Who the Heck is Bernie Sanders? A Primer.
When I first heard about Bernie Sanders, I really didn’t know who he was. I thought he might be some Libertarian Tea party guy coming in from the fringes. Or maybe a rogue Republican like Rand Paul. I was resigned to the idea that Hillary is the only Democrat contender, and therefore, it was going to be another business-as-usual campaign season that I’d try desperately to ignore.
But then I started seeing memes of things he was saying. Things I wholeheartedly agree with. Who the heck is this guy? Eventually, I saw so many of these that I decided to do a bit of research. That’s when I discovered that he’s a political unicorn. By all evidence of politicians before him, he shouldn’t exist. Yet, the evidence was solid. He’s the real deal.
Here’s what I discovered:
Before he started his political career, in the early 60’s, he was very active in the Civil Rights Movement and in college was a student organizer for the Congress of Racial Equality and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. He coordinated sit-in protests against segregation. He was a member of the Young People’s Socialist League.
His start in politics was in 1971. He was a member of the Liberty Union Party, which grew out of the anti-war and people’s party movements. He ran for senator in 1972 and 1974. IN 1974 he finished third, only 4.1% behind the victor. In 1979 he directed the American People’s Historical Society, where he made a documentary about Eugene Debs.
In 1981 he ran for and became mayor of Burlington, VT and won three more times, beating out both Democrat and Republican candidates. While there, he funded Community Trust Housing and his administration sued the local cable company and won reduced rates for customers.
After four terms, he didn’t run and taught political science at Harvard and Hamilton College.
In 1990, he ran for Congress as an Independent and won with 56% of the vote. He described himself as openly Socialist.
He voted against the use of force in Iraq in 1991 and 2002 and opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq. He has been very vocal against the Patriot Act. When it passed, he sponsored several amendments to curtail the power of the act and voted against every reauthorization of the Patriot Act.
He repeatedly called for an investigation into the Bush administration for their actions leading up to the Iraq war and for the illegal leak of Valerie Plame’s identity as a CIA agent.
In 2005 he proposed an amendment to disallow the gov’t from obtaining people’s library and book buying records. He consistently voted against every attempt to censor or surveil the internet.
He ran for Senate in 2006 and beat Republican Rich Tarrant by a 2-1 margin. He was re-elected in 2012 with 71% of the vote. During this time, both the NAACP and the NHLA gave him voting scores of 100%.
He very vocally opposed bailing out the banks and inspired many online petitions to oppose the same.
In 2015 he became the ranking minority member of the Senate Budget Committee and presented a report aimed at rebuilding the middle class, raising the minimum wage, and increasing Social Security payments.
On April 30, he announced his run for President, refusing any SuperPAC funding, saying "I don’t believe that the men and women who defended American democracy fought to create a situation where billionaires own the political process.“ Elizabeth Warren, who chose not to run, openly endorses Sanders. After four days, his campaign raised $3 million, all from small individual donations averaging $43.
In the last month, he has drawn larger crowds than every other candidate, regardless of party.
His platform includes:
Income and Wealth Equality
Raising taxes on capital gains and the wealthiest 2% of Americans, which he would use to lower the taxes of middle and lower classes.
Introduced legislation to break up the "too big to fail” banks.
Opposes the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would dwarf CAFTA and NAFTA.
Rebuilding America’s infrastructure of bridges, roads, and creating a modern rail system on par with what is in Europe and Japan, which would create millions of jobs.
Introduced legislation to aid the creation of worker-owned co-ops, something he’s openly supported since 1976.
Eradicating student loans by making public universities tuition-free.
Seriously tackling global warming by transforming our energy from oil and fossil fuels to sustainable energy like wind, solar, and hydro energy.
Ending wiretapping and other forms of mass surveillance.
Increasing benefits for veterans.
Creating a true universal health care system on par with that of most of Europe.
Creating a guaranteed paid family, sick and vacation leave, including 12 weeks of paid maternity leave.
Calling for police accountability.
Also, he’s a non-practicing Jew (atheist), and is strongly in favor of separation of church and state.
Creating equality of pay for women.
To back all of this up, and show that he doesn’t just give lip service, but actively fights for these things, throughout his career he has sponsored the following (this is a short list of just a few. Go to govtrack.us to see everything he’s sponsored):
S. 1719 Low-Income Solar Act
S. 1631 Keep Our Pension Promises Act
S. 1564 Guaranteed Paid Vacation Act
S. 1373 College For All Act
S. 1364 Medicaid Generic Drug Price Fairness Act of 2015
S. 1206 Too Big To Fail, Too Big To Exist Act
S. 922 Corporate Tax Dodging Prevention Act
S. 731 Social Security Expansion Act
S. 2905 Carbon Pollution Transparency Act of 2014
S. 2901 10 Million Solar Roofs Act of 2014
S. 2450 Veterans’ Access to Care through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act of 2014
S. 2422 Ensuring Veterans Access to Care Act of 2014
S. 2411 United States Employee Ownership Bank Act
S. 1982 Comprehensive Veterans Health and Benefits and Military Retirement Pay Restoration Act of 2014
S. 1583 Mental Health Support for Veteran Families and Caregivers Act of 2013
S. 1581 Survivors of Military Sexual Assault and Domestic Abuse Act of 2013
S. 1168 Restore Our Privacy Act
S. 332 Climate Protection Act of 2013
S. Amdt 210 Requires Labels on Foods with Genetically Modified Ingredients
S. 329 Sustainable Energy Act
S. 3433 Clean Coasts and Efficient Cars Act of 2010
He also co-sponsored these (a partial list, full one at votesmart.org):
S. 2578 Protect Women’s Health From Corporate Interference Act of 2014
S. 2223 Minimum Wage Fairness Act
S. 2199 Paycheck Fairness Act
S. 815 Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2013
S. 47 Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013
S. Amdt 3058 Expands TRICARE Coverage of Autism
S. Amdt 3018 Prohibits the Indefinite Detention of Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents
S. Amdt 2156 Increases Funding for the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program
S. Amdt 2111 Prohibits Pharmaceutical Companies from Delaying the Release of Generic Drugs
S. Amdt 2108 Prohibits FDA Approval of Genetically Engineered Fish
S. 2230 Establishes a Minimum 30 Percent Tax Rate for High-Income Taxpayers
S. Amdt 3989 Debit Card Fee Regulations
This track record of fighting for civil rights, equality, sustainability, fairness, and overall humanity proves he is for real. He has never been for sale. He has never wavered in doing right by all of us. He supports everything that most of my friends support. His words and his voting and sponsoring record aligns consistently.
No other candidate, in this or any other election, has had a level of integrity, consistency of vision, and progressiveness that even approaches Bernie Sanders. They had nice words, but their records did not match those words, and therefore we ended up fooled again.
Every other candidate either wavers their position with public opinion, takes corporate funding, or their words do not match their record, which itself often fluctuates with political winds.
Please, try to find some dirt on him. Find evidence of wrongdoing. Show accusations of corruption. Find a scandal. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
In the meantime, consider this: just once, wouldn’t you like to cast your vote for someone who has always supported the things you support? If the above isn’t the kind of thing you support, then by all means, vote for someone else. However, the vast majority of my friends are in alignment with the same values Bernie Sanders has always had.
If he loses, what we’ll be left with is the same crap we’ve had all our lives. A President that panders to corporate interests and is for sale. Just once, let’s support real hope, not a campaign slogan of hope.