Washington, DC (TFC) – Midday Tuesday, word from Washington insiders leaked that Vermont Senator, Bernie Sanders is set to officially announce his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination this Thursday, April 30th. Senator Sanders is a self-described democratic socialist who has enjoyed a staggering level of support as an anti-establishment, populist candidate.
Within hours of news of his impending announcement his campaign website had crashed. While he’s been in politics for the better part of 35 years, Senator Sanders’ name is still relatively unknown to the masses. He began his career as an independent and continues to represent the independent party, however, he caucuses with the Democrats. With the 2016 Presidential Election looming near, it is important to know the histories of potential candidates and where they stand on the important issues.
Senator Sanders came from humble beginnings. Growing up in a middle class family in Brooklyn, he became involved in social justice while he was a student at the University of Chicago. He began his career in politics running for and losing varying elections through the 1970s in Vermont. However, his political career advanced in 1981, when he ran for and beat out the incumbent for Mayor of Burlington by just 10 votes. He maintained this position as mayor until 1989, when he went on to Harvard University and later to Hamilton College to teach courses in Political Science briefly.
Senator Sanders has quickly become a social media favorite with his unwavering stances against TPP and Big Money. In a letter to President Obama regarding TPP, Sanders stated
“It is incomprehensible to me that the leaders of major corporate interests who stand to gain enormous financial benefits from this agreement are actively involved in the writing of the TPP while, at the same time, the elected officials of this country, representing the American people, have little or no knowledge as to what is in it,”
On the issue of big banks’ influence on politics Sanders is quoted as saying:
“Over the last several days, it has become abundantly clear that Congress does not regulate Wall Street but Wall Street regulates Congress. If Wall Street lobbyists can literally write a provision into law that will allow too-big-to-fail banks to make the same risky bets that nearly destroyed our economy just a few years ago, it should be obvious to all that their incredible economic and political power is a huge danger to our economy and our way of life,”
Sanders is best known for railing against the rich in a Senate speech in 2011- going as far as openly mocking them. This is in stark contrast to Hillary Clinton’s middle class pacifying doublespeak. A look at the top contributors to both politicians throughout their careers indicates that while it is big business and banks who have financed Clinton’s political runs, Sanders has stood true to his no big business lobby philosophy of government and is largely funded by unions and individuals.
Sanders’ foreign policy differs from that of other candidates in that he will openly criticize leaders allied with the US if he feels that they are in the wrong. Instead of pandering to rich Arab leaders for instance, when asked about the plight of the Palestinians, a portion of Sanders’ letter states,
“(I)nstead of being used as a political football, the Palestinians should be given the financial support of wealthy Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, as well as the rest of the international community. Frankly, I have little respect for the leaders of wealthy Arab countries who express great concern about the plight of the Palestinians, while they put billions in Swiss bank accounts. Economic assistance is desperately needed to help create jobs and improve the desperately low standard of living that afflicts so many Palestinians.”
His voting record indicates that he is against foreign intervention unless there is a direct threat to United States Security. He would like to reduce the US presence in the UN and increase aid to poor and impoverished countries.
With regards to his domestic policies, Sanders is staunchly for funding public education and helping to uplift the middle class. In a recent speech at The American University, he stated that he would like to work towards making all public, four year universities tuition free. In response to proposed cuts to Pell Grants, he said, “This is an attack on student aid, and we should continue to fight it. We must expand the Pell Grant program and we must make college education free at public colleges and universities all over this nation. This must be done if we are going to rebuild the disappearing middle class and create an economy of good paying jobs.”
Sanders has voted time and again to better the United States’ public school systems. He has voted to fund public elementary schools’ renovations, earmarking almost $23B to better public schools. Knowing that young children need more attention, he has voted to reduce classroom sizes in grades 1-3 to 18 students. He has also voted to make employee education assistance tax deductible.
On other domestic issues, including the oft debated issues of social welfare, Sanders has remained supportive of those who come from similar backgrounds as his own. He has co-sponsored bills increasing the Earned Income Credit, fully funding Head Start, Job Corps, and WIC, and he has also supported school breakfast for low-income students.
Senator Sanders is a definite change from the status quo in Washington. It appears that through a grassroots campaign and massive support of youth, Sanders stands poised to exceed all expectations for him and his campaign.
His stances against Big banks, TPP, NDAA, and foreign interventionist wars have set him apart. Senator Sanders has been on a life long crusade to protect the poor and the middle classes, build America’s infrastructure and invest in the youth. To many generation x and y’ers, he is solidifying his position as a beacon of hope and real change.
Though some of his voting record is questionable when compared to his stances, the majority of it is clearly true to his roots.This truly is not something we see every day, especially not in Washington. At the very least, what we can expect from a Democratic Primary involving Sanders is that he will bring issues to the table that other candidates would much rather sweep under the rug.