Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has represented Vermont as an independent in the House and Senate for nearly 25 years, has provided Hillary Rodham Clinton with a challenger for the Democratic nomination for president.
In his characteristic get-to-the-point style, Sanders earlier this week skipped over a formal declaration of candidacy – he had hinted at it for months – and instead identified ordinary working Americans as the reason he is running.
“This country today has more serious crises than at any time since the Great Depression of the 1930s,” Sanders, 73, said in lasting less than five minutes. “For most Americans, their reality is they’re working longer hours for lower wages. In inflation-adjusted income, they’re earning less money than they used to years ago despite a huge increase in technology and productivity.”
Signaling that he intends to press the “income inequality” issue, he added:
How does it happen that the top 1 percent owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent? And my conclusion is that that type of economics is not only immoral, it’s not only wrong, it is unsustainable. It can’t continue. The main issue is, how do we create an economy that works for all of our people rather than a small number of billionaires?
His second key issue, Sanders added, is reforming a campaign finance system that allows “billionaires” to “buy elections and candidates.”
Sanders, who caucuses with the Democrats but calls himself a “democratic socialist,” acknowledged that questions about foreign or undisclosed donations to the Clinton Foundation is a legitimate issue. He insisted, however, that the bigger issue is the “huge amount” of money in politics.
He limited other comparisons to Clinton to noting that, unlike her, he opposed entering the war in Iraq and is a veteran opponent of trade pacts that he said have “horrendous” effects on U.S. workers.
“We’re in this race to win,” he insisted.
Here are some facts about the senator who described himself as “a guy who indisputably has the most unusual history of anyone in the U.S. Congress.”
1. He won a second term in the Senate with 71 percent of the vote in 2012. In his first, unsuccessful bid for U.S. Senate in 1972, he noted today, he rolled up only 1 percent.
2. He was the third socialist ever elected to Congress. His 16 years in the House before his election to the Senate in 2006 make him the . He previously was affiliated with the Liberty Union Party, which opposed the Vietnam War.
3. He moved to Vermont in 1964. He was, where he went to high school and Brooklyn College. He headed to Vermont after graduating from the University of Chicago with a bachelor’s degree in political science.
4. While in college, he marched for civil rights. Sanders, an organizer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, was part of a contingent of students from Chicago who in 1963 to the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
5. He was elected mayor of Burlington the first time by 10 votes. After that 1981 contest, he went on to win three more terms. This local success followed failed bids for Senate and governor in the 1970s.
8. His older brother, Larry, is running for a seat in the UK’s Parliament. A resident of Oxford since 1969, Larry Sanders is a in the May 7 election for Oxford West/Abingdon but is given little chance of unseating Conservative Party incumbent Nicola Claire Blackwood.
9. He shares with some conservatives a deep suspicion of government threats to privacy. In fact, Politico, on that topic Sanders sometimes sounds much like Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., the candidate rated most conservative by some guides.
11. The former war protester is wary of America being “sucked into a quagmire” to fight ISIS. “This is not just an American problem,” he of the brutal terrorist group before last fall’s elections. “This is an international crisis. … This is a war for the soul of Islam, and the Muslim nations must be deeply involved.”