Who is Bernie Sanders?
Bernie Sanders is a candidate for President of the United States, running for the Democratic Party’s nomination.
Why is Bernie running for President and what he’s fighting for?
“What this political revolution looks like is people reaching out to their friends and neighbors, talking about the issues that deeply affect their lives and bringing them into the political process. When we do that, we can accomplish extraordinary things for our country.” – Bernie Sanders, 2019
What are the major planks of Bernie’s presidential campaign?
Bernie’s campaign is about a progressive agenda that — among other things — will create jobs, raise wages, protect the environment, provide healthcare for all, increase access to higher education, reform our immigration and criminal justice systems, reaffirm our civil rights, promote a more sensible foreign policy, and reduce the influence of money in politics.
What does it mean that Bernie is an independent?
Bernie is the longest-serving independent in Congressional history, currently serving his third term in the U.S. Senate, where he represents Vermont. Bernie won re-election in 2018 after earning 66 percent of the vote. Prior to becoming a senator in 2006, Bernie was Vermont’s sole Congressman in the House of Representatives for 16 years.
Why is Bernie running as a Democrat?
Bernie is running as a candidate for the Democratic Party’s nomination because the system is set up that way. Since 1852, only Republican or Democratic nominees have been elected President. The two-party system has a lot of hurdles for third party candidates that can’t be overcome. So, given the current political system in America, a third-party candidate can’t realistically win the U.S. presidential nomination.
But he’s NOT a Democrat!
Yes, technically he’s not a Democrat. But, even though Bernie is not a member of the Democratic Party, Bernie caucuses with the Democrats in the Senate and has done so during his entire congressional career. He serves in the Senate Democratic Leadership as the Chairman of Outreach.
Democrats rely on his vote to pass legislation and vote for legislation that he introduces. The Democratic leadership has also named Bernie to key positions such as the ranking, or lead, member on the Senate Budget Committee, Veterans Affairs Committee, and appointed him to numerous other committees and subcommittees.
Bernie’s addressed the question in this way:
“The dilemma is that, if you run outside of the Democratic Party … you’re not just running a race for president, you’re really running to build an entire political movement. In doing that, you would be taking votes away from the Democratic candidate and making it easier for some right-wing Republican to get elected—the [Ralph] Nader dilemma.”
How do we know he will stay a Democrat when he becomes President?
For the 2020 election, Bernie, like all of the candidates for the Democratic nomination, signed a Democratic National Committee (DNC) loyalty pledge. In it, Bernie affirms “I am a member of the Democratic Party,” and “I will run a Democrat, accept the nomination of my Party, and I will serve as a Democrat if elected.”
The notarized document also states that the DNC is the organization to decide who is “a bonafide Democrat.”
Is Bernie a socialist?
No. He’s a democratic socialist, which is completely different than socialist in totalitarian U.S.S.R., and the establishment press knows that. Bernie addressed the question directly at a 2019 CNN town hall.
What is democratic socialism?
Here’s what Bernie says: “What democratic socialism means to me is we expand Medicare, we provide educational opportunities for all Americans, we rebuild our crumbling infrastructure, in other words, Government serves the needs of all people rather than just wealthy campaign contributors”
The last person with similar political beliefs who ran for president won the election and saved America from the Great Depression. His name was Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) and his policies — via the New Deal — are part of why he is consistently rated as one of the greatest U.S. presidents ever, alongside Abraham Lincoln and George Washington.
Bernie describes what democratic socialism means to him here. He further elaborated on democratic socialism in a CNN interview. In 2019, Bernie delivered a major speech on democratic socialism and why his message is what America needs to defeat Donald Trump.
What was Bernie’s story before he went into public service?
Bernie was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. to Eli and Dorothy Sanders, the second of two sons. Eli was a Jewish immigrant from Poland who lost most of his family in Europe during the Holocaust. Eli was a high school drop-out who “never made any money” although he worked very hard to support his family as a paint salesman, putting 25,000 miles a year on his car for work. Dorothy was a high school graduate who dreamt of a “private home” but made do with the rent-controlled three-and-a-half room apartment in which they raised Bernie and his older brother Larry.
Watch Bernie get personal in the episode “First Hear the Bern”.
Bernie’s lower middle-class, paycheck-to-paycheck upbringing helped inform his political ideology.
Of this, he’s said:
“The lack of money caused stress in my family and fights between my mother and father. That is a reality I have never forgotten: today, there are many millions of families who are living under the circumstances that we lived under.”
Bernie and his brother attended public schools in New York City. At James Madison High School, he was a good student, wrote for the school paper, was captain of the track team, and won a state basketball championship. At Madison, Bernie got his first taste of politics when he ran for student body president. He lost, and became class president instead.
As Bernie approached the end of high school, Dorothy, who’d had rheumatic fever as a child, became ill. Upon graduating, Bernie enrolled at nearby Brooklyn College. He is the first person in his family to go to college. After his mother died at 46 following a failed second heart surgery, Bernie decided to transfer to the University of Chicago, and left his hometown for the first time.
When did Bernie become interested in politics and civil rights?
In Chicago, Bernie was very active in the civil rights movement, the generational issue of the time. He was active in both the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE) and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). He organized sit-in protests against the segregated housing on campus, as seen in the photo below, and in 1962 was arrested for protesting segregation in Chicago public schools.
In 1963, Bernie went to D.C. for the first time to participate in the march on Washington organized by Martin Luther King, Jr., and was among the hundreds of thousands who heard him give his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.
He graduated in 1964 with a degree in political science. That year, Bernie bought land in Vermont — for just $2,500, according to public records.
Before moving to Vermont full-time in 1968, Bernie worked as an aide at a psychiatric hospital in New York, taught low-income preschoolers through Head Start, and helped register people for nutrition assistance programs.
How did he get into politics?
Upon moving to Vermont, Bernie became involved with the Liberty Union Party, a new, Vermont-only political movement, that was small, anti-war, and progressive. In 1972, he ran on the Liberty Union ticket for a special Senate election, again for a Senate seat in 1974, and for governor in 1976, never winning more than 6 percent of the vote.
Bernie thought he was done with electoral politics until 1980, when a friend showed him how well he’d performed in his prior runs among voters in Burlington, Vermont. In 1981, Bernie ran for mayor of Burlington and won by a mere 10 votes. He was re-elected three times, with majorities each time. Bernie then ran for Congress in 1990, and was elected for 8 terms. He served 16 years as the sole representative for Vermont in the House. He was elected to the Senate in 2006.
What’s his family like?
Bernie met his wife, Jane O’Meara, right before he became mayor of Burlington in 1981. She attended all-girls Catholic schools and grew up 15 blocks away from where Bernie grew up in Brooklyn. Prior to meeting Bernie, Jane had been a bank teller, cashier, and anti-war activist. After earning a degree in social work, she worked for the Burlington Police Department’s juvenile division. She helped pay off her student loans by joining AmeriCorps.
In the 1980s, Jane was involved in starting a newspaper, a teen center, after school programs, and a day care center. She and Bernie married in 1988.
Over the years, Jane earned a doctorate degree and worked as an educator and administrator at two colleges in Vermont. She was a commissioner for a radioactive waste disposal oversight agency, as well as a commissioner for the Vermont Economic Development Authority.
Jane and Bernie have four children and seven grandchildren. Bernie calls Jane “a soulmate, a sounding board” for him.
Has Bernie been consistent about his views?
Very. If you look at his political record, which now spans four decades, you’ll find that he’s been fighting for the same things, regardless of the political climate of the time.
In the below letter written during his failed run for governor of Vermont in 1976, Bernie was already advocating for LGBTQ rights, environmental protection, healthcare-for-all, fairer taxes on corporations, fewer military engagements abroad, a more sensible drug policy, and women’s reproductive rights.
And the thing to note here is that while some people think of Vermont as a super-blue state — it is, these days — it was arguably one of the most Republican states until 1990. At the time Bernie was elected to Congress that year, Roll Call, the “newspaper of Capitol Hill” called Bernie’s victory over incumbent Rep. Peter Smith “one of the 25 most significant elections in American history.” This makes Bernie’s progressive platforms in the 1970s and through the 1980s all the more impressive for their bravery and political courage.
Wow, gay rights as part of his political platform in the 1970s? Sounds like he was on the right side of history there.
Yeah, and Bernie’s been on the right side of history quite a few times, which is why so many people like him.
He voted against the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which banned LGBTQ Americans from marrying until the Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional in 2015. Bernie also voted against the Gulf War and the Iraq war — which the majority of Americans now believe was a mistake. He voted against the Patriot Act, calling it an overreaching, Orwellian piece of legislation. He was against the deregulating Wall Street, which led to the Great Recession of 2008. Watch him school then-Federal Reserve chief Alan Greenspan in 2003. The list goes on, but that’s a sampler to get you started.
Most politicians are beholden to special interests and rely on corporate money and wealthy contributors to get re-elected. Not Bernie, he has never been beholden to corporate and other super-moneyed interests. Indeed, over his entire career, his biggest donors have been labor unions and union members — in other words, regular Americans.
Bernie has never cared much about the establishment, and that’s evidenced in the way he’s running his presidential campaign. He’s chosen to remain an independent, refuses to take money from Super PACs, holds rallies and meetups with voters rather than with fundraisers and large contributors, and raises money to fund his campaign from small donors.
What’s he like outside of the public eye?
Well, we know he really loves Willie Nelson and Motown:
(The Rolling Stone article this video is from is a good read.)
Other than that, he’s really about sticking to the issues, rather than sharing about his personal life. As he often says, “This is not about me — it’s about you.”
I like his story. How do voters feel about Bernie’s views?
Bernie and a majority of American voters share the same views on the most important issues facing our families, communities, country, and planet today, according to polling data. Here are just a few examples:
- Bernie and 68 percent of Americans believe the super-wealthy pay too little in federal taxes.
- Bernie and 85 percent of all business owners agree with closing all overseas tax loopholes.
- Bernie and 68 percent of Americans think we should close tax loopholes for corporations who offshore jobs.
- Bernie and 65 percent of Americans want to expand Social Security benefits.
- Bernie and 3 out of 4 Americans, including Republicans, want Medicaid expanded.
- Bernie and 65 percent of Americans support raising the minimum wage.
- Bernie and 6 in 10 Americans, including half of Republicans, think employers should offer paid sick leave.
- Bernie and 3 out of 4 Americans, including a majority of Republicans, say employees should be offered paid time off after childbirth.
- Bernie and 64 percent of Americans want strict carbon limits on existing coal plants.
- Bernie and 80 percent of Americans support expanded access to lower-cost student loans.
- Bernie and 3 in 4 Americans support more spending on our nation’s infrastructure.
- Bernie and 84 percent of Americans, including 90 percent of Democrats and 80 percent of Republicans, believe money has too much influence in U.S. politics.
- Bernie and 70 percent of Americans support Medicare For All.
- Bernie and more than 80 percent of Americans, including 92 percent of Democrats and 64 percent of Republicans, support a Green New Deal.
Wow. Has he received any big endorsements?
Yes, Bernie has received plenty of endorsements already. Check out the growing list of Bernie’s endorsements at our Endorsements page.
How’s the campaign doing so far?
Bernie’s message around building a grassroots campaign without corporate money, and of course, his stances on all the issues, is resonating with Americans across the country.
For one, Bernie consistently polls with high margins as a candidate who can beat President Trump in November. He polls particularly well in the Rust Belt, which is so critical to winning the 2020 presidential election. His message to working class families is really resonating there.
The campaign’s first FEC filing showed it had received $6 million in the first 24 hours after launching his campaign, $10 million by the end of his first week on the trail, and $18.2 million from 900,000 individual donations that came from 525,000 individual donors. Bernie is raising more money from individuals — i.e. not Super PACs — than any other candidate in the race.
But the dollar amount Bernie has raised is actually less impressive than the number of people who have gotten involved in his campaign. Within one week of his announcement, 1 million volunteers signed up to help his campaign.
On one weekend in April 2019, the campaign held a kickoff event with over 5,000 organizing parties. The campaign also launched the BERN app, which will help us connect with each other, the people we know, and the people we meet to build the grassroots movement we need to win this election and get Bernie in the White House!
Thousands of people show up at Bernie’s record-breaking rallies. So far in 2019, more than 100,000 people have attended Bernie rallies and town halls. That number will only continue to get larger and larger.
Indeed, Bernie’s presidential campaign is proof we can change the discussion to issues that working families care about and build a political movement around regular people, and not corporations and the wealthy elites!
I want to know more about Bernie’s record on and proposed policies on all the important issues our country faces.
You’ve come to the right place. Head over to the home page (or click on the Issues tab in the navigation page on the top of this page) and start exploring a fact- and source-based, FAQ-style breakdown of everything you’d ever want to know about Bernie past, present, and future. You can go back to the home page at any moment by clicking on FeelTheBern.org in the navigation bar.
How do I get involved?
Get involved with the official campaign:
You can sign up to volunteer, donate, buy Bernie campaign gear (and wear it) sign up for updates, and find out about official events near you (and how to host your own). You can even phonebank for Bernie from home with BerniePB.
Register to vote & then get out the vote:
Voteforbernie.org is a great place to go to get the detailed about how to register to vote and where to vote vote in your state.
Just a few super important details here.
Make sure to understand what the deadlines are around registering to vote in your state, and make sure you know whether your state has an open or closed primary so you can vote for Bernie.
In closed primary states, you may have to register as a Democrat ASAP if you aren’t currently. In semi-closed primary states, you may have to register as a Democrat or Undeclared if you aren’t currently. In open primary states, it doesn’t matter how you’re registered — but you have to be registered to vote, with updated personal information.
If you’re 17 now, but will be 18 by the general election on November 3, 2020, some states will let you vote in the primaries, even if you’re not already 18 when your state primary is held.
Once you’ve registered to vote, make sure you get out the vote by sharing the details with everyone you know.
Join the grassroots:
There are also lots of grassroots volunteer groups brewing, online and offline, which can use your help, however you want to offer it.
Visit the Grassroots Resources page to learn how you can get involved with great people working to elect Bernie — beyond general-interest groups, there are some for specific demographics and ones in each state.
You can also volunteer with us. :-)
Share this website with everyone you know!
Knowledge is power, and informed voters are much more likely to vote in their own interests — not to mention in the interests of the issues affecting their community, country, and planet — by having access to more information rather than less of it, and ideally sooner rather than later.
Bernie is one of the few politicians out there who we like more the more we learn about him, and as his supporters, we have to use all the great facts, data, videos, quotes, and policies out there to tell his story, because we can’t count on the establishment media and political process to do so. We built this website to make it really easy for anyone to learn about Bernie, and then share what they’ve learned about Bernie with others.