Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders Announces Bid for Democratic Presidential Nomination

Last Thursday, US Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont announced that he would run for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination. He will be challenging former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who, so far, is the only other major candidate in the race.  Though he has formally announced his bid, Sanders will kick off his campaign in Burlington on May 26.

“I am running for President of the United States because America needs a political revolution,” wrote Sanders on his Facebook page on April 30.  “We need a government which represents all of us, and not just a handful of billionaires. In this campaign, we won’t have the support of the big-money interests, Wall Street or the military-industrial complex. That’s why I need you to join me in an unprecedented grass-roots effort.”

Sanders announced his campaign at a news conference on the Capitol lawn.  In a brief speech, Sanders identified the 3 major issues he intends to address: growing economic disparity, excessive spending on political campaigns, and climate change.

The most central issue to Sanders’ campaign is the growing gap in income in the U.S. and the inability for many working families to support themselves.

“We can’t continue having a nation in which we have the highest rate of childhood poverty of any major nation on earth, at the same time as we’re seeing a proliferation of millionaires and billionaires,” Sanders said in his announcement speech.

Specific problems that concern Sanders on the topic of economic disparity are the exorbitant cost of college, the stagnation of wages, increasing wealth among the wealthy and the rising cost of healthcare.

“The second issue directly related is the fact that as a result of the disastrous supreme court decision on Citizens United [vs. Federal Election Commission], we now have a political situation where billionaires are literally able to buy elections and candidates,” Sanders continued. Sanders’ campaign fund pales in comparison to that of his competitor, Clinton.  Sanders prefers to take donations from citizens, rather than corporations, to show that his campaign is a grassroots effort, not corporately funded.

OpenSecrets.org is a website run by the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan group that researches the effect of money on politics and makes information about it publicly available.  According to OpenSecrets.org, Sanders’ top 3 campaign contributors throughout his career have been the Machinists/Aerospace Workers Union, the Teamsters Union, and the United Auto Workers. In contrast, Citigroup Inc., Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase & Co., and Lehman Brothers have been among the top 10 contributors to Clinton throughout her career.

Sanders’ campaign received $1.5 million in donations within 24 hours of announcing his bid for president.  Sanders lives his ideals    about keeping money out of politics.  The bottom of his campaign website reads, “Paid for by Bernie 2016 (not the billionaires).”

Finally, Sanders addressed the importance of taking climate change seriously and acting accordingly.

“We have a Republican Party with virtually few exceptions that does not even recognize the reality of climate change, let alone that it is caused by human activity, let alone that the scientific community tells us this is the major global environmental crisis that we face,” Sanders said. “And I want to see this nation lead the world in transforming our energy system away from fossil fuel, to energy efficiency and sustainable energy.”

Coming from Vermont, Sanders is well-poised to make this claim, as Vermont has actively tried to increase green energy use and reduce fossil fuel consumption.

In the realm of foreign policy, Sanders has emphasized that he opposed the war in Iraq, something that Clinton supported. Sanders supports President Obama’s use of sanctions against Russia regarding Ukraine. However, Sanders opposes Obama’s view on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).  Sanders opposes TPP because of its negative effect on jobs of American people and favoritism toward corporations.

Sanders is also a strong supporter of gay marriage.

“It’s time for the Supreme Court to catch up to the American people and legalize gay marriage,” Sanders said in a press release.  In 2000, he supported the legalization of civil unions in Vermont and in 2009 he supported the legalization of gay marriage in Vermont.

Sanders began his political career in Vermont in 1971.  During the 1970s, Sanders ran under the anti-Vietnam Liberty Union Party, a non-violent socialist party in Vermont that still sends candidates to several elections statewide. Sanders won no offices with this party. After this point, he proceeded to run as an Independent until now when he has entered the race for Democratic nomination.

From 1981 through 1989, Sanders was mayor of Burlington. From 1991 to 2007, Sanders served as a US Representative from Vermont as an Independent.  He is now on his second term as junior senator from Vermont.  With 24 years of experience in the House and Senate combined, Sanders is the longest serving independent in Congress.

Sanders engaged in various jobs before his career in politics. Upon graduating from James Madison High School in Brooklyn in 1959, Sanders attended Brooklyn College, but then transferred to University of Chicago. During college, Sanders was active in the Civil Rights movement and graduated in 1964. After graduation, Sanders lived on an Israeli kibbutz, then moved to Vermont.  In Vermont, before getting into politics, Sanders worked various jobs such as carpenter, film-maker and writer.

Because of his small campaign budget, lack of experience in foreign affairs, and populist, (sometimes considered socialist) persuasion, many believe he stands no chance against Clinton, a more moderate, high profile and amply funded candidate.

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Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders Announces Bid for Democratic Presidential Nomination