Avuncular two-term U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont hopes his run for president spurs a “political revolution” that ousts the richest billionaires who he says own and operate the government.
The 73-year-old New York son of Jewish immigrants announced his candidacy April 30 and said he’ll run as a Democratic Socialist, a term that will be bandied often and explained rarely. But Americans will hear a lot about Denmark because, he said, Scandinavians celebrate the sanctity of life in a way the U.S. ought to emulate.
Billionaires and Scandinavia’s social mores are the least of Sanders’ worries in these early days of silly season when you stop to consider Hillary Clinton is the overwhelming favorite to claim the Democratic nomination.
Then again, he’s always been a political underdog. the former member of the Vermont Progressive and Liberty Party parites lost his first four elections before the tides changed 34 years ago and he beat a six-time incumbent on the banks of Lake Champlain up in Northern Vermont.
Here’s what you should know about Bernie Sanders:
1. He’s a ‘Democratic Socialist’ out to Wrestle Political Power From the ‘Billionaire Class
In the video above, Sanders blusters about taking on the billionaire class.
The second-term U.S. Senator believes America should model itself after Denmark’s “solidarity system” that all but prohibits massive individual wealth but protects citizens from slumming. Danes pay high taxes but health care is universal, robust, and free.
Denmark’s minimum wage doubles U.S. wages.
And expecting mothers get four weeks of paid leave before giving birth and 14 more weeks afterward. Expecting fathers get two paid weeks off. New parents are given 32 weeks leave through the first nine years of a child’s life.
2. He Raised $2.1M in 3 Days
The 1964 University of Chicago grad spurred 145,000 voters to register on his website. He plans to kick off his campaign May 26 at the Contois Auditorium in Burlington, Vermont.
I am running for President of the United States because America needs a political revolution. We need a government which represents all of us, and not just a handful of billionaires. In this campaign we won’t have the support of the big-money interests, Wall Street or the military-industrial complex. That’s why I need you to join me in an unprecedented grass-roots effort.”
For all of his early pomp and ceremony, fivethirtyeight.com says he doesn’t have a fighter’s chance against Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton:
“Polls show Sanders doesn’t match up well against Clinton. He trails her by nearly 57 percentage points nationally, 54 percentage points in Iowa and 40 percentage points in New Hampshire.”
But in the eyes of media he’s crushing Clinton in the court of transparency.
When it comes to consistency, Bernie Sanders is Mount Rushmore to Hillary Clinton’s Sheila the Shapeshifter. http://t.co/BYQ6wod4Rk
— NYT Opinion (@nytopinion) May 2, 2015
3. The Brooklyn Native Won His 1st Mayoral Election by 10 Votes
After losing his first four elections (twice for U.S. Senate, twice for Vermont governor), the anti-Vietnam protestor tasted victory in the race for mayor of Burlington in 1981 with a shocking win over incumbent mayor Gordon Paquette — by 10 votes — and he went on to serve three more terms. During that time he increased afford housing, revitalized the waterfront and downtown, championed arts, youth, and women’s programs, and the Queen City was named one of the three best cities to live in while the U.S. New and World Report named him one of the top 20 best mayors in America.
He served 16 years in the U.S. House of Representatives as the longest-serving independent member of Congress ever and is noted for opposing the first Gulf War and NAFTA. He is pro-choice, believes in human embryonic stem cell research and is against cloning humans.
But his bellicose stance against the richest of the rich usually grabs soundbites, and he once delivered an 8-hour screed against the extension Bush-era tax rates for that .01 percent. It led to a book called The Speech.
Opensecrets.org ranks Sanders 84th among most wealthy senators with a net worth of between $116,014 and $804,998, or an average of $460,506.
4. He Married Jane O’Meara in 1988
In 1988, Sanders married Jane O’Meara, the president of Burlington College who launched the city’s youth services office when Bernie was mayor.
He has one son, Levi, through his first wife (college sweetheart) and three step-children (David, Carina, Heather) with Jane.
5. His 80-year-old Brother Is Running for British Parliament
— Alan Rappeport (@arappeport) May 4, 2015
Larry, who became a social worker and moved to the U.K. in 1969, represents the Green Party in Oxfordshire but told the New York Times it will take a miracle Thursday during the general election: “I’m not likely to win.”
Indeed, Chicagomag.com reported that on-line poll said Larry would gain no more than 5.1 percent of the vote against incumbent conservative Nicola Claire Blackwood.
Bernie told the Times that Larry taught him how to think critically from an early age:
“We didn’t have a lot of books in the house and it was my brother who introduced me to a lot of my ideas. I hope my brother does very well in his race for Parliament in the U.K.”
Their father, Eli, emigrated from Poland and became a paint salesman, married Dorothy, and provided for the family best he could. The rest of Eli’s family stayed in Poland and died in the Holocaust.