- Self-identified socialist
- Served in the House of Representatives from 1991 to 2007
- Founded the Congressional Progressive Caucus
- Has served in the U.S. Senate since 2007
- Believes that global warming is caused, in large measure, by human industrial activity
- Favors a single-payer, government-run healthcare system
See also: Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee National Rainbow Coalition
Congressional Progressive Caucus
Bernard “Bernie” Sanders was born in Brooklyn, New York on September 8, 1941, to Polish immigrants of Jewish descent. After attending Brooklyn College for one year, he transferred to the University of Chicago (UC) and earned a bachelor's degree in political science in 1964. At UC, Sanders joined the Young Peoples Socialist League (youth wing of the Socialist Party USA) as well as the Congress of Racial Equality and the Student Peace Union. He also was an organizer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee; participated in an American Friends Service Committee project at a California psychiatric hospital; and worked briefly (as an organizer) for the United Packinghouse Workers Union (UPWU), which, like all the CIO unions, had a number of influential Communists among its ranks. At that time, UPWU was under investigation by the House Committee on Un-American Activities.
After college, in 1963, Sanders lived and worked for a number of months in an Israeli kibbutz known as Kibbutz Sha'ar Ha'amakim (KSH), which was co-founded by Aharon Cohen, an Arabist who was a harsh critic of Israeli policy and was arrested for spying for the Soviet Union in the 1950s. The founders of KSH referred to Joseph Stalin as the "Sun of the Nations," and a red flag was flown at outdoor events held at the kibbutz. Sanders stayed at KSH as a guest of the Zionist-Marxist youth movement Hashomer Hatzair (HH), which pledged its allegiance to the Soviet Union; some left-wing groups described HH as Leninist and even Stalinist. HH made it plain that its cooperation with Zionists was a temporary expedient designed to help pave the way for a socialist revolution; that it viewed Israel's independence as a transitional phase in the development of a bi-national socialist state which would ultimately end Israel's existence as a Jewish entity.
HH founder Ya'akov Hazan described the USSR as a second homeland, and in 1953 he lamented “the terrible tragedy that has befallen the nations of the Soviet Union, the world proletariat and all of progressive mankind, upon the death of the great leader and extolled commander, Josef Vissarionovich Stalin.” “We lower our flag in grief in memory of the great revolutionary fighter, architect of socialist construction, and leader of the world's peace movement,” Hazan added. “His huge historical achievements will guide generations in their march towards the reign of socialism and communism the world over.” In a similar vein, Eliezer Hacohen, one of HH's ideological leaders, called Marxism “the key to renewing our spiritual creativity.” (Another individual who gravitated to an HH kibbutz as a young man was Noam Chomsky.)
Following his time at Kibbutz Sha'ar Ha'amakim, Sanders moved to Vermont where he worked variously as a carpenter, filmmaker, writer, and researcher. In 1964 he married a young woman named Deborah Sanders; the marriage lasted only until 1966. Over the next few years, Sanders worked variously as a psychiatric-hospital aide and a Head Start preschool teacher in New York; as a Department of Taxes employee in Vermont; and as a staffer for a nonprofit organization called the Bread and Law Task Force, where he registered people for food stamps. In 1969 he fathered a child out-of-wedlock.
In the 1960s as well, Sanders, a self-identified pacifist, applied for conscientious objector status in order to avoid military service. His application was eventually rejected, but by that time he was too old to be drafted.
In 1971 Sanders joined the Liberty Union Party (LUP), which strongly opposed the Vietnam War, called for the nationalization of all U.S. banks, and advocated a government takeover of all private utility companies.
That summer, Sanders went to live briefly on a hippie commune in northeast Vermont called Myrtle Hill Farm. According to the Washington Free Beacon: "Sanders came to the farm while researching an article on natural childbirth for the Liberty Union's party organ, Movement. Interest in alternative medicine was strong among members of the counterculture as part of their wider suspicion of modern science, which was associated with the sterility of hospitals and the destruction of war." In his piece, Sanders criticized traditional methods where "infants were bottle fed on assembly line schedules designed by assembly line doctors in order to prepare them for assembly line society." "All of life is one and if we want to know, for example, how our nation can napalm children in Vietnam—AND NOT CARE—it is necessary to go well beyond 'politics,'" he wrote. In her 2016 book We Are As Gods, author Kate Daloz writes that Sanders spent a great deal of his time at Myrtle Hill in “endless political discussion” rather than doing any work, a habit that annoyed many of the commune's other residents. For example, writes Daloz, one resident, a man named Craig, “resented feeling like he had to pull others out of Bernie’s orbit if any work was going to get accomplished that day.” Consequently, “When Bernie had stayed for Myrtle’s allotted three days, Craig politely requested that he move on.”
Sanders made unsuccessful runs for the U.S. Senate in 1972 and 1974, and for Governor of Vermont in 1976—all on the LUP ticket. Sanders's LUP platform called for the nationalization of all U.S. banks, public ownership of all utilities, and the establishment of a worker-controlled federal government. According to the Guardian, a press release from his 1974 campaign stated that as a means of addressing the problem of rising energy prices, Sanders advocated “the public takeover of all privately owned electric companies in Vermont.” it stated. The Guardian noted, as a qualifier, that "[t]he press release ... is annotated and could be a draft."
In the mid-1970s, Sanders spent about two years as an amateur historian and film-maker, selling educational film strips to schools in New England. Sanders also became the head of the American People’s History Society, which journalist Paul Sperry has described as “an organ for Marxist propaganda.” “There,” writes Sperry, “[Sanders] produced a glowing documentary on the life of socialist revolutionary Eugene Debs, who was jailed for espionage during the Red Scare and hailed by the Bolsheviks as 'America’s greatest Marxist.' This subversive hero of Sanders, denounced even by liberal Democrats as a 'traitor,' bashed 'the barons of Wall Street' and hailed the 'triumphant' Bolshevik revolution in Russia.” Debs also ran six times for U.S. president on the Socialist Party ticket. (To this day, Sanders continues to hang a portrait of Debs on a wall inside his Senate office.)
After resigning from LUP in 1979, Sanders became a political Independent. In 1981 he was elected mayor of Burlington, Vermont, by a margin of just 10 votes. He was subsequently re-elected three times and served as mayor until 1989. Sanders created some controversy when he hung a Soviet flag in his mayoral office, in honor of Burlington's Soviet sister city, Yaroslavl, located some 160 miles northeast of Moscow. During his tenure as mayor, Sanders placed restrictions on the property rights of landlords, set price controls, and raised local property taxes in order to fund communal land trusts. Further, he named Burlington's city softball team the “People’s Republic of Burlington,” and its minor league baseball team the “Vermont Reds.” Local business owners, meanwhile, distributed fliers asserting that Sanders “does not believe in free enterprise.”
According to an Accuracy In Media report, Sanders during the 1980s "collaborated with Soviet and East German 'peace committees'" whose aim was "to stop President Reagan’s deployment of nuclear missiles in Europe.” Indeed, he “openly joined the Soviets’ 'nuclear freeze' campaign to undercut Reagan’s military build-up.”
In 1985 Sanders traveled to Managua, Nicaragua to celebrate the sixth anniversary of the rise to power of Daniel Ortega and his Marxist-Leninist Sandinista government. In a letter which he addressed to the people of Nicaragua, Sanders denounced the anti-Communist activities of the Reagan administration, which he said was under the control of corporate interests. Assuring the Nicaraguans that Americans were “fair minded people” who had more to offer “than the bombs and economic sabotage” promoted by President Reagan, he declared: “In the long run, I am certain that you will win, and that your heroic revolution against the Somoza dictatorship will be maintained and strengthened.”
Following his trip to Nicaragua, Sanders penned a letter to the White House indicating that Ortega would be willing to meet with Reagan to negotiate a resolution to the conflict. The mayor also sought to enlist the help of former president Jimmy Carter, telling him that the people of Nicaragua were very fond of him (Carter). Sanders even invited Ortega to visit Burlington, though the Nicaraguan president declined.
Also in the aftermath of his trip to Nicaragua, Sanders praised the living conditions under that country's Communist regime:
- "No one denies that they are building health clinics. Health care in Nicaragua is now free.... Infant mortality has been greatly reduced."
- "[The Nicaraguan government is] giving, for the first time in their lives, real land to farmers, so that they can have something that they grow. Nobody denies that they are making significant progress."
- "Sometimes American journalists talk about how bad a country [like Nicaragua] is because people are lining up for food [e.g., bread lines]. That's a good thing. In other countries, people don't line up for food. The rich get the food, and the poor starve to death."
By no means was Sanders's trip to Nicaragua his only trek to a Communist country. He also visited Fidel Castro's Cuba in the 1980s and had a friendly meeting with the mayor of Havana.
In an August 8, 1985 interview on a Vermont government-access television station, Sanders discussed his recent trip to Nicaragua and drew parallels between the Castro and Ortega regimes. "In 1961," he said, "[America] invaded Cuba, and everybody was totally convinced that Castro was the worst guy in the world, that all the Cuban people were going to rise up in rebellion against Fidel Castro. They forgot that he educated the kids, gave them health care, totally transformed the society. You know, not to say Fidel Castro and Cuba are perfect -- they are certainly not -- but just because Ronald Reagan dislikes these people does not mean to say that the people in their own nations feel the same way. So they expected this tremendous uprising in Cuba; it never came. And if they are expecting a tremendous uprising in Nicaragua, they are very, very, very mistaken." (For video of this 1985 interview, click here.)
During the same interview, Sanders also stated that he "was impressed" with Nicaragua’s Foreign Minister Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann, a Catholic priest whom Pope John Paul II had barred from celebrating Mass because Brockmann had defied a church rule forbidding priests from holding government jobs. “If this guy is the foreign minister of a 'terrorist nation,' then they should get another foreign minister, because he is a very gentle, very loving man,” said Sanders. Moreover, Sanders characterized Daniel Ortega as “an impressive guy” while criticizing then-U.S. President Ronald Reagan. “The Sandinista government, in my view, has more support among the Nicaraguan people, substantially more support, than Ronald Reagan has among the American people,” said Sanders. “If President Reagan thinks that any time a government comes along, which in its wisdom, rightly or wrongly, is doing the best for its people, he has the right to overthrow that government, you're going to be at war not only with all of Latin America, but with the entire Third World.” (For video of this 1985 interview, click here.)
In 1986 Sanders ran unsuccessfully for Governor of Vermont, and two years later he made a failed bid for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
When Sanders in 1988 married his wife, Jane, the couple honeymooned in Yaroslavl, Russia. In an interview with that city's mayor, Alexander Riabkov, Sanders acknowledged that housing and health care were “significantly better” in the U.S. than in the Soviet Union, but added that “the cost of both services is much, much, higher in the United States.”
In November 1989 Sanders addressed the national conference of the U.S. Peace Council, a Communist Party USA front whose members were committed to advancing “the triumph of Soviet power in the U.S.” The event focused on how to “end the Cold War” and “fund human needs.” Fellow speakers included such notables as Leslie Cagan, John Conyers, and Manning Marable.
Choosing not to seek re-election to a fifth term as mayor, Sanders spent 1989-90 working as a lecturer at Hamilton College in upstate New York and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
By 1990 Sanders was a leading member of Jesse Jackson's National Rainbow Coalition, and he ran successfully for Congress as a socialist, representing Vermont's single at-large congressional district. In his campaign, Sanders was supported by the Communist author and journalist I.F. Stone.
In 1991, Sanders founded the Congressional Progressive Caucus along with fellow House members Tom Andrews, Peter DeFazio, Ron Dellums, Lane Evans, and Maxine Waters.
During the 1990s, Sanders participated multiple times in the Socialist Scholars Conferences that were held annually in New York City.
During each year of the Bill Clinton administration—starting in 1993, shortly after the first al-Qaeda attack on the World Trade Center—Sanders introduced legislation to cut the U.S. intelligence budget sight unseen. He justified this approach by noting that “the Soviet Union no longer exists,” and that such concerns as “massive unemployment,” “low wages,” “homelessness,” “hungry children,” and “the collapse of our educational system” represented “maybe a stronger danger [than foreign terrorists] for our national security.”
Sanders was a vocal critic of the Patriot Act, the anti-terrorism bill passed in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, as an assault on civil liberties.
In 2006 Sanders co-sponsored a resolution by Rep. John Conyers to impeach President Bush on grounds that he had led the United States into an illegal and immoral war in Iraq.
In November 2006 Sanders ran successfully for a seat in the U.S. Senate. Then-Senator Barack Obama, whom Sanders described as “one of the great leaders” of that legislative body, campaigned enthusiastically on Sanders's behalf. When a Washington Post reporter asked Sanders just prior to the election: “Are you now or have you ever been a Socialist?” Sanders replied, “Yeah. I wouldn’t deny it. Not for one second. I’m a democratic Socialist.”
In 2007 Senator Sanders and Rep. Maurice Hinchey together introduced the Media Ownership Reform Act, which was designed to tightly restrict the number of radio stations that any firm could own. It also sought to resurrect the so-called “Fairness Doctrine”—a measure that, if passed, would greatly diminish the influence of conservative talk radio.
Sanders has long maintained that “global warming/climate change” not only threatens “the fate of the entire planet,” but is caused chiefly by human industrial activity and must be curbed by means of legislation strictly limiting carbon emissions. In 2007 Sanders and Senator Barbara Boxer proposed the Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act, which, according to an MIT study, would have imposed on U.S. taxpayers a yearly financial burden of more than $4,500 per family, purportedly to check climate change. In February 2010 Sanders likened climate-change skeptics to people who had disregarded the Nazi threat prior to WWII: “During that period of Nazism and fascism's growth … there were people in this country and in the British parliament who said, 'Don't worry! Hitler's not real! It'll disappear!'” Accusing “big business” of being “willing to destroy the planet for short-term profits,” Sanders in 2013 said that “global warming is a far more serious problem than al Qaeda.” Stating unequivocally that “the scientific community is unanimous” in its belief that “the planet is warming up,” Sanders the following year declared that the “debate is over” and emphasized the importance of “transform[ing] our energy systems away from fossil fuels.”
In an August 2011 op-ed decrying income inequality in America, Sanders wrote: “These days, the American dream is more apt to be realized in South America, in places such as Ecuador, Venezuela and Argentina, where incomes are actually more equal today than they are in the land of Horatio Alger. Who's the banana republic now?”
In September 2011, Sanders was the first U.S. Senator to support the anti-capitalist Occupy Wall Street movement, lauding its activists for focusing a “spotlight” on the need for “real Wall Street reform.”
In March 2013, Sanders and fellow Senator Tom Harkin together introduced a bill to tax Wall Street speculators. “Both the economic crisis and the deficit crisis are a direct result of the greed, recklessness, and illegal behavior on Wall Street,” said Sanders.
On April 29, 2015, Sanders announced that he was running for the Democratic Party's 2016 presidential nomination, citing economic inequality, climate change, and the Citizens United Supreme Court decision as issues of particular concern to him.
In May 2015, Sanders told CNBC interviewer John Harwood that he was in favor of dramatically raising the marginal tax rate on America's highest earners. “[When] radical socialist Dwight D. Eisenhower was president,” Sanders said sarcastically, “I think the highest marginal tax rate was something like 90 percent.” When Harwood asked whether Sanders thought that was too high, the senator replied: “No. What I think is obscene, and what frightens me is, again, when you have the top one-tenth of one percent owning almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 [percent]. Does anybody think that is the kind of economy this country should have?” Notably, in 2014 Sanders paid $27,653 in federal income taxes -- an effective federal tax rate of 13.5 percent.
In his first public speech as a presidential candidate in Burlington, Vermont, Sanders in May 2015 broadly laid out the major planks of his campaign's agenda:
- He declared that financial inequality "is immoral, it is bad economics, it is unsustainable."
- Vowing to send "a message to the billionaire class," he said: "[Y]ou can't have huge tax breaks [for the rich] while children in this country go hungry ... while there are massive unmet needs on every corner.... Your greed has got to end.... You cannot take advantage of all the benefits of America if you refuse to accept your responsibilities."
- He pledged to enact "a tax system that is fair and progressive, which tells the wealthiest individuals and the largest corporations that they are going to begin to pay their fair share."
- Claiming that "the current federal [hourly] minimum wage of $7.25 is a starvation wage and must be raised ... to $15.00 an hour." (Yet Sanders himself was only paying his office interns $12 per hour.)
- He described the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) as a "modest" step in the direction of rightfully forcing the U.S. to "join the rest of the industrialized world and guarantee health care to all as a right." "And we must do it through a Medicare-for-all, single payer health plan," he explained.
- He called for "pay equity for women workers," and "paid sick leave and guaranteed vacation time for every worker in this country."
- Describing the rising costs of a college education as "insane," he vowed to "fight to make tuition in public colleges and universities free, as well as substantially lower interest rates on student loans."
- He pledged to "expand Social Security benefits" and mandate "a universal pre-K system for all the children of this country."
- Asserting that "there is nothing more important" than fighting global warming, he said: "The debate is over. The scientific community has spoken in a virtually unanimous voice. Climate change is real, it is caused by human activity, and it is already causing devastating problems in our country and throughout the world." He elaborated that in the absence of government intervention, America would inevitably see "more drought, more famine, more rising sea level, more floods, more ocean acidification, [and] more extreme weather disturbances," he elaborated, in the absence of government intervention.
- He called for the government to use taxpayer dollars to rebuild America's "crumbling infrastructure" by repairing "our roads, our bridges, our water systems, our rail and airports." Sanders added he would begin this process by working to advance, in the Senate, a five-year, $1 trillion bill that he himself had proposed, claiming that it "would create and maintain 13 million good paying jobs."
In September 2015, Sanders's presidential campaign received the support of the former Weather Underground terrorist Bill Ayers, who wrote: "I believe that among the Sanders supporters there are thousands who are dissatisfied, who are disgruntled, but who do not have a coherent left analysis, who therefore are open to our ideas as they weren’t before they got involved in the Sanders surge.... So, why don’t we joi[n] a Sanders local campaign or go to a mass rally?... We could have lists of places and projects where anarchists and others are working with people in projects that are using anarchist and community participatory ideas and vision. Places where Bernie supporters might get involved once they knew about them."
In 2015 as well, Sanders enthusiastically supported the nuclear deal that the Obama administration negotiated with Iran—an agreement allowing the terrorist regime in Tehran to inspect its own Parchin nuclear weapons research site, conduct uranium enrichment, build advanced centrifuges, purchase ballistic missiles, fund terrorism, and have a near-zero breakout time to a nuclear bomb approximately a decade down the road. Notwithstanding these undeniable realities about an accord that would inevitably make Israel vulnerable to an attack by the one nation whose government had candidly vowed to wipe the Jewish state off the face of the earth, Sanders saw the deal as “the best way forward if we are to accomplish what we all want to accomplish — that is making certain that Iran does not acquire a nuclear weapon.”
In a September 14, 2015 campaign appearance at Liberty University, Sanders was asked: "If you were elected president, what would you do to bring healing and resolution to the issue of racism in our country?" His reply made it clear that he viewed racism as a trait found chiefly in white people:
"... I would hope and I believe that every person in this room today understands that it is unacceptable to judge people, to discriminate against people, based on the color of their skin. And I would also say that as a nation, the truth is, that a nation which in many ways was created—and I’m sorry to have to say this—from way back on racist principles. That’s a fact. We have come a long way as a nation. Now I know, my guess is probably not everybody here is an admirer or a voter for Barack Obama. But the point is, that in 2008, this country took a huge step forward ... in voting for a candidate based on his ideas and not the color of his skin.... We all know to what degree racism remains alive in this country. [Sanders then cited a recent incident where a white South Carolina man had shot and killed nine black mebers of a church.] And I cannot understand, for the life of me, how there can be hundreds of groups in this country, whose sole reason for existence is to promote hatred [against] African Americans or gays or Jews or immigrants or anybody that is different from us.... [L]et us be clear, that when you have unarmed African Americans shot by police officers -- something which has been going on for years -- That is also institutional racism and cries out for reform."
In a September 18, 2015 appearance on CBS This Morning, Sanders discussed his plan to raise taxes on the wealthy; to provide free public college tuition for all Americans; to provide 12 weeks of paid family leave and paid vacation time for all workers; to “create universal health care for every man, woman and child”; to put private health insurance companies “out of business”; and to require “the wealthiest people in this country who are doing phenomenally well” -- along with “large corporations that are making billions of dollars in profits” -- to “start paying their fair share of taxes.” Following are some highlights of his exchange with co-hosts Norah O'Donnell and Vinita Nair:
- O'Donnell asked, "Would that mean taxing the wealthiest Americans at 90 percent, as you’ve suggested in the past?" Sanders replied, "No, I don't think you have to go up to 90%, but you can remember that under people like Dwight David Eisenhower [under whom the top tax rate was approximately 90 percent], we had a tax system that was far more progressive than it was today.... But we will come up with some very specific ideas."
- O'Donnell asked how Sanders proposed to pay for "free health care for everybody, college for everybody, [and] paid leave." Sanders replied: "This is what we would do. If you want tuition-free public colleges and universities, which I believe we will have a tax on Wall Street speculation, which will more than pay for that. We will end the fact that profitable corporations, in some cases, in America today, pay zero in federal taxes because they stash their money in the Cayman Islands and in Bermuda."
- Nair pointed out that The Wall Street Journal had estimated that all of Sanders's proposed programs would cost $18 trillion to implement. Sanders replied: "But what The Wall Street Journal said, and we responded to, it is that that included 15 billion dollars for [a] national health care program. What they forgot to say is that you would not be paying, and businesses would not be paying, for private health insurance. So, in other words, right now if you're paying $12,000 a year for Blue Cross/Blue Shield, you would not be paying that. In fact, every study indicates that we pay more per capita for healthcare than any nation on earth. We would lower that cost."
- O'Donnell said, "You're calling for a single payer health care system but your home state of Vermont tried that in 2011 and the Democratic governor has said we can't afford it and rolled it back. Your own state can't even carry it through. How is America going to do it?: Sanders replied, "Because every other country in the world, in one way or another, does it." O'Donnell then asked, "Then why couldn’t Vermont figure it out?" Sanders responded: "Well, you’ll have to ask the Governor for that. I'm not the Governor of the state of Vermont, but you can ask the conservative prime minister of Canada how they have a single-payer health care system. You can ask every other major country on Earth how they guarantee health care to all of their people with far less cost per capita than we do in the United States."
- Sanders said: "Thirty million people [in America] today have zero health insurance, and millions more are underinsured. No one debates that fact. What the story is, how can you create universal health care for every man, woman and child and do it in a cost effective way? Other countries do it. The United States of America can do it. Now, I know the private insurance companies don't like this idea. We’re going to put them out of business. And the drug companies that are ripping off the American people and charging us the highest prices in the world don't like the idea. Tough luck."
During a Democratic presidential debate on November 14, 2015 -- in the aftermath of the horrific ISIS terror attacks that had killed well over 100 people in Paris the day before -- Sanders was asked if he still thought (as he had indicated on numerous prior occasions) that climate change was the biggest threat facing the world. He replied: “Climate change is directly related to the growth of terrorism and if we do not get our act together and listen to what the scientists say, you’re going to see countries all over the world ... struggling over limited amounts of water and land to grow their crops and you’re going to see all kinds of conflict." Sanders then proceeded to explain how this was already playing out with the Paris attacks: “Well, what happens in, say, Syria … is that when you have drought, when people can’t grow their crops, they’re going to migrate into cities. And when people migrate into cities and they don’t have jobs, there’s going to be a lot more instability, a lot more unemployment, and people will be subject to the types of propaganda that al Qaeda and ISIS are using right now. So, where you have discontent, where you have instability, that’s where problems arise, and certainly, without a doubt, climate change will lead to that.”
In a November 15, 2015 interview on CBS's Face the Nation, Sanders doubled down on his claim, saying: “If we are going to see an increase in drought and flood and extreme weather disturbances as a result of climate change, what that means is that peoples all over the world are going to be fighting over limited natural resources. If there is not enough water, if there is not enough land to grow your crops, then you’re going to see migrants of people fighting over land that will sustain them, and that will lead to international conflict.”
In February 2016, while Sanders -- who had long identified as an Independent rather than as a Democrat -- was still in the thick of a hard-fought battle for the Democratic presidential nomination, he told a New Hampshire town hall meeting: "Of course I am a Democrat and running for the Democratic nomination." In an interview two months later on Bloomberg’s With All Due Respect, host Mark Halperin asked Sanders's campaign manager Jeff Weaver if the senator planned to stay in the Democratic Party even if he failed to become its nominee. Weaver replied: “Well, he is a Democrat, he said he’s a Democrat and he’s gonna be supporting the Democratic nominee, whoever that is.” “But he’s a member of the Democratic Party now for life?” Halperin pressed. “Yes, he is,” said Weaver. But when Sanders was asked whether he still identified as a Democrat in an April 2017 interview on MSNBC, the senator replied: "No, I'm an Independent."
In early April 2016, Sanders's presidential campaign hired a young woman named Simone Zimmerman as its national Jewish outreach coordinator. According to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz: “During the 2014 Gaza war, Zimmerman was one of the leaders of a group of young Jews that held regular protest vigils outside the offices of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, reading the names of Palestinians and Israelis killed in the conflict. She opposes Israel’s occupation, wants Hillel to allow participation by groups that support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions [BDS] movement against Israel, is against Jewish federation funding for Israeli projects in the West Bank, and wrote favorably of the efforts of Jewish Voice for Peace, a pro-BDS group, to get 'international corporations to stop profiting off human rights abuses.'” “We’re paying attention to what’s happening in Israel — and we are angry,” Zimmerman wrote in a February 2016 column about her fellow millennials. “The hypocrisy of expecting feel-good social justice projects to offset millennials’ deep outrage at the grave injustices committed by the Jewish state is almost too much to bear. No public relations trick can save Israel’s image. The problem isn’t with the hasbara. The problem is nearly 50 years of occupation. The problem is rampant racism in Israeli society. The problem is attacks on human rights defenders by extremists and by the state. The problem is a Jewish establishment that ignores or justifies all of this.”
On April 13, 2016, the Sanders campaign suspended Zimmerman from her position after the Washington Free Beacon reported that on March 3, 2015, she had written an expletive-laden Facebook post denouncing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a mass-murderer: “Bibi Netanyahu is an arrogant, deceptive, cynical, manipulative asshole.... Fuck you, Bibi … you sanctioned the murder of over 2,000 people this summer.” At a later date, Zimmerman edited the Facebook post, replacing “asshole” with “politician” and “Fuck you” with “shame on you.”
During a May 2016 town hall meeting in Puerto Rico, Sanders stated that he wanted President Obama to pardon the 73-year-old convicted Puerto Rican terrorist Oscar López Rivera, who had been imprisoned in the U.S. since 1981. As The New York Post explained: "López Rivera was a founder of the FALN (Fuerza Armadas de Liberacion Nacional, Spanish for Armed Forces of National Liberation), which waged a violent campaign for Puerto Rican independence. [He] was arrested in Chicago in May 1981 and was convicted of trying to overthrow the U.S. government, seditious conspiracy to destroy federal property, armed robbery, weapons violations, and interstate transportation of stolen property." Said Sanders: “Oscar López Rivera is one of the longest-serving political prisoners in history — 34 years, longer than Nelson Mandela. We are talking about a Vietnam War veteran who was awarded a Bronze Star. I say to President Obama — let him out!” Moreover, Sanders promised that “I will pardon him” if elected president.
In a June 2016 press conference in California, Sanders stated unequivocally that he would ban fracking if he were elected president: "I hope very much that Monterey County will continue the momentum that makes it clear that fracking is not safe, is not what we want for our kids. If elected president, we will not need state-by-state, county-by-county action, because we are going to ban fracking in 50 states in this country.... I would hope the Democratic Party makes it clear that it has the guts to stand up to the fossil fuel industry and tell them that their short-term profits are not more important than the health of our children or the future of our planet."
Sanders invited Paul Bustinduy, the Secretary of International Relations of the Spanish far-left political party Podemos -- which belongs to a leftist coalition called United We Can (UWC) -- as his guest at the July 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. The historian and scholar Ronald Radosh notes that UWC: (a) "models itself on the Marxist Greek party Syiriza which brought the Greek economy to near total collapse," and (b) is "composed of old Communists, Trotskyists, independent revolutionaries, Basque and Catalan nationalists, leftist urban intellectuals and former supporters of the Socialist Party annoyed at what they perceive as its continuing compromises." Describing Podemos, meanwhile, as "blatantly anti-Semitic," Radosh writes: "In Madrid the [Podemos] Party’s affiliate is called Ahora Madrid. The head of Madrid’s department of culture, Guiller Zapata, who is a [Podemos] member, tweeted: ‘How do you fit five million Jews in a SEAT 600? [a version of the Fiat car of the same name] Answer: In an ashtray.’ ... Podemos is so anti-Israel, that it defends publication of a notorious anti-Semitic Spanish magazine, El Jueves [which once published a cartoon] about Israel, using the symbols of Hitler’s SS to indicate that Israel is composed of Nazis." As further evidence of its anti-Semitism, Podemos supports the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, a Hamas-inspired initiative that aims to use various forms of public protest, economic pressure, and court rulings to advance the Hamas agenda of permanently destroying Israel as a Jewish nation-state.
In August 2016, Sanders purchased a seasonal waterfront home on Lake Champlain in Vermont, for $575,000. He already owned a row house on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, and a home in Burlington, Vermont. Notwithstanding the fact that he owns three homes, Sanders has consistently articulated his belief that the luxuries of wealthy people should be limited -- or at least taxed at a very high rate. In April 2017, for instance, the senator tweeted: "How many yachts do billionaires need? How many cars do they need? Give us a break. You can't have it all."
All told, Sanders earned more than $1 million in 2016. That total included: (a) his $174,000 Senate salary; (b) a $795,000 advance for his book, Our Revolution; (c) another $63,750 for his forthcoming book, Bernie Sanders’ Guide to Political Revolution; and $6,735 in royalties for his 1997 memoir, Outsider in the House.
During the January 2017 Senate confirmation hearing for Georgia Republican Rep. Tom Price, who was President-elect Donald Trump's nominee for Health and Human Services Secretary, Sanders and Price had the following exchange:
Sanders: “The United States of America is the only major country on earth that does not guarantee healthcare to all people as a right. Canada does it. Every major country in Europe does it. Do you believe healthcare is a right for all Americans whether they’re rich or they’re poor? Should people, because they are Americans, be able to go to the doctor when they need to go into a hospital because they are Americans?”
Price: “Yes we are a compassionate society –”
Sanders (interrupting): “No, we are not a compassionate society in terms of poor and working people. Our record is worse than virtually any other country on earth, and half of our senior workers have nothing set aside for retirement, so I don’t think compared to other countries we are particularly compassionate. But my question is in Canada all people have the right to get healthcare. Do you believe we should move in that direction?”
Price: “If you want to talk about other countries' healthcare systems there are consequences to the decisions they made just as there are consequences to the decisions that we’ve made. I believe, and I look forward to working with you, that every single American has access to the highest quality care and coverage that is possible.”
Sanders: “'Has access to' does not mean they are guaranteed healthcare. I can have access to buying a 10 million dollar home but I don’t have the money to do that.”
In a March 2017 letter, Sanders asked David Friedman, whom President Donald Trump had nominated for the post of U.S. Ambassador to Israel, whether he would support the idea of diverting "a portion" of the $38 billion which the United States had earmarked as aid to Israel over the ensuing ten years, and sending it instead to the Hamas-led government of the Gaza Strip -- to "facilitate a much greater flow of humanitarian and reconstruction materials" to that region. Israel Nation News, however, pointed out that historically, "Hamas has taken most of the aid monies it receives to strengthen its fighting capability." Also in his letter to Friedman, Sanders asked the ambassador whether he thought that the tax-exempt status of groups raising funds for Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria should be revoked, so as to help "end the flow of donations to illegal settlements."
On March 18, 2017, Sanders posted a Twitter message denouncing America for its alleged indifference to the needs of poor people: "We are living in a nation which worships wealth rather than caring for the poor. I don't think that is the nation we should be living in."
In a speech he delivered at a February 2017 conference hosted by J Street, Sanders called for an end to Israel's “50-year occupation” of “Palestinian territories,” suggesting that “its daily restrictions on the political and civil liberties of the Palestinian people runs contrary to fundamental American values.” In addition, Sanders likened the Palestinians who had fled their homes shortly before Israel's establishment in 1948, to Native Americans. “Like our own country, the founding of Israel involved the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people already living there, the Palestinian people,” he said. “Over 700,000 people were made refugees.”
In 2017, Senator Sanders's wife, Jane Sanders, became the subject of an FBI investigation. The probe centered around a 2010 deal in which Mrs. Sanders, who at the time was the president of Burlington College, secured a $6.7 million loan from People’s United Bank and used the money to purchase a 33-acre lakefront campus for the school. But as the news website VT Digger explains, the deal was illegitimate: “Jane Sanders ... overstated donation amounts in a bank application for [the loan].... She told People’s United Bank in 2010 that the college had $2.6 million in pledged donations to support the purchase of the ... property. The college, however, received only $676,000 in actual donations from 2010 through 2014, according to figures provided by Burlington College. Two people whose pledges are listed as confirmed in the loan agreement told VTDigger that their personal financial records show their pledges were overstated. Neither was aware the pledges were used [by Mrs. Sanders] to secure the loan.” For example, a separate VT Digger report says that Mrs. Sanders "appears to have counted [Corinne Bove] Maietta’s bequest as a cash gift that was available as collateral to finance the land deal. The 2010 loan agreement says 'CBM' pledged $1 million to the school over five years in increments of $150,000, with a final payment of $100,000 in year six." Maietta told reporters that she was incredulous that Burlington College would try to use her bequest to secure a bank loan. “You can’t borrow money on the future,” she said. “That doesn’t exist.”
When Senator Sanders was asked in June 2017 about the allegations against his wife, he replied: "My wife is about the most honest person I know. When she came to that college [Burlington], it was failing financially and academically. When she left it, it was in better shape than it had ever been.... All that I will tell you now ... it is a sad state of affairs in America, not only when we have politicians being destroyed ... but when you go after ... people's wives. That is pretty pathetic...."
In June 2017, Sanders had a contentious exchange with Russell Vought, President Donald Trump’s nominee to be Deputy Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget. As National Review noted, Sanders was "imposing a religious test for public office, in direct violation of Article VI of the United States Constitution." Below is a transcript of the Sanders-Vought exchange:
Sanders: Let me get to this issue that has bothered me and bothered many other people. And that is in the piece that I referred to that you wrote for the publication called Resurgent. You wrote, “Muslims do not simply have a deficient theology. They do not know God because they have rejected Jesus Christ, His Son, and they stand condemned.” Do you believe that that statement is Islamophobic?
Vought: Absolutely not, Senator. I’m a Christian, and I believe in a Christian set of principles based on my faith. That post, as I stated in the questionnaire to this committee, was to defend my alma mater, Wheaton College, a Christian school that has a statement of faith that includes the centrality of Jesus Christ for salvation, and . . .
Sanders: I apologize. Forgive me, we just don’t have a lot of time. Do you believe people in the Muslim religion stand condemned? Is that your view?
Vought: Again, Senator, I’m a Christian, and I wrote that piece in accordance with the statement of faith at Wheaton College.
Sanders: I understand that. I don’t know how many Muslims there are in America. Maybe a couple million. Are you suggesting that all those people stand condemned? What about Jews? Do they stand condemned too?
Vought: Senator, I’m a Christian . . .
Sanders (shouting): I understand you are a Christian, but this country are made of people who are not just — I understand that Christianity is the majority religion, but there are other people of different religions in this country and around the world. In your judgment, do you think that people who are not Christians are going to be condemned?
Vought: Thank you for probing on that question. As a Christian, I believe that all individuals are made in the image of God and are worthy of dignity and respect regardless of their religious beliefs. I believe that as a Christian that’s how I should treat all individuals . . .
Sanders: You think your statement that you put into that publication, they do not know God because they rejected Jesus Christ, His Son, and they stand condemned, do you think that’s respectful of other religions?
Vought: Senator, I wrote a post based on being a Christian and attending a Christian school that has a statement of faith that speaks clearly in regard to the centrality of Jesus Christ in salvation.
Sanders: I would simply say, Mr. Chairman, that this nominee is really not someone who this country is supposed to be about.
Over the years, Bernie Sanders's political campaigns have received strong support from such organizations as the AFL-CIO, the American Association for Justice, the Backbone Campaign, the Council for a Livable World, the Democratic Socialists of America, and Peace Action.
Sanders is a strong supporter of the Apollo Alliance, a coalition of environmentalists and big labor that wants the federal government to take over America's energy industry.
Although Sanders is officially listed as an Independent, he caucuses with the Democrats and votes with them nearly 100% of the time.
For an overview of Sanders's voting record on key issues during his years in the U.S. House (1991-2007), click here.
For additional information on Bernie Sanders, click here.