This is part of a series of profiles on leading candidates of the major parties to be their nominees for the US Presidency. To see the rest of Global Citizen coverage please go here.
Bernie Sanders' chief concern is income inequality. He sees the widening gulf between the rich and poor in the US as a sign that the country’s democracy is failing. His campaign is all about closing that gulf, getting money out of politics and enacting policies that make life more manageable for everyday people. In doing so, Sanders wants to bring about a “political revolution.” Take a peek at his Twitter feed and you'll see an endless stream of facts describing US inequality.
It is an outrage that not one major Wall Street executive has gone to jail for causing the near collapse of the economy.— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) January 30, 2016
As a young activist, Bernie was known among friends for his austere, no-fluff style. At one point, when he didn’t have a lot of money, he would cook with a toilet paper roll soaked in lighter fluid in a coffee can. His friends called this the “Berno.” It is this kind of gruff sincerity that has electrified voters across the country.
Here’s where Bernie stands on some issues that global citizens cares about:
“Climate change is real, it is caused by human activity, and it is already causing devastating harm here in the United States, and to people all around the globe.”
“As the nation at last confronts global warming, it is no time for denial, greed, cynicism or pessimism.”
It really is an embarrassment that Republican politicians, with few exceptions, refuse to even recognize the reality of climate change.— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) January 28, 2016
Sanders believes that climate change is the single greatest threat facing the planet. Oceans are being acidified, forests are being razed, extreme storms are becoming more common--Sanders wants to address all of this and more when in office.
He advocates for strong action to rein in carbon emissions, punish polluters, transition to a renewable economy, invest in clean energy, and end policies that favor harmful industries such as big agriculture, particularly the livestock industry, which accounts for the majority of greenhouse gas emissions.
Foreign aid / national security
“Strength through diplomacy.”
Sanders understands the important role foreign aid plays in alleviating poverty and suffering around the world. He also understands how a sound foreign aid strategy can also be the best national security defense, as it reduces the conditions for conflict around the world. In 2000, he voted to divert $156 million from the military budget to the IMF to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and in 2001 he co-sponsored the Harvest for Hunger bill, which sought to reverse famine in sub-Saharan Africa. In the years before and since he has voted for food aid, disease prevention, education initiatives and other aid staples.
“It is easy to go to war, it is not so easy to understand the unintended consequences of that war.”
Sanders believes that all other options must be exhausted before the US takes military action overseas. He often references the Iraq war, which he voted against, as a disastrous intervention.
War must be the last choice, not the first option. pic.twitter.com/iRkU4ksXWP— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) January 27, 2016
Refugees / immigration
“We cannot and must not shirk the historic role of the United States as a protector of vulnerable people fleeing persecution.”
“We are a nation of immigrants. I am the son of an immigrant myself. Their story, my story, our story is a story of America.”
"Raids are not the answer. We cannot continue to employ inhumane tactics involving rounding up and deporting tens of thousands of immigrant families to address a crisis that requires compassion and humane solutions."
As a nation, we must remain consistent with our immigrant tradition by welcoming those fleeing violence and ending the raids.— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) January 20, 2016
Sanders acknowledges the need to provide aid to refugees abroad and to embrace those who come to the US, which is a stark break from the rhetoric coming from the Republicans. However, Sanders (like his fellow Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton) has not called for an increase to the embarassingly low goal of the US refugee resettlement program for Syrians.
When it comes to immigration, Sanders has been more outspoken. He wants to overhaul the immigration system to give the more than 11 million illegal immigrants living in the country a path to citizenship. He also wants to end the current deportation system which expels hundreds of thousands of people each year, while breaking apart families and sending people back to dangerous places.
Socialism used to be a taboo word in the US. If a politician labeled himself a socialist, he could expect to be marginalized. But Bernie Sanders seems to have changed this dynamic. He seems to have resurrected and rebranded the term. When he calls himself a democratic socialist, people no longer cringe. Instead, there has been a general warming to the idea of socialism in the country.
Who knows. It may be too soon to tell if the flag of socialism can be planted in the US. But when a leading presidential candidate is willing to say that the US has a lot to learn socialist from countries (notably the Scandinavian nations), it's a refreshing counterpoint to the insistent refrains of American exceptionalism. The US is a wonderful place. But so are the other countries in the world. And the US shouldn't be afraid to learn from them.