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Hello, Mr President: Bernie Sanders

Personal Background:

Senator Bernard “Bernie” Sanders was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York by low income Jewish immigrant parents. Sanders attended Brooklyn College in 1964, and then went on to study at the University of Chicago where he gained a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science. During his time in Chicago, he joined the civil rights movement and joined the march on Washington. Sanders spent time after college living in a kibbutz. After his return, he moved to Vermont to work as a carpenter, documentarian, journalist and anti-Vietnam War activist. After a handful of unsuccessful bids for office, Sanders secured the mayorship of Burlington, Vermont in 1981. Sanders slowly but surely developed a successful political career, and by 2006 he was Vermont’s senator, the founder of Congressional Progressive Caucus, and a strong figure of anti-war opposition. In 2016, Sanders announced his bid for president but ultimately lost the Democratic nomination to Hillary Clinton. In 2019, Sanders announced that he would run for the presidency yet again, and he received a record $5.9 million in the 24 hours.

 

Voting Record & Major Bills sponsored/authored:

Senator Sanders currently serves on the following committees:

Ranking Member, Senate Committee on the Budget Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions

Ranking Member, Subcommittee on Primary Health and Retirement Security

Member, Subcommittee on Children and Families

Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources

Member, Subcommittee on Energy

Member, Subcommittee on National Parks

Member, Subcommittee on Water and Power

Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works

Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs

 

Sanders currently has the following ratings by external groups:

Human Rights Campaign (HRC): 100%

The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws: A+

Planned Parenthood Action Fund: 100%

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU): 94%

NIAC Action, A League of Conservation Voters: 91%

NumbersUSA: 21%

United States Chamber of Commerce: 18%

Americans for Prosperity: 5%

FreedomWorks: 0%

According to Bernie Sanders’ sponsorship and cosponsorship record of bills, he is significantly farther left than any of his colleagues. Sanders has been consistently anti-war and anti-tax cuts for the wealthy, but his record has wavered when it comes to immigration. In his earlier years, Sanders supported harsher stances on immigration and voted in favor of immigration reform. In more recent years Sanders has shifted his stance completely, and demonstrated a complete detachment from these previous views, and has only supported progressive immigration policies.

 

Main Goals & Platforms:

Bernie Sanders’ current platforms are centralized around the common goals of aiding those less fortunate, mainly through the distribution of wealth. He focuses on healthcare, climate change, tackling large corporation influence, affordable education, and social justice. After all, he has been known for his frequent attacks on the “one puhcent” and “millionaires and billionaires”. His plans and ideas that were considered radical in 2016 have become common, appreciated, and considered necessary by many. His main platforms include: “income and wealth inequality, making college tuition-free and debt free, absolving corruption from politics, instating a living wage, combating climate change, fair and humane immigration policy, racial justice, affordable housing, women’s rights, fighting AIDS and HIV, fighting for LGBT equality, empowering tribal nations, caring for veterans, Medicare for all, improvement of social security, lowering prescription drug prices, fighting for disability rights”, though he is also focused on issues such as improving the rural economy, fighting for nurses, reforming Wall Street, and gun control.

Criticisms:

Bernie Sanders can be loud, intensely passionate, and sometimes a bit unkempt looking. While he is certainly a calculating politician, his sharp words and wild hair can be off-putting. Many consider his tone too patronizing, and his apologies too blunt. While some see these attributes as negatives, it should be noted that these are positives for some Americans.

Sanders is currently 77 years old — a fact that concerns many voters. Many say that he is too old to run for president and that it makes him it impossible for him to win the presidency. Sanders would be the oldest President in American history if elected, with the current oldest president being Ronald Reagan, who was 73 years old. 

Some have criticized Bernie Sanders’ former stances on immigration, but many have accepted that he has greatly demonstrated a shift from those previous beliefs.

Sanders faced difficulty winning black voters in 2016, which he clearly intends to resolve. In his announcement campaign video, he shared that he relied too heavily upon his state of Vermont. Sanders’ must have realized that his error was simply that Vermont is the whitest state in America, at a staggering 96.2% white population. Sanders’ inability to pull minority voters in 2016 could possibly be an issue in 2020, though Sanders seems intent on fixing this issue. Poll data does show that Sanders was consistently more popular amongst younger minority voters and sustains such popularity today. UPDATE: Gallup poll data shows that 53 percent of black Democrats had a favorable view of Sanders, while only 16 percent had an unfavorable view in 2016. Sanders is also currently the only candidate to get endorsements in South Carolina (a key state), and from 7 black lawmakers at that.

 

Popularity & Electability:

During the 2016 primaries Bernie Sanders won over more than 80% of the youth vote in some states, and according to a study from Tufts University, over 2 million young people voted for Sanders in the 21 states that voted by June 1. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump only won less than 1.6 million youth voters combined. Current Pew data also showed Sanders polling strongly with young democrats at an astonishing rate. Much of Sanders’ success can be attributed to the fact that he is discussing issues that impact young people more than any group, such as education and climate change. Many Millennials and Gen-Z-ers consider themselves disenfranchised by capitalism, and see shifting to democratic socialist ideals as the only way to improve and catch up to other European nations. Sanders has been pushing these ideals since his time in his kibbutz, and his consistent support of democratic socialism is energizing to, and on-par with many young voters.

Socialism initially wasn’t selling well with voters in red states in 2016, but Sanders is pushing platforms above partisanship – which is attractive to some voters even in red states. His emphasis on worker rights, including becoming the first presidential candidate to unionize his staff, is appreciated by workers across the country. Still, the fact remains: Bernie Sanders is a democratic socialist Jewish man with a thick New York accent (studies show that a great deal of those from the South find those with New York accents rude and unlikable). This doesn’t sell well to voters in red states, no matter how hard Bernie Sanders campaigns there.

Bernie Sanders has consistently polled second in the lead of the announced and unannounced candidates, even before he announced his campaign, on a country-wide scale. With Democrats, Sanders polls strongly ahead of those announced. Joe Biden has been ahead of him throughout the entire process, though Biden has not announced his run. Bernie Sanders also has the highest approval ratings in his home state of any major Democratic candidate, at 91.5%. Polls show that Biden supporters’ second choice is Bernie Sanders, which is encouraging to Sanders’ base and team.

While the field of Democratic candidates only continues to grow, Sanders continues to remain a loud and certainly distinguished voice within the crowd.

Featured Image via CNN

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Written By

Helen Ehrlich is a writer who enjoys politics, activism and charity work, and all things literary. She lives in America where she attends school.

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