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Bernie Sanders
Bernie Sanders smiling
United States Senator
from Vermont
Assumed office
January 3, 2007
Serving with Peter Welch
Preceded by Jim Jeffords
Chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee
Assumed office
January 3, 2023
Preceded by Patty Murray
Chair of the Senate Democratic Outreach Committee
Assumed office
January 3, 2017
Leader Chuck Schumer
Vice Chair Catherine Cortez Masto
Preceded by Amy Klobuchar (Steering and Outreach)
Chair of the Senate Budget Committee
In office
February 3, 2021 – January 3, 2023
Preceded by Mike Enzi
Succeeded by Sheldon Whitehouse
Chair 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
37th Mayor of Burlington
In office
April 6, 1981 – April 4, 1989
Preceded by Gordon Paquette
Succeeded by Peter Clavelle
Chair of the Liberty Union Party
In office
1971–1977
Personal details
Born
Bernard Sanders

(1941-09-08) September 8, 1941 (age 82)
New York City, U.S.
Political party Independent (1978–present)
Other political
affiliations
Spouses
  • Deborah Shiling
    (m. 1964; div. 1966)
  • (m. 1988)
Children 1
Relatives Larry Sanders (brother)
Education
Occupation
  • Politician
  • activist
  • author
Signature Official signature of Bernie Sanders
Website

Bernard Sanders (born September 8, 1941) is an American politician and activist who is the senior United States senator from Vermont. Sanders is the longest-serving independent in U.S. congressional history but has a close relationship with the Democratic Party, having caucused with House and Senate Democrats for most of his congressional career and sought the party's presidential nomination in 2016 and 2020, coming second in both campaigns. He is often seen as a leader of the U.S. progressive movement.

Born into a working-class Jewish family and raised in the Brooklyn borough of New York City, Sanders attended Brooklyn College before graduating from the University of Chicago in 1964. While a student, he was a protest organizer for the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) during the civil rights movement. After settling in Vermont in 1968, he ran unsuccessful third-party political campaigns in the early to mid-1970s. He was elected mayor of Burlington in 1981 as an independent and was reelected three times. He won election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1990, representing Vermont's at-large congressional district, later co-founding the Congressional Progressive Caucus. He was a U.S. representative for 16 years before being elected to the U.S. Senate in 2006, notably becoming the first non-Republican elected to Vermont's Class 1 seat since Whig Solomon Foot was elected in 1850.

Sanders was reelected to the Senate in 2012 and 2018. He chaired the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee from 2013 to 2015 and the Senate Budget Committee from 2021 to 2023. In January 2023, he became chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and the senior senator and dean of the Vermont congressional delegation upon Leahy's retirement from the Senate.

Sanders was a major candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016 and 2020, receiving the second most votes in each. Despite initially low expectations, his 2016 campaign generated significant grassroots enthusiasm and funding from small-dollar donors, carrying him to victory against eventual nominee Hillary Clinton in 23 primaries and caucuses before he conceded in July. In 2020, his strong showing in early primaries and caucuses made him the front-runner in a historically large field of Democratic candidates. In April 2020, Sanders conceded the nomination to Joe Biden, who had won a series of decisive victories as the field narrowed. He supported both Clinton and Biden in their respective general election campaigns against Donald Trump. He has since emerged as a close ally of Biden's.

Sanders is credited with influencing a leftward shift in the Democratic Party after his 2016 presidential campaign. An advocate of progressive policies, he is known for his opposition to economic inequality and neoliberalism, and support for workers' self-management. On domestic policy, he supports labor rights, universal and single-payer healthcare, paid parental leave, tuition-free tertiary education, an ambitious Green New Deal to create jobs addressing climate change, and worker control of production through cooperatives, unions, and democratic public enterprises. On foreign policy, he supports reducing military spending, pursuing more diplomacy and international cooperation, and putting greater emphasis on labor rights and environmental concerns when negotiating international trade agreements. Sanders supports workplace democracy, and has praised elements of the Nordic model. Some have compared and contrasted his politics to left-wing populism and the New Deal policies of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Early life

Sanders was born in Brooklyn, New York to Eli Sanders and to Dorothy Glassberg. His father was a Jewish immigrant born in Słopnice, Poland in 1904. His mother was born to Jewish parents in New York City in 1912. He has an older brother, Larry. His grandparents were murdered in the Holocaust. His mother died in 1960 and his father died in 1962.

Sanders studied at Brooklyn College. After he graduated from college, Sanders went to the University of Chicago. When he studied in Chicago, Sanders was a leader of the University of Chicago sit-ins in 1962 because of segregation at the university. He graduated from the university in 1964 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science. He said that he was an average student who thought that classrooms were boring and that his community activism was more important.

He was one of thousands of students who traveled by bus to Washington, D.C., to be part of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Later that summer, he was found guilty of resisting arrest during a protest against segregation in Chicago's public schools and was fined $25.

Early career

City Hall Burlington Vermont from southeast on Main Street
Burlington City Hall was where Sanders worked during his time as mayor
Portrait of Bernie Sanders in c. 1986 (1)
Sanders while he was Burlington's mayor, 1986

Liberty Union campaigns, 1971–79

Sanders began his political career in 1971 as a member of the Liberty Union Party. He was the Liberty Union candidate for Governor of Vermont in 1972 and 1976. He was also a candidate for senator in 1972 and 1974. In the 1974 Senate election, Sanders lost to Patrick Leahy and to Dick Mallary. In 1979, Sanders resigned from the party.

He worked as a writer and director for the American People's Historical Society (APHS). When he worked at APHS, he made a 30-minute documentary about Eugene V. Debs.

Mayor of Burlington, 1981–89

After Sanders's failed run for governor, close friend Richard Sugarman wanted him to be a candidate for mayor of Burlington. Sanders won the election in February 1981. He beat the six-term mayor Gordon Paquette by ten votes. He took office on April 6, 1981.

As mayor, Sanders wanted to fix Burlington's Lake Champlain. In 1981, Sanders was against Tony Pomerleau. Sanders did not want Pomerleau to change the industrial lake property owned by the Central Vermont Railway. He did not want the waterfront to become expensive condominiums, hotels, and offices.

Sanders used the slogan "Burlington is not for sale". He supported a plan that changed the waterfront area into a district with housing, parks, and public space. As of 2016, the lake area has a public beach and bike paths, along with a boathouse, many parks, and a science center.

In 1987, U.S. News named Sanders as one of America's best mayors. He was a big critic of President Ronald Reagan and his policies on income inequality.

When he was mayor, Sanders helped to fix the city's budget. Sanders left office on April 4, 1989. For a short time, Sanders taught political science at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government in 1989 and at Hamilton College in 1991.

Mayor of Burlington, Vermont (1981–1989)

City Hall Burlington Vermont from southeast on Main Street
Burlington City Hall

Campaigns

On November 8, 1980, Sanders announced his candidacy for mayor. He formally announced his campaign on December 16 at a City Hall press conference. Sanders selected Linda Niedweske as his campaign manager. The Citizens Party attempted to nominate Greg Guma for mayor, but Guma declined, saying it would be "difficult to run against another progressive candidate". Sanders had been convinced to run for the mayoralty by his close friend Richard Sugarman, an Orthodox Jewish professor of religious studies at the University of Vermont, who had shown him a ward-by-ward breakdown of the 1976 Vermont gubernatorial election, in which Sanders had run, that showed him receiving 12% of the vote in Burlington despite only getting 6% statewide.

Sanders initially won the mayoral election by 22 votes against Paquette, Bove, and McGrath, but the margin was later reduced to 10 votes. Paquette did not contest the results of the recount.

Paquette's loss was attributed to his own shortcomings, as he did not campaign or promote his candidacy since both Sanders and Independent candidate Richard Bove were not seen as a serious challengers, as Sanders had not previously won an election. Paquette was also considered to have lost because he proposed an unpopular $0.65 per $100 raise in taxes that Sanders opposed. Sanders spent around $4,000 on his campaign.

Sanders castigated the pro-development incumbent as an ally of prominent shopping center developer Antonio Pomerleau, while Paquette warned of ruin for Burlington if Sanders were elected. The Sanders campaign was bolstered by a wave of optimistic volunteers as well as a series of endorsements from university professors, social welfare agencies, and the police union. The result shocked the local political establishment.

Sanders formed a coalition between independents and the Citizens Party. On December 3, 1982, he announced that he would seek reelection. On January 22, 1983, the Citizens Party voted unanimously to endorse Sanders, although Sanders ran as an independent. He was reelected, defeating Judy Stephany and James Gilson.

Sanders initially considered not seeking a third term, but announced on December 5, 1984, that he would run. He formally launched his campaign on December 7, and was reelected. On December 1, 1986, Sanders, who had finished third in the 1986 Vermont gubernatorial election, announced that he would seek reelection to a fourth term as mayor of Burlington, despite close associates stating that he was tired of being mayor. Sanders defeated Democratic nominee Paul Lafayette in the election. He said he would not seek another mayoral term after the 1987 election: "eight years is enough and I think it is time for new leadership, which does exist within the coalition, to come up".

Sanders did not run for a fifth term as mayor. He went on to lecture in political science at Harvard Kennedy School that year and at Hamilton College in 1991.

Administration

During his mayoralty, Sanders called himself a socialist and was so described in the press. 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. The Progressives never held more than six seats on the 13-member city council, but they had enough to keep the council from overriding Sanders's vetoes. Under his leadership, Burlington balanced its city budget; attracted a minor league baseball team, the Vermont Reds, then the Double-A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds; became the first U.S. city to fund community-trust housing; and successfully sued the local cable television franchise, thereby winning reduced rates for customers.

As mayor, Sanders also led extensive downtown revitalization projects. One of his primary achievements was improving Burlington's Lake Champlain waterfront. In 1981, he campaigned against the unpopular plans by Burlington developer Tony Pomerleau to convert the then-industrial waterfront property owned by the Central Vermont Railway into expensive condominiums, hotels, and offices. He 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 spaces.

Sanders was a consistent critic of U.S. foreign policy in Latin America throughout the 1980s. In 1985, Burlington City Hall hosted a foreign policy speech by Noam Chomsky. In his introduction, he praised Chomsky as "a very vocal and important voice in the wilderness of intellectual life in America" and said that he was "delighted to welcome a person who I think we're all very proud of."

Sanders hosted and produced a public-access television program, Bernie Speaks with the Community, from 1986 to 1988. He collaborated with 30 Vermont musicians to record a folk album, We Shall Overcome, in 1987. That same year, U.S. News & World Report ranked Sanders one of America's best mayors. As of 2013, Burlington was regarded as one of the most livable cities in the United States.

During a trip to the Soviet Union in 1988, Sanders interviewed the mayor of Burlington's sister city Yaroslavl about housing and health care issues in the two cities.

When Sanders left office in 1989, Bouricius, a member of the Burlington city council, said that Sanders had "changed the entire nature of politics in Burlington and also in the state of Vermont".

U.S. House of Representatives (1991–2007)

Bernie Sanders 104th Congress
Sanders' first congressional portrait photograph, 1991

Elections

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 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%. Two years later, he ran for the seat again and defeated Smith by a margin of 56% to 39%.

Sanders was the first independent elected to the U.S. House of Representatives since Frazier Reams of Ohio won his second term in 1952, as well as the first socialist elected to the House since Vito Marcantonio, from the American Labor Party, who won his last term in 1948. Sanders was a representative from 1991 until he became a senator in 2007, winning reelection by large margins except during the 1994 Republican Revolution, when he won by 3%, with 50% of the vote.

Legislation

Rep. Bernie Sanders
Sanders at an NBC press conference, February 1991
Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders 1993 (1)
Sanders meeting in 1993 with Hillary Clinton to discuss her plan to reform the healthcare system

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, he co-founded the Congressional Progressive Caucus, a group of mostly liberal Democrats that he chaired for its first eight years, while still refusing to join the Democratic Party or caucus.

In 2005, Rolling Stone called Sanders the "amendment king" for his ability to get more roll call amendments passed than any other congressman during the period since 1995, when Congress was entirely under Republican control. Being an independent allowed him to form coalitions across party lines.

Banking reform

In 1999, Sanders voted and advocated against rolling back the Glass–Steagall legislation provisions that kept investment banks and commercial banks separate entities. He was a vocal critic of Federal Reserve Chair Alan Greenspan; in June 2003, during a question-and-answer discussion, Sanders told him he was concerned that he 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."

Cancer registries

Concerned by high breast cancer rates in Vermont, on February 7, 1992, Sanders sponsored the Cancer Registries Amendment Act to establish cancer registries to collect data on cancer. Senator Patrick Leahy introduced a companion bill in the Senate on October 2, 1992. The Senate bill was passed by the House on October 6 and signed into law by President George H. W. Bush on October 24, 1992.

Opposition to the Patriot Act

Sanders was a consistent critic of the Patriot Act. As a member of Congress, he voted against the original Patriot Act legislation. After its 357–66 passage in the House, he sponsored and voted for several subsequent amendments and acts attempting to curtail its effects and voted against each reauthorization. In June 2005, he 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.

Opposition to the War in Iraq

Bernie Sanders at Milton High School - Milton, Vermont
Sanders meeting with students at Milton High School in Milton, Vermont, 2004

Sanders voted against the resolutions authorizing the use of force against Iraq in 1991 and 2002, and he opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq. He voted for the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists that has been cited as the legal justification for controversial military actions since the September 11 attacks. He especially opposed the Bush administration's decision to start a war unilaterally.

Trade policy

In February 2005, Sanders introduced a bill that would have withdrawn the permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) status that had been extended to China in October 2000. He said to the House, "Anyone who takes an objective look at our trade policy with China must conclude that it is an absolute failure and needs to be fundamentally overhauled", citing the American jobs being lost to overseas competitors. His bill received 71 co-sponsors but was not sent to the floor for a vote.

U.S. Senate (2007–present)

Elections

2006

Bernie Sanders
Senate portrait, 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, chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and fellow James Madison High School alumnus, endorsed Sanders. This was a critical move because it meant no Democrat running against him could expect financial help from the party. He was also endorsed by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and Democratic National Committee chair 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." Then-Senator Barack Obama also campaigned for him in Vermont in March 2006. 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.

Bernie Sanders January 2013
Sanders being sworn in for his second term in 2013 by Joe Biden

In the most expensive political campaign in Vermont's history, Sanders defeated businessman Rich Tarrant by an almost 2-to-1 margin. Many national media outlets projected him as the winner just after the polls closed, before any returns came in.

2012

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

2018

Sanders was reelected in 2018 with 67% of the vote.

2024

On May 6, 2024, Sanders announced his candidacy for a fourth Senate term. A poll just a few weeks earlier found that more than half of respondents wanted him to seek reelection.

Legislation

While a member of Congress, Sanders sponsored 15 concurrent resolutions and 15 Senate resolutions. Of those he co-sponsored, 218 became law. While he has consistently advocated for progressive causes, Politico wrote that he has "rarely forged actual legislation or left a significant imprint on it." According to The New York Times, "Big legislation largely eludes Mr. Sanders because his ideas are usually far to the left of the majority of the Senate ... Mr. Sanders has largely found ways to press his agenda through appending small provisions to the larger bills of others." During his time in the Senate, he had lower legislative effectiveness than the average senator, as measured by the number of sponsored bills that passed and successful amendments made. Nevertheless, he has sponsored over 500 amendments to bills, many of which became law. The results of these amendments include a ban on imported goods made by child labor; $100 million in funding for community health centers; $10 million for an outreach program for servicemembers who have post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, depression, panic attacks, and other mental disorders; a public database of senior Department of Defense officials seeking employment with defense contractors; and including autism treatment under the military healthcare program Tricare.

In August 2022, Sanders voted for the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022. He was not satisfied with the bill, calling it only a small step forward.

Finance and monetary policy

In 2008 and 2009, Sanders voted against the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), a program to purchase toxic banking assets and provide loans to banks that were in free-fall. On February 4, 2009, he sponsored an amendment to ensure that TARP funds would not displace U.S. workers. The amendment passed and was added to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Among his proposed financial reforms is auditing the Federal Reserve, which would reduce its independence in monetary policy deliberations; Federal Reserve officials say that "Audit the Fed" legislation would expose the Federal Reserve to undue political pressure from lawmakers who do not like its decisions.

On December 10, 2010, Sanders delivered an 8-hour and 34-minute speech against the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010, which proposed extending the Bush-era tax rates. He argued that the legislation would favor the wealthiest Americans. "Enough is enough! ... How many homes can you own?" he asked. Nevertheless, the bill passed the Senate with a strong majority and was signed into law a week later. In February 2011, Nation Books published the speech 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.

In 2016, Sanders voted for the Federal Reserve Transparency Act, which included proposals for a reformed audit of the Federal Reserve System.

Foreign policy

On June 12, 2017, U.S. senators agreed to legislation imposing new sanctions on Russia and Iran. The bill was opposed only by Sanders and Republican Rand Paul. He supported the sanctions on Russia, but voted against the bill because he believed the sanctions could endanger the Iran nuclear deal.

In 2018, Sanders sponsored a bill and was joined by Senators Chris Murphy (DCT) and Mike Lee (RUT) to invoke the 1973 War Powers Resolution to end U.S. support for the Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen, which has resulted in hundreds of thousands of civilian casualties and "millions more suffering from starvation and disease". After the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018 (which was ordered by Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, according to multiple intelligence agencies), his bill attracted bipartisan co-sponsors and support, and the Senate passed it by a vote of 56–41. The bill passed the House in February 2019 by a 247–175 vote and President Trump vetoed it in March, saying: "This resolution is an unnecessary, dangerous attempt to weaken my constitutional authorities, endangering the lives of American citizens and brave service members, both today and in the future."

Health care

Don't Take Our Health Care Rally (35501942056)
Don't Take Our Health Care rally in Columbus, Ohio, June 2017

In mid-December 2009, Sanders successfully added a provision to the Affordable Care Act to fund $11 billion to community health centers, especially those in rural areas. The provision brought together Democrats on the left with Democrats from conservative, rural areas, helping to secure the 60 votes needed for passage. On May 4, 2017, in response to the House vote to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, he predicted "thousands of Americans would die" from no longer having access to health care. PolitiFact rated his statement "mostly true".

In September 2017, Sanders along with 15 Senate co-sponsors submitted the Medicare for All bill, a single-payer healthcare plan. The bill covers vision and dental care, unlike Medicare. Some Republicans have called the bill "Berniecare" and "the latest Democratic push for socialized medicine and higher taxes." He responded that the Republican Party has no credibility on the issue of health care after voting for legislation that would take health insurance away from 32 million Americans under the Affordable Care Act.

As chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging, Sanders introduced legislation in 2013 to reauthorize and strengthen the Older Americans Act, which supports Meals on Wheels and other programs for seniors.

Immigration policy

In 2007, Sanders helped kill a bill introducing comprehensive immigration reform, arguing that its guest-worker program would depress wages for American workers. In 2010, he supported the DREAM Act, which would have provided a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who had been brought to the United States as minors. In 2013, he supported the Gang of Eight's comprehensive immigration reform bill after securing a $1.5 billion youth jobs program provision, which he argued would offset the harm of labor market competition with immigrants.

Income and wealth distribution

Sanders Introduces $15 Minimum Wage
Sanders introduced legislation to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, April 2017.

In April 2017, Sanders introduced a bill that would raise the minimum wage for federal contract workers to $15 an hour, an increase over an earlier Democratic $12 an hour proposal. On May 9, 2018, he introduced the Workplace Democracy Act, a bill that would expand labor rights by making it easier for workers to join a union, ban right-to-work laws and some anti-union provisions of the Taft–Hartley Act, and outlaw some union-busting tactics. Announcing the legislation, he said, "If we are serious about reducing income and wealth inequality and rebuilding the middle class, we have got to substantially increase the number of union jobs in this country."

Sanders opposed the 2018 United States federal budget proposed by the Trump administration, calling it "a budget for the billionaire class, for Wall Street, for corporate CEOs, and for the wealthiest people in this country ... nothing less than a massive transfer of wealth from working families, the elderly, children, the sick and the poor to the top 1%."

After the November 2017 revelations from the Paradise Papers and a recent report from the Institute for Policy Studies which says just three people (Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, and Warren Buffett) own more wealth than the bottom half of the U.S. population, Sanders stated that "we must end global oligarchy" and that "we need, in the United States and throughout the world, a tax system which is fair, progressive and transparent."

On September 5, 2018, Sanders partnered with Ro Khanna to introduce the Stop Bad Employers by Zeroing Out Subsidies (Stop BEZOS) Act, which would require large corporations to pay for the food stamps and Medicaid benefits that their employees receive, relieving the burden on taxpayers.

Veterans affairs

Bernie Sanders talking to soldiers
Sanders speaking to members of the Vermont Army National Guard sent to Washington, D.C. as security preparations for the inauguration of Joe Biden in 2021

On June 9, 2014, Sanders sponsored the Veterans' Access to Care through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act of 2014 to reform the Department of Veterans Affairs in the wake of the Veterans Health Administration scandal of 2014. He worked with Senator John McCain, who co-sponsored the bill. His bill was incorporated into the House version of the bill, which passed both chambers on July 31, 2014, and was signed into law by President Obama on August 7, 2014.

Supreme Court nominees

On March 17, 2016, Sanders said he would support Merrick Garland's nomination to the Supreme Court, though he added, "there are some more progressive judges out there." He opposed Neil Gorsuch's nomination to the court, saying that Gorsuch had "refused to answer legitimate questions". He also objected to Senate Republicans' use of the nuclear option to "choke off debate and ram [Gorsuch's] nomination through the Senate". He voted against Gorsuch's confirmation as an associate justice, and against Trump's nominees Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. In 2022, Sanders voted to confirm Joe Biden's nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court.

Committee assignments

As an independent, Sanders maintains an agreement with the Senate Democratic leadership where he votes with the Democrats on all procedural matters unless the Democratic whip, Dick Durbin, agrees that he need not (a request rarely made or granted). In return he was 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).

Sanders became the ranking minority member on the Senate Budget Committee in 2015 and the chair in 2021; he previously chaired the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee for two years. Since 2017, he has been chair of the Senate Democratic Outreach Committee. He appointed economics professor Stephanie Kelton, a modern monetary theory scholar, as the chief economic adviser for the committee's Democratic minority and presented a report about helping "rebuild the disappearing middle class" that included proposals to raise the minimum wage, boost infrastructure spending, and increase Social Security payments.

As of 2023, Sanders's committee assignments are as follows:

Caucus memberships

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 likely have broken potential ties in favor of the Republicans. He is a member of the following caucuses:

Approval ratings

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 U.S. senator. Both the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) and the NHLA (National Hispanic Leadership Agenda) have given him 100% voting scores during his tenure in the Senate. In 2015, he was named one of the Top 5 of The Forward 50. In a November 2015 Morning Consult poll, he reached an 83% approval rating among his constituents, making him the most popular U.S. senator. Fox News found him to have the highest net favorability at +28 points of any prominent politician included in its March 2017 poll. He ranked third in 2014 and first in both 2015 and 2016.

In April 2017, a nationwide Harvard-Harris Poll found that Sanders had the highest favorability rating among all the political figures included in the poll, a standing confirmed by subsequent polling.

2008 and 2012 presidential elections

Sanders was not a candidate in the 2008 or 2012 presidential elections. He endorsed then-Senator Barack Obama in 2008, before then-Senator Hillary Clinton had formally withdrawn from the race.

2016 presidential campaign

In an interview with The Nation on March 6, 2014, Sanders said that he was "prepared to run for President of the United States" in 2016 but did not officially announce a campaign.

Sanders presidential campaign kickoff, May 2015 Bernie Sanders (24580275949)
Sanders at his presidential campaign kickoff in Burlington, Vermont, May 2015

On April 28, 2015, Vermont Public Radio said that Sanders would run for president starting on April 30. They reported that he would run for the Democratic presidential nomination against the front-runner Hillary Clinton, who was leading in the poll numbers. His campaign manager is Jeff Weaver. Weaver was also Sanders's senate campaign manager and was his chief of staff. The official announcement came on May 26 in Burlington, Vermont. His campaign was supported by Democratic Socialists of America.

BernieSanders
Sanders campaigning in Minnesota, May 2015

Sanders' campaign events have brought many people from around the country. Sanders said he was "Stunned. Stunned. I mean I had to fight my way to get into the room. Standing room only. Minneapolis was literally beyond belief."

Months after his campaign started, poll numbers showed Clinton was the most likely to win the Democratic nomination. However, on June 25, 2015, The New York Times said that Sanders might win the primaries instead of Clinton. On August 12, 2015, the Boston Herald said that Sanders was winning by 44% to Clinton's 37% in New Hampshire among Democratic primary voters. A poll released on August 25, 2015, showed that Sanders was once again winning in New Hampshire with 42% to Clinton's 35%.

During his campaign, Sanders was known for his popularity among millennials and young voters. In the 2016 campaign, Sanders won more votes among those under age 30 than both Trump and Clinton combined. It shows more than 2 million young people cast ballots for Sanders before the primaries in June. His popularity led to the creation a Facebook political meme page Bernie Sanders' Dank Meme Stash which has gained popularity among his supporters and the internet.

A poll released in September 2015 showed that Sanders was leading Clinton in Iowa with 41% to Clinton's 40%. In October 2015, polling showed Sanders and Clinton were tied in polls in both New Hampshire and Iowa. In November 2015, a poll showed Sanders was increasing his numbers in New Hampshire, almost tied with Clinton. On November 19, 2015, Sanders gave a speech at Georgetown University about his views on democratic socialism. In his speech, Sanders talked about how the policies of presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson were based on democratic socialism.

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Sanders at a campaign event in Manchester, New Hampshire, October 2015

On December 3, 2015, a Quinnipiac University poll found Sanders to be the Democratic candidate more likely to win the presidential election against top Republican candidates such as Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Ben Carson. On December 4, 2015, after online voting ended, votes showed that Sanders was in first place to become Time's 2015 Person of the Year. He had 10.4% of votes compared to second place holder Malala Yousafzai's 5.3%. On December 7, Time announced that Sanders won the reader's poll of the magazine, but he would not be person of the year. On December 9, poll numbers showed that Sanders was leading Clinton in the New Hampshire polls by 50% to 40%. The university also showed Clinton was winning with 61% to Sanders's 30% of the national poll.

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Sanders speaking at high school in Des Moines, Iowa, January 2016

In January 2016, in weeks leading to the Democratic primaries, Sanders was leading New Hampshire by 50% to Clinton's 46% and in Iowa with 49% to 43%. On January 21, 2016, Sanders' campaign advertisement, America, was shown in Iowa and New Hampshire. Many people liked the ad and the New York Times said it was "powerful" and "inspiring".

In early February 2016, a national poll showed Sanders and Clinton almost tied with Clinton's 44% to Sanders' 42% in the national poll. A few weeks later, Quinnipiac University, CNN and Fox News poll numbers showed Sanders being the front-runner with 47% to Clinton's 44% of the national poll. After the Nevada caucus, new poll numbers showed Sanders's national lead growing with 42% to Clinton's 36%. A February 2016 Quinnipiac University poll found that Sanders was the most honest candidate in the election.

Bernie Sanders in East Los Angeles (26606306003)
Sanders speaking at a rally in Los Angeles, California, May 2016

On March 8, 2016, Sanders won the Michigan Democratic primary. Political experts and news networks called it an upset victory. Polls showed Clinton winning by many numbers. On March 11, 2016, a mass protest over a planned Trump rally at the University of Illinois at Chicago caused hundreds to clash and four people were injured. In the aftermath, Trump accused of Sanders and his supporters of creating the protest to purposely cancel the Trump rally. Sanders later called out Trump as a "pathological liar" who leads a "vicious movement", and said that "while I appreciate that we had supporters at Trump's rally in Chicago, our campaign did not organize the protests".

In early April 2016, national poll numbers showed Sanders winning by 49% to Clinton's 47%. On April 8, Sanders was asked by Vatican City to talk about the issues of income inequality and the environment. Sanders agreed to the invitation and spoke at the Vatican on April 15. While on his trip, he met with Pope Francis in private. In April 2016, Sanders was added into Time's 100 Most Influential People of 2016. His introduction was written by former United States Secretary of Labor and supporter Robert Reich.

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Sanders at a Memorial Day parade in San Francisco, June 2016

In May 2016, national poll numbers showed Sanders loosing to Clinton with 45% to Clinton's 50% with 5% people undecided. On May 3, 2016, Sanders pulled another political upset after beating Clinton in the Indiana primaries by six percent. Earlier poll numbers showed Clinton winning in Indiana. On May 10, 2016, Sanders won the West Virginia primaries by 51.4% to Clinton's 35.8%. In 2008, Clinton had won that election by 66.93% to her primary challenger Barack Obama's 25.17%.

A NBC/Wall Street Journal poll in May found Clinton and presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump in a tie, but the same poll found that if Sanders were the Democratic nominee, 53% of voters would support him to 39% for Trump. Clinton and Trump were the least popular likely candidates in the poll's history, while Sanders received a 43% positive with a 36% negative rating.

On June 6, 2016, Clinton reached the number of delegates to become the presumptive Democratic Party nominee. Sanders said he will still remain in the race until the Democratic Party convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in July 2016. On July 12, 2016, Sanders announced his support for Clinton at a unity rally in New Hampshire.

On July 22, 2016, WikiLeaks revealed that DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and other DNC official, mocked and planned to sabotage the Sanders's campaign in favor of Clinton. Sanders said he wanted Schultz to resign. The next day, Schultz announced that she will resign after the Democraitc convention on July 28, 2016.

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Sanders speaking at the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, July 2016

Sanders spoke on the first night of the Democratic Convention on July 25, 2016. In his speech, Sanders told his supporters that he thanked them and to vote for Clinton to defeat Donald Trump in the general election. On July 26, 2016, during a roll-call vote at the 2016 Democratic National Convention Sanders lost the nomination to Clinton.

Primaries and caucuses

On February 1, 2016, Sanders lost the Iowa caucus to Clinton by less than 1%. On February 9, Sanders won the New Hampshire caucus by 22%. His victory was one of the largest in years. Sanders became the first democratic socialist and the first non-Christian to win a United States presidential primary for a major party. On February 20, 2016, Sanders lost the Nevada caucus by 5%. On February 27, 2016, Sanders lost the South Carolina primary by almost 48%.

Michigan Democratic Presidential Primary Election Results by County, 2016
In March 2016, Sanders (green) won the Michigan Primaries by less than 2% in a "political upset"

On March 1, 2016, "Super Tuesday", Sanders won four states: Vermont, Oklahoma, Colorado and Minnesota. He lost Massachusetts by less than 1%. He lost Alabama, American Samoa, Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia during the event. On March 5, 2016, "Super Saturday", Sanders won two states: Kansas by 35% and Nebraska by almost 15%. He lost the Louisiana primary by about 48% during the event. On March 6, 2016, Sanders won the Maine caucuses by almost 65%. On March 8, 2016, Sanders lost the Mississippi primaries by 65%. On the same day, Sanders won the Michigan primaries by 2%. On March 12, 2016, Sanders lost the Northern Mariana Islands caucus by 20%. On March 15, 2016, Sanders lost the Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Illinois, and Missouri primaries.

Democratic Party presidential primaries results, 2016
Results of the primaries and caucuses:      Hillary Clinton      Bernie Sanders

On March 21, 2016, Sanders won the Democrats Abroad primary with 69% to Clinton's 31%. He won 52 out of the 55 international countries of the primaries. He lost Nigeria, Singapore and the Dominican Republic. On March 23, 2016, Sanders won the Idaho primaries and the Utah caucus. He won by more than 50% in each contest compared to Clinton. On the same day, he lost the Arizona primaries by more than 30%. On March 26, 2016, Sanders won the Washington, Alaska and the Hawaii caucuses all by landslide victories.

On April 5, 2016, Sanders won the Wisconsin primaries with 57% to Clinton's 43% of the vote. On April 9, 2016, Sanders won the Wyoming caucuses with 56% to Clinton's 44%. On April 19, 2016, Sanders lost the New York primaries with 42% to Clinton's 58%. On April 26, 2016, Sanders lost the Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut primaries. On the same day, he won the Rhode Island primaries.

On May 3, 2016, Sanders won the Indiana primaries with 53% to Clinton's 47% of the vote. On May 7, 2016, he lost the Guam caucuses with 40% to Clinton's 60% of the vote. On May 10, 2016, Sanders won the West Virginia primaries with 51% to Clinton's 36% of the vote. On May 17, 2016, Sanders lost the Kentucky primaries by less than 1%. On the same day, he won the Oregon primaries with 55% of the vote to Clinton's 46%.

On June 4, 2016, Sanders lost the U.S. Virgin Islands caucus in a landslide. On June 5, 2016, Sanders lost the Puerto Rico primaries. On June 7, 2016, Sanders lost the primaries in New Jersey, New Mexico, South Dakota, and California. He won the North Dakota and Montana primaries that day. On June 14, 2016, Sanders lost the Washington, D.C. primaries, the last primary of the election season, with 20% to Clinton's 80%.

"Our Revolution" organization

In August 2016, Sanders founded Our Revolution. It is an organization dedicated to educating voters about political issues, getting people involved in the political process, and recruiting and supporting candidates for local, state, and national office. Sanders also plans to establish The Sanders Institute, which will focus on issues he believes the "corporate media" has failed to focus on. The agenda will include "the disappearing middle class, 'massive' income inequality, horrific levels of poverty and problems affecting seniors and children."

2016 general election results

On November 9, 2016, Donald Trump was elected President of the United States defeating Hillary Clinton. On December 19, 2016 during the voting of the electoral college, Sanders got three electoral votes from electors who did not want to vote for Clinton. They were from Hawaii, Minnesota, and Maine. Only the Hawaii elector's vote was counted. The Minnesota and Maine electoral votes were rejected and later went to Clinton.

Noam Chomsky said in a May 2017 BBC interview that the Sanders campaign was the most remarkable thing about the 2016 election because of Sanders not accepting money from business people or corporations.

Effect of the Sanders campaign on the Democratic party

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Sanders with DNC Chair Tom Perez at a unity rally in Mesa, Arizona, April 2017

Many political experts say that Sanders' campaign made both the Clinton campaign and the Democratic party more progressive. After ending his presidential campaign, Sanders' ideas of national single-payer health-care program, his $15-an-hour minimum wage support, free college tuition and many of the other campaign platform issues have been becoming more popular. Some former staffers created the political action committee Brand New Congress which aimed at looking for younger people to run for office.

In the 2018 midterms, Sanders supported many progressive candidates. A few of the people he endorsed ended up winning their primaries. For example, in an upset that surprised many people, including the candidate herself, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez beat the incumbent Joseph Crowley for United States Representative in New York City. Benjamin Jealous became the Democratic nominee for Governor of Maryland. Ironworker Randy Bryce and former Chicago mayoral candidate Chuy García ran for United States Representative in Wisconsin and Illinois respectively, and Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum won the Democratic party's nomination for Governor of Florida. Despite winning their primaries, only Ocasio-Cortez and García won their respective general elections.

2020 presidential campaign

Background

Sanders reused his 2016 presidential campaign logo for his 2020 campaign

Sanders had been asked many times if he would run for president again in the 2020 presidential election. Sanders would respond by stating "it is much too early to talk about that", but refused to rule out a possible second presidential campaign.

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Sanders and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at a campaign rally in Council Bluffs, Iowa, November 2019

After a poll was made in February 2017, 20% of Democratic voters wanted Sanders to be the party's nominee in the 2020 presidential election, leading Hillary Clinton at 17% and Elizabeth Warren at 15%. In March 2017, at 14%, Sanders was the Democratic voters front-runner for the Democratic nomination in 2020, beating Michelle Obama at 11%. In September 2017, at a polling of 28%, Sanders remained the lead candidate for the Democratic Party nominee in the 2020 election beating Warren, former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator from California Kamala Harris. In most of the 2018 polls, Sanders leading the nomination in second place, behind former Vice President Biden. During the 2019 debate season, Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Biden are seen as the top candidates in the primaries.

His second campaign has been supported by Senator Patrick Leahy, Representatives Ro Khanna, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Mark Pocan, Pramila Jayapal, Mark Takano, Chuy García, and Peter Welch, former Senators Mike Gravel and Donald Riegle, former Representative and DNC Vice Chair Keith Ellison, former Representatives Luis Gutiérrez and Alan Grayson, New York City Mayor and former 2020 presidential candidate Bill de Blasio, San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, former San Francisco councilwoman Jane Kim, former Bolivian President Evo Morales, former Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa, former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, U.K. MPs Diane Abbott, Rebecca Long-Bailey and John McDonnell, German politician Bernd Riexinger, whistleblower Edward Snowden, political activists Cornel West and Jesse Jackson, directors Jim Jarmusch Adam McKay, and Werner Herzog, actors James Cromwell, Jack Nicholson, David Cross, Danny DeVito, Danny Glover, Mark Ruffalo, Jane Fonda, and Susan Sarandon, radio personality Howard Stern, rap artists Cardi B and Killer Mike, singers Ariana Grande and Miley Cyrus, model Emily Ratajkowski, and by the political groups Democratic Socialists of America, and Our Revolution.

Announcement

In January 2018, Sanders created a team of political experts to see if it would be a good idea to run again in the 2020 presidential election. In May 2018, former campaign manager Jeff Weaver said Sanders is "actively considering" a second presidential bid. In August 2018, Sanders announced on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert that he is not ruling out another run for the presidency in 2020.

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Sanders at his second presidential rally at Navy Pier in Chicago, March 2019

In January 2019, it was reported that it is certain Sanders would enter the 2020 primary race following his lead in the contested race and an announcement would be immediate. On February 15, 2019, it was reported that Sanders recorded his presidential announcement video for a 2020 bid. He announced his second presidential bid on February 19, 2019.

Pre-primary campaign trail

On March 2, 2019, Sanders held his first presidential rally in Brooklyn College in New York City. The next day, Sanders held a second rally at Navy Pier in Chicago. About 13,000 people went to the Brooklyn rally and 12,500 went to the Chicago rally.

On March 5, 2019, Sanders signed a formal statement, called a "loyalty pledge", saying that he is a member of the Democratic Party and will serve as a Democrat if elected. The day before, he had signed paperwork to run as an independent for re-election to his Senate seat in 2024. Later that month, national polling had Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden tied for the Democratic primaries.

In January 2020, national polling showed Sanders in second place with 16% behind Biden's 28%, a three point gain for Sanders since last polling.

Debates and forums

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Sanders at the 2019 California Democratic Party Convention in June

On April 6, 2019, Sanders was part of a Fox News town hall that had more than 2.55 million viewers. Sanders's appearance on Fox News saw an increase of Fox News viewers by 24% overall and 40% in the 25-to-54-year-old demographic.

During the first four Democratic primary debates, Sanders appeared near the center stage, as one of the highest polling candidates. During the July and September debates, Sanders and Elizabeth Warren were described by commentators as having a "non-aggression pact", talking about progressive positions which were different than positions from the other candidates.

Donations raised

Within three-and-a-half hours after his announcement, Sanders had raised over $1 million from small donations from all 50 states, breaking the record held by Senator Kamala Harris after her presidential announcement. Within 12 hours, Sanders had raised over $4 million from 150,000 donors, and in the first 24 hours following his announcement, Sanders raised $5.9 million from 225,000 small donations, with the average donation being $27. In November 2019, Sanders said his campaign had over four million donations from individual donors, the largest than any other presidential candidate in American history.

In January 2020, Sanders raised over $34.5 million during the fourth quarter of 2019, the largest of any 2020 Democratic presidential campaign.

Polling

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Sanders at the Presidential Gun Sense Forum in Des Moines, August 2019

In April 2019, a national poll had Sanders leading Biden 29% to 24% among Democratic voters for the primaries.

Sanders polled between 15-20% on most national surveys between May and September of 2019. In September 2019, Warren and Sanders remained in a virtual tie for second place. Some surveys showed Warren ahead of Sanders, while others showed Sanders ahead of Warren.

National surveys of a potential general election matchup with Donald Trump showed Sanders leading by an average of 6.5% as of September of 2019, compared to a 11.7% lead for Biden and a 5% lead for Warren. The average of polls in New Hampshire in August and September of 2019 showed a virtual tie between Sanders, Warren, and Biden. After constantly being behind Warren and Biden in the polls, in November 2019 Sanders saw a rise in polls beating Warren for the second place spot behind Biden.

In January 2020, an Iowa poll found Sanders tied for first place behind Biden and Pete Buttigieg with 23%. The same poll found Sanders in first place in New Hampshire with 27% and Biden in second with 25%. A few weeks later, Sanders was leading in a nationwide poll with 27% against Biden's 24%.

On February 10, 2020 following the Iowa caucuses, a national poll had Sanders leading the race with 25% while Biden fell to 17%. A few weeks later on February 27, a new Fox News national poll showed Sanders at 31% with Biden at 18%. After Super Tuesday in March, Biden began to expand his lead over Sanders.

Primaries and caucuses

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Sanders campaigning in Altoona, Iowa, August 2019
Democratic Party presidential primaries results, 2020
Results of the primaries and caucuses:      Joe Biden      Michael Bloomberg      Pete Buttigieg      Bernie Sanders

On February 3, 2020, the Iowa caucuses were held, however, due to an issue with apps used to count the votes and spread the delegate votes, the results were announced the following day. The next day, 71% of the votes were released showing Pete Buttigieg leading Sanders by less than 2%. On February 10, Sanders and Buttigieg asked for a recount. The overall results, Sanders won the popular vote winning 45,842 (26.5%) while Buttigieg won 26.2% of the state delegates equivalents to Sanders' 26.1%. On February 27, Buttigieg was declared the winner of the Iowa caucus despite Sanders winning the popular vote.

On February 11, 2020, Sanders won the New Hampshire primary winning almost 26% of the vote compared to Buttigieg's 24%. On February 23, Sanders won the Nevada caucus in a landslide victory winning 40% of the popular vote and 47% of the county convention delegates. Following the race, Sanders became the Democratic front-runner leading with 34 delegates and nearly 26% of the popular vote. He also became the first presidential candidate, Democrat or Republican, to win the popular vote in the first three primary states in a row. In February 29, Sanders lost the South Carolina primary winning nearly 20% of the vote to Biden's 48%.

During Super Tuesday on March 3, 2020, Sanders won the California, Utah, Colorado and Vermont contests. He lost American Samoa to Michael Bloomberg and Alabama, Arkansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia to Joe Biden. On March 11, Sanders won the North Dakota caucus, but lost the Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Washington, and Idaho primaries to Biden. On March 14, Sanders won the Northern Mariana Islands caucus. On March 18, Sanders lost the Arizona, Illinois and Florida primaries. On March 23, Sanders won the Democrats Abroad primary winning 58% of the vote compared to Biden's 23%.

Sanders lost the Alaska primary on April 11, 2020 after winning 44.7% of the vote to Biden's 55.3%. Two days later, Sanders lost the Wisconsin primary to Biden with a 63.8% to 30.9% margin.

Ending the campaign

On April 8, 2020 one day after the Wisconsin primary, Sanders ended his campaign. He had not beaten Biden in many primary contests after Super Tuesday. Sanders said that he would stay on the ballot in the remaining states and continue to keep delegates because he wanted to add progressive ideas to the Democratic Party and to Biden's campaign. On April 13, Sanders said voters should vote for Biden for President.

In a May 2020 interview, Sanders said that he might run for a third time in 2024 but that it was unlikely.

Sanders spoke on the first day of the 2020 Democratic National Convention on August 17, 2020.

After Biden won the election, may have joined the cabinet as United States Secretary of Labor in the Biden administration. Sanders said that he would accept the position if Biden offered it to him. He asked Senate allies and labor unions to support him as a possible Labor secretary. In January 2021, Biden picked Mayor of Boston, Marty Walsh, to be Labor Secretary. Biden said he thought about picking Sanders but did not want to risk the Democratic majority in the next Senate.

Political positions

A self-described democratic socialist, Sanders is a progressive and left-wing populist who admires social democratic programs in Europe and supports workplace democracy via union democracy, worker cooperatives, and workers' management of public enterprises. He is a strong critic of contemporary neoliberal capitalism, which he calls "uber-capitalism", blaming it for such societal ills as declining life expectancy and rising diseases of despair. He advocates universal, single-payer healthcare, paid parental leave, and tuition-free tertiary education. He supports lowering the cost of drugs by reforming patent laws to allow cheaper generic versions to be sold in the U.S. He supported the Affordable Care Act, though he said it did not go far enough. In November 2015, he 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. 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."

Based on his positions and votes throughout his career, many commentators consider his political platform primarily focused on tax-funded social benefits inspired by the Nordic model and not on social ownership of the means of production. Some socialists and major socialist organizations have described Sanders as a democratic socialist, market socialist, or reformist socialist, while others have called him a reformist social democrat.

Bhaskar Sunkara has characterized Sanders' politics as "class struggle social democracy", arguing that while postwar social democracy operated as a compromise that instituted tripartite arrangements between business, labor, and government to dampen class conflict, Sanders sees social democratic demands as a means to sharpening class confrontation and raising class consciousness. His views have been echoed by George Eaton, arguing that Sunkara's phrase "captures the nuances of Sanders' politics in a way that a socialist / social democrat binary does not" and asserting that if he was elected president it would represent "the triumph of a politics that is neither wholly socialist, nor social democratic, but a new fusion of both".

Climate change

Sanders views global warming as a serious problem, and advocates bold action to reverse its effects. He calls for substantial investment in infrastructure, with energy efficiency, sustainability, and job creation as prominent goals. He considers climate change the greatest threat to national security. He said that family planning can help fight climate change. He opposed the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline on the grounds that, like the Keystone XL Pipeline, it "will have a significant impact on our climate." In 2019, he announced his support for Green New Deal legislation, and joined Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Earl Blumenauer in proposing legislation that would declare climate change a national and international emergency.

Economic issues

Sanders focuses on economic issues such as income and wealth inequality, poverty, raising the minimum wage, universal healthcare, cancelling all student debt, making public colleges and universities tuition-free by taxing financial transactions, and expanding Social Security benefits by eliminating the cap on the payroll tax on all incomes above $250,000. 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. He also supports legislation that would make it easier for workers to join or form a trade union. He was against the Troubled Asset Relief Program, and has called for comprehensive financial reforms, 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.

Believing greater emphasis is needed on labor rights and environmental concerns when negotiating international trade agreements, Sanders voted against and has long spoken against NAFTA, CAFTA, and PNTR with China. He has called them a "disaster for the American worker", saying that they have resulted in American corporations moving abroad. He also opposes the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which he says was "written by corporate America and the pharmaceutical industry and Wall Street." On May 1, 2019, he tweeted: "Since the China trade deal I voted against, America has lost over three million manufacturing jobs. It's wrong to pretend that China isn't one of our major economic competitors."

Sanders also strongly opposes outsourcing American jobs. During discussions of the United States Innovation and Competition Act, which was to be used to fund the manufacture of semiconductors amid a shortage, he proposed a measure to ensure the companies the bill funded could not outsource their jobs. The proposed measure would also block the companies from forbidding their employees to unionize. Sanders's proposal was voted down by most Democrats and all Republicans in the Senate. Ahead of the 2022 midterms, Sanders said he wants the Democratic Party to focus more on supporting unionization: "I think we should move to a system where, if 50% of the workers in a bargaining unit plus one vote to form a union, they have a union. End of discussion."

Sanders supports establishing worker-owned cooperatives and introduced legislation numerous times from the 1990s to the 2020s that would aid workers who want to "form their own businesses or to set up worker-owned cooperatives." As early as 1976, Sanders proposed workplace democracy, saying, "I believe that, in the long run, major industries in this state and nation should be publicly owned and controlled by the workers themselves." Likewise, he supports empowering and expanding labor unions to advance union democracy. In 1987, Sanders defined democracy as public ownership and workers' self-management in the workplace, saying: "Democracy means public ownership of the major means of production, it means decentralization, it means involving people in their work. Rather than having bosses and workers it means having democratic control over the factories and shops to as great a degree as you can." In his 2020 run for president, he proposed that 20% of stocks in corporations with over $100 million in annual revenue be owned by the corporation's workers and that 45% of the board of directors of corporations with over $100 million in annual revenue be elected by the workers of that corporation.

Foreign policy

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Sanders steps out of a Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter after arriving in Afghanistan in 2011.

Sanders supports reducing military spending while pursuing more diplomacy and international cooperation. He opposed funding Nicaraguan rebels, known as contras, in the CIA's covert war against Nicaragua's leftist government. He opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq and has criticized a number of policies instituted during the War on Terror, particularly that of mass surveillance and the USA Patriot Act. He criticized Israel's actions during the 2014 Gaza war and U.S. involvement in the Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen. On November 15, 2015, in response to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)'s attacks in Paris, he cautioned against Islamophobia and said, "We gotta be tough, not stupid" in the war against ISIL, adding that the U.S. should continue to welcome Syrian refugees. He criticized the January 2020 drone assassination of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, calling it a dangerous escalation of tensions that could lead to an expensive war.

Sanders supports Palestinian rights and has criticized Israel on several occasions. In 2020, he called the American Israel Public Affairs Committee a platform for bigotry and said he would not attend its conference. He condemned Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, saying, "It would dramatically undermine the prospects for an Israeli–Palestinian peace agreement, and severely, perhaps irreparably, damage the United States' ability to broker that peace." During the 2023 Israel–Hamas war, he criticized Hamas for its attacks on civilians and criticized Israel for its bombing of Gaza. He first called for a pause in fighting, saying that he "doesn't know if a ceasefire is possible with an organization like Hamas", then later called for a humanitarian ceasefire.

Addressing Westminster College in a September 2017 speech, Sanders laid out a foreign policy plan for greater international collaboration, adherence to U.S.-led international agreements such as the Paris Agreement and the Iran nuclear deal framework and promoting human rights and democratic ideals. He emphasized the consequences associated with global economic inequality and climate change and urged reining in the use of U.S. military power, saying it "must always be a last resort". He also criticized U.S. support for "murderous regimes" during the Cold War, such as those in Iran, Chile and El Salvador and said that those actions continue to make the U.S. less safe. He also spoke critically of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections and the way President Trump has handled the crisis. He does not consider Turkey a U.S. ally and condemned the Turkish military offensive against U.S.-aligned Kurdish forces in northeastern Syria.

Gun laws

Sanders supports closing the "gun show loophole", banning assault weapons, and passing and enforcing universal federal background checks for gun purchases. In 1990, his bid to become a U.S. Representative benefitted from the National Rifle Association of America opposing the competing campaign of Peter Smith, who had reversed his stance on firearm restrictions, and waiting periods for handgun purchases. In 1993, while a U.S. Representative, he voted against the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act (which established background checks and wait periods), and in 2005 voted for legislation that gave gun manufacturers legal immunity against claims of negligence, but as of 2016 he has since said that he would support repealing that law. In 1996, he voted against additional funding to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for research on issues related to firearms, but in 2016, he called for an increase in CDC funding for the study of gun violence.

Social issues

On social issues, Sanders has long taken liberal stances. He considers himself a feminist. He has long advocated for LGBT rights; in 2009, he supported legalizing same-sex marriage in Vermont. Sanders 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 and the death penalty. He supports Black Lives Matter. He has advocated for greater democratic participation by citizens, campaign finance reform, and a constitutional amendment or judicial decision that would overturn Citizens United v. FEC.

Trump administration

Sanders criticized President Trump for appointing multiple billionaires to his cabinet. He criticized Trump's rolling back President Obama's Clean Power Plan, noting the scientifically reported effect on climate change of human activity and citing Trump's calling those reports a hoax. He called for caution on the Syrian Civil War, saying, "It's easier to get into a war than out of one." In 2017, he promised to defeat "Trump and Trumpism and the Republican right-wing ideology".

Sanders gave an online reply to Trump's January 2018 State of the Union address in which he called Trump "compulsively dishonest" and criticized him for initiating "a looming immigration crisis" by ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. He voiced concern about Trump's failure to mention the finding that Russia had interfered in the 2016 election and "will likely interfere in the 2018 midterms we will be holding ... Unless you have a very special relationship with Mr. Putin."

On January 6, 2021, Trump supporters attacked the United States Capitol. Sanders commented: "[Trump] has made it clear that he will do anything to remain in power – including insurrection and inciting violence [and he] will go down in history as the worst and most dangerous president in history."

Sanders voted to convict Trump on both articles of his first impeachment trial in 2020 (for pressuring a foreign leader to investigate Joe Biden), and again on the sole article of his second impeachment trial in 2021 (for inciting the Capitol attack).

Biden administration

Sanders influenced the environmental policy goals of the Biden administration as described before Biden's nomination. Biden's policy team took some but not all of the Biden-Sanders Unity Task Forces' climate recommendations.

After Biden was elected president, Sanders became the subject of speculation over a potential appointment as Labor Secretary, which was supported by several progressive groups, such as the Sunrise Movement. For his part, Sanders said that he would accept Biden's nomination if it was offered, but Boston mayor Marty Walsh was chosen for the position instead. When announcing Walsh's nomination, Biden confirmed that he had discussed the position with Sanders, but the two agreed that Sanders's resignation from the Senate and the ensuing special election would have put the Democrats' slim Senate majority at risk.

On February 23, 2021, Sanders became the first senator in the Democratic caucus to oppose one of Biden's cabinet picks when he voted against Tom Vilsack's confirmation as Agriculture Secretary, citing concerns about Vilsack's past work as a lobbyist and ties to large corporations.

Sanders strongly supported Senate Democrats' decision to use budget reconciliation, a procedure used to avoid filibusters, to pass the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, despite having criticized Republicans' use of reconciliation to pass the 2017 tax cuts. The bill passed the Senate by a 50–49 vote and was signed into law by Biden on March 11, 2021.

Sanders has continued to have a strong influence on the Biden administration. When it was noted that he had become a key voice in Biden's administration, he replied, "As somebody who wrote a book called Outsider in the House, yes, it is a strange experience to be having that kind of influence that we have now." Their relationship has lasted over 30 years and Sanders has said it is based on respect and trust: "We have had a good relationship. He wants to be a champion of working families, and I admire that and respect that."

Before the 2022 midterm election, Sanders said he regarded it as deciding the fate of democracy and climate change, calling it "the most consequential midterm election" of modern U.S. history. He expressed a fear that the Democratic Party had "not done a good enough job" of getting its message out "to young people and working-class people." After the election, Sanders said it "went a hell of a lot better than we had anticipated" and that "discussion about the economy" had "a very strong impact" that helped Democrats. He also pointed to John Fetterman's successful campaign as a model for future Democratic efforts, saying that Fetterman had "strongly identified with the working class" during the Pennsylvania election.

In April 2023, Sanders endorsed Biden in the 2024 United States presidential election.

Party affiliations

Born into a Democratic-voting family, Sanders was first introduced to political activism when his brother Larry joined the Young Democrats of America and campaigned for Adlai Stevenson II in 1956. Sanders joined Vermont's Liberty Union Party in 1971 and was a candidate for several offices, never coming close to winning election. He became party chairman, but quit in 1977 to become an independent. In 1980, he served as an elector for the Socialist Workers Party. In 1981, Sanders ran as an independent for mayor of Burlington, Vermont, and defeated the Democratic incumbent; he was reelected three times. Although an independent, he endorsed Democratic presidential candidates Walter Mondale in 1984 and Jesse Jackson in 1988. His endorsement of Mondale was lukewarm (telling reporters that "if you go around saying that Mondale would be a great president, you would be a liar and a hypocrite"), but he supported Jackson enthusiastically. The Washington Post reported that the Jackson campaign helped inspire Sanders to work more closely with the Democratic Party.

Sanders attended the 1983 conference of the Socialist Party USA where he gave a speech.

Sanders first ran for the U.S. House of Representatives in 1988 and for the U.S. Senate in 2006, each time adopting a strategy of winning the Democratic Party primary, thereby eliminating Democratic challengers, and then running as an independent in the general election. He continued this strategy through his reelection in the 2018 United States Senate election in Vermont. Throughout his tenure in Congress, he has been listed as an independent. He caucused with Democrats in the House while refusing to join the party, and continues to caucus with Democrats in the Senate. Some conservative southern House Democrats initially barred him from the caucus as they believed that allowing a self-described socialist to join would harm their electoral prospects. He soon came to work constructively with Democrats, voting with the party over 90% of the time during his tenure in Congress.

Starting with his 2016 presidential campaign, Sanders's announcements suggested that not only was he running as a Democrat, but that he would run as a Democrat in future elections. When challenged by Clinton about his party commitment, he said, "Of course I am a Democrat and running for the Democratic nomination." Since he remained a senator elected as an independent, his U.S. Senate website and press materials continued to refer to him as an independent during the campaign and upon his return to the Senate. In October 2017, Sanders said he would run for reelection as an independent in 2018 despite pressure to run as a Democrat. His party status became ambiguous again in March 2019 when he signed a formal "loyalty pledge" to the Democratic Party stating that he was a member of the party and would serve as a Democrat if elected president. He signed the pledge the day after he signed paperwork to run as an independent for reelection to the Senate in 2024.

After Trump's victory in the 2016 elections, Sanders suggested the Democratic Party undergo a series of reforms and that it "break loose from its corporate establishment ties and, once again, become a grass-roots party of working people, the elderly and the poor." He drew parallels between his campaign and that of the Labour Party in the 2017 UK general election. He wrote in The New York Times that "the British elections should be a lesson for the Democratic Party" and urged the Democrats to stop holding on to an "overly cautious, centrist ideology", arguing that "momentum shifted to Labour after it released a very progressive manifesto that generated much enthusiasm among young people and workers." He had earlier praised Jeremy Corbyn's stance on class issues. Sanders is one of three independents in the Senate, the others being Angus King, who also caucuses with the Democrats, and Kyrsten Sinema.

Personal life

Bernie and Jane Sanders by Gage Skidmore (cropped)
Sanders with his wife Jane O'Meara in Des Moines, Iowa, January 2016

In 1963, Sanders and Deborah Shiling Messing, whom he met in college, volunteered for several months on the Israeli kibbutz Sha'ar HaAmakim. They married in 1964 and bought a summer home in Vermont; they had no children and divorced in 1966. His son (and only biological child), Levi Sanders, was born in 1969 to then-girlfriend Susan Campbell Mott.

On May 28, 1988, Sanders married Jane O'Meara Driscoll (née Mary Jane O'Meara), who later became president of Burlington College, in Burlington, Vermont. The day after their wedding, the couple visited the Soviet Union as part of an official delegation in his capacity as mayor. They own a row house in Capitol Hill, a house in Burlington's New North End neighborhood, and a lakefront summer home in North Hero. He considers Jane's three children—Dave Driscoll (born 1975), Carina Driscoll (born 1974), and Heather Titus (née Driscoll; 1971)—to be his own.

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

Health

On October 1, 2019, Sanders was hospitalized after experiencing chest pains at a campaign event in Las Vegas. His campaign announced the next day that a blockage had been found in one coronary artery and two stents inserted. Scheduled campaign events and appearances were canceled until further notice. Two days later his campaign released a statement that he had been diagnosed with a heart attack. He was released from the hospital the same day. A few days after returning home, Sanders addressed media outside his home and said he had experienced fatigue and chest discomfort for a month or two before the incident; he expressed regret for not seeking medical assessment sooner: "I was dumb."

Sanders made his first national appearance after his heart attack on October 15 at the Democratic debate, at which he said, "I'm healthy, I'm feeling great." When asked how he would reassure voters about his health and ability to take on the duties of the presidency, he said, "We are going to be mounting a vigorous campaign all over this country. That is how I think I can reassure the American people." It was noted that he was "lively and sharp at the debate."

In December 2019, three months after the heart attack, Sanders released letters from three physicians, Attending Physician of Congress Brian P. Monahan and two cardiologists, who declared Sanders healthy and recovered from his heart condition.

Honors and awards

On December 4, 2015, Sanders won Time's 2015 Person of the Year readers' poll with 10.2% of the vote but did not receive the editorial board's award. On March 20, 2016, he was given an honorary Lushootseed name, dxʷshudičup, by Deborah Parker in Seattle to honor his focus on Native American issues during his presidential campaign.

On May 30, 2017, Sanders received an honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters from Brooklyn College.

Religion, heritage, and values

As Sanders described his upbringing as an American Jew in a 2016 speech: his father generally attended synagogue only on Yom Kippur; he attended public schools while his mother "chafed" at his yeshiva Sunday schooling at a Hebrew school; and their religious observances were mostly limited to Passover seders with their neighbors. Larry Sanders said of their parents, "They were very pleased to be Jews, but didn't have a strong belief in God." Bernie had a bar mitzvah at the historic Kingsway Jewish Center in Midwood, Brooklyn, where he grew up.

In 1963, in cooperation with the Labor Zionist youth movement Hashomer Hatzair, Sanders and his first wife volunteered at Sha'ar HaAmakim, a kibbutz in northern Israel. His motivation for the trip was as much socialistic as it was Zionistic.

As mayor of Burlington, Sanders allowed a Chabad public menorah to be placed at city hall, an action the ACLU contested. He publicly inaugurated the Hanukkah menorah and performed the Jewish religious ritual of blessing Hanukkah candles. His early and strong support played a significant role in the now widespread public menorah celebrations around the globe. When asked about his Jewish heritage, Sanders has said that he is "proud to be Jewish."

Sanders rarely speaks about religion. He describes himself as "not particularly religious" and "not actively involved" with organized religion. A press package issued by his office states his religion as Jewish. He has said he believes in God, but not necessarily in a traditional way: "I think everyone believes in God in their own ways", he said. "To me, it means that all of us are connected, all of life is connected, and that we are all tied together."

In 2016, he disclosed that he had "very strong religious and spiritual feelings", adding, "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."

Sanders does not regularly attend synagogue, and he does not refrain from working on Rosh Hashanah, as observant Jews do. He has attended yahrzeit observances in memory of the deceased, for the father of a friend, and in 2015 attended a Tashlikh, an atonement ceremony, with the mayor of Lynchburg on the afternoon of Rosh Hashanah. According to Richard Sugarman, his Jewish identity is "certainly more ethnic and cultural than religious." His wife is Roman Catholic, and he has often 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." He has said he feels very close to Francis's economic teachings, describing him as "incredibly smart and brave". In April 2016, he accepted an invitation from Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, an aide close to Francis, to speak at a Vatican conference on economic and environmental issues. While at the Vatican, he met briefly with Francis.

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Bernie Sanders para niños

  • American Left
  • Electoral history of Bernie Sanders
  • History of the socialist movement in the United States
  • List of elected socialist mayors in the United States
  • List of Jewish members of the United States Congress
  • List of people who received an electoral vote in the United States Electoral College
  • Spintharus berniesandersi
  • Third-party members of the United States House of Representatives
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