


Sanders speaks with young adults in Des Moines, September 2015

Since the campaign began in May, polls have shown a tightening race against Hillary Clinton. The Huffington Post's survey of polls as of February 10, 2016, showed him trailing Clinton by 13 percentage points nationally.[162]

On December 3, 2015, a Quinnipiac University poll found Sanders to be the most electable presidential candidate in either major party, and more electable than Hillary Clinton against top Republican candidates.[163]

Democratic Party presidential debates

The 2016 Democratic Party presidential debates occur among candidates in the campaign for the Democratic Party's nomination for the President of the United States in the 2016 presidential election. The DNC announced on May 5, 2015, that there would be six debates, much fewer than the 26 debates and forums during the 2008 Democratic primary.[164] Critics, including the Sanders campaign, have alleged that the debate schedule is part of the DNC's deliberate attempt to protect the front-runner, Hillary Clinton.[165][166] Clinton has expressed willingness to hold more debates.[167]

Party affiliation since 2015

In November 2015, Sanders announced that he would be a Democrat from then on, and will run in any future elections as a Democrat.[168][169][170] In 2016, many additional sources, such as PBS,[171] The Wall Street Journal,[172] and CBS[173] described Sanders as a Democrat.

The United States Senate website includes pages that refer to Sanders as an Independent[174] as well as pages that refer to him as a Democrat. Some of the pages calling him a Democrat are dated before 2015, possibly in error or in reference to his caucusing with the Democrats, not his later-declared affiliation.[175] In January 2016, his official Senate website still referred to him as an Independent,[176] and the following month his press releases omitted party affiliation[177] or described him as an Independent.[178]

Political positions

Sanders is a self-described socialist,[179][180] democratic socialist,[184] and progressive who admires the Nordic model of social democracy and is a proponent of workplace democracy.[15][181][185][186] 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.[187][188] 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."[187]

Many commentators have noted the consistency of Sanders' views throughout his political career.[189][190] 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."[191][192]

Sanders focuses on economic issues such as income and wealth inequality,[17][193] raising the minimum wage,[194] universal healthcare,[195] reducing the burden of student debt,[196] making public colleges and universities tuition-free by taxing financial transactions,[197] and expanding Social Security benefits by eliminating the cap on the payroll tax on all incomes above $250,000.[198][199] 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.[200] He also supports legislation that would make it easier for workers to join or form a union.[201][202]

Sanders has advocated for greater democratic participation by citizens, campaign finance reform, and the overturn of Citizens United v. FEC.[203][204] He also advocates comprehensive financial reforms,[205] 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.[206][207][208][209] 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.[210][211]

Sanders has liberal stances on social issues, having advocated for LGBT rights and against the Defense of Marriage Act.[212] Sanders considers himself a feminist.[213] He is also pro-choice regarding abortion, and opposes the defunding of Planned Parenthood.[214] He 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[215][216][217] and the death penalty.[218] Sanders supports legalizing marijuana at the federal level.[219] On November 15, 2015, in response to ISIS's attacks in Paris, Sanders cautioned against "Islamophobia" and said, "We gotta be tough, not stupid," in the war against ISIS, and said the U.S. should continue to welcome Syrian refugees.[220]

Sanders advocates bold action to reverse global warming and substantial investment in infrastructure, with "energy efficiency and sustainability" and job creation as prominent goals.[221][222] Sanders considers climate change as the greatest threat to national security.[223]

Personal life

Sanders with his wife Jane O'Meara in Des Moines, Iowa, January 2016

Sanders married Deborah Shiling in 1964 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 the Israeli kibbutz Sha'ar HaAmakim.[41][224][225] His son, Levi Sanders, was born in 1969 to girlfriend Susan Campbell Mott.[226] In 1988, Sanders married Jane O’Meara Driscoll (née Mary Jane O'Meara), who later became president of Burlington College, in Burlington, Vermont.[227] With her he has three stepchildren—Dave Driscoll, Carina Driscoll, and Heather Titus (née Driscoll)—whom he considers to be his own children.[41][228] He also has seven grandchildren.[229]

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.[230][231] 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.[232] 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' own upbringing in Brooklyn.[233] 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.[234]

Sanders's elder brother, Larry Sanders, lives in England.[235] He was a Green Party county councillor representing the East Oxford division on Oxfordshire County Council, until he retired from the Council in 2013.[236][237] Larry Sanders ran as a Green Party candidate for Oxford West and Abingdon in the 2015 British general election and came in fifth.[238][239] Bernie told CNN, "I owe my brother an enormous amount. It was my brother who actually introduced me to a lot of my ideas."[239]


Sanders had a Jewish upbringing, attended Hebrew school, and had a bar mitzvah ceremony.[240] In 1963, in cooperation with the Labor Zionist youth movement Hashomer Hatzair, he and his first wife volunteered at Sha’ar HaAmakim, a kibbutz in northern Israel.[241][242][243]

As mayor of Burlington, Sanders played a pivotal role supporting the Chabad public menorah at city hall, which was contested by the local ACLU chapter. He publicly inaugurated the Hanukkah menorah in 1983 and his early and strong support played a significant role in the now widespread public menorah celebrations around the globe. Sanders also expressed strong admiration for Rabbi Menachem Schneerson and marked Education Day in his honor.[244][245][246][247]

Sanders has described himself as a secular Jew.[248][249][250] He has rarely spoken about religion and has downplayed questions about it.[240] Sanders has said he is "proud to be Jewish" but "not particularly religious",[33][240] saying he believes in God but is "not actively involved" with organized religion.[240][251] A press package issued by his office states, without elaboration, "Religion: Jewish".[252]

His brother, Larry, has described him as "quite substantially not religious".[240] In October 2015, on the late-night talk show Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Bernie Sanders said:[253]

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".[254]

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".[27][255][256]

See also


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  180. ^ Sanders, Bernie (April 22, 2009). "Sanders Socialist Successes". Retrieved December 6, 2015. 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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  182. ^ Lerer, Lisa (July 16, 2009). "Where's the outrage over AIG bonuses?". The Politico. Retrieved April 19, 2010. Only a handful of members, including self-described democratic socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), criticized... 
  183. ^ Powell, Michael (November 6, 2006). "Exceedingly Social But Doesn't Like Parties". The Washington Post. Retrieved November 26, 2012. He knows what the corporate media might do with his answer, but whatever... 'Yeah. I wouldn't deny it. Not for one second. I'm a democratic socialist.' 
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  190. ^ Maddow, Rachel (August 13, 2015). "Bernie Sanders' track record distinguished by consistency". MSNBC. Retrieved October 13, 2015. 
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  198. ^ Sanders Files Bill to Strengthen, Expand Social Security. March 12, 2015.
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  200. ^ "Family values agenda: paid family leave, paid sick leave, paid vacation" (PDF). Retrieved August 18, 2015. 
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  209. ^ Pinsker, Joe. "Bernie Sanders's Highly Sensible Plan to Turn Post Offices Into Banks". The Atlantic. Retrieved January 6, 2016. 
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  218. ^ Bernie Sanders Wants to Abolish the Death Penalty. Vice. October 30, 2015.
  219. ^ Bernie Sanders Supports Ending Federal Marijuana Ban. Rolling Stone. October 28, 2015.
  220. ^ Tom LoBianco, CNN (November 17, 2015). "Bernie Sanders on ISIS: U.S. needs to be "tough" not "stupid"". CNN. 
  221. ^ Bernie Sanders at People's Climate March: To Stop Global Warming, Get Dirty Money Out of Politics. Democracy now! September 22, 2014.
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  229. ^ "Bernie Sanders Is 'Fun Grandpa': 5 Things We Learned at His Home :". 
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  231. ^ Tessa Stuart (December 2, 2015). "The Untold Story of Bernie Sanders' 1987 Folk Album". Rolling Stone. Retrieved February 4, 2016. 
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  233. ^ Meg Wagner (February 4, 2016). "Bernie Sanders plays rabbi Manny Shevitz in 1999 romantic comedy, goes on long-winded Brooklyn Dodgers rant". New York Daily News. Retrieved February 4, 2016. 
  234. ^ "With A Little Help From Larry David, Bernie Sanders Does SNL". February 7, 2016. Retrieved February 7, 2016. 
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  237. ^ "Green County Councillor Retires". Oxfordshire Green Party. June 8, 2013. Retrieved July 18, 2015. 
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  242. ^ "Mystery solved: Sanders volunteered at Kibbutz Shaar HaEmekim". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. February 5, 2016. Retrieved February 5, 2016. 
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  245. ^ Ziri, Danielle. "Sanders may play down Judaism, but he played big role in Hannukah case", Jerusalem Post (February 10, 2016).
  246. ^ Johnson, Sally. "THE LAW; Menorah Ruling: Little New Light", New York Times (December 9, 1988).
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  251. ^ Winston, Kimberly. "Bernie Sanders disappoints some atheists with ‘very strong religious’ feelings", Washington Post (February 4, 2016).
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  253. ^ Friedman, Gabe. "WATCH: Bernie Sanders talks spirituality, Larry David and marijuana on 'Jimmy Kimmel'", Haaretz (October 24, 2015).
  254. ^ "Sanders discusses faith, Clinton grapples with rabbinical question on humility". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. February 4, 2016. Retrieved February 4, 2016. 
  255. ^ Sanders, Bernie (February 15, 2015). "Pope Francis". Retrieved June 13, 2015. 
  256. ^ Heilman, Uriel. "New Hampshire Jews all over the map ahead of presidential primary", The Times of Israel (February 2, 2016).

Further reading

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

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Peter Welch
Party political offices
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Ed Flanagan
Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Vermont
(Class 1)

2006, 2012
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United States Senate
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Jim Jeffords
U.S. Senator (Class 1) from Vermont
Served alongside: Patrick Leahy
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Patty Murray
Chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee
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Johnny Isakson
United States order of precedence (ceremonial)
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Ben Cardin
United States Senators by seniority
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