Bernie Sanders: America wants real change
by Lynde Langdon
Posted 4/30/15, 08:25 am
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., has announced he will challenge Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination. Sanders confirmed his candidacy Wednesday in an interview with ABC News.
“I am running for president,” Sanders said. “I intend to stand up and fight for working families all over the country.”
Sanders’ unapologetic populism stands in contrast to Clinton’s well-funded and well-rehearsed politics. A self-described “Democratic socialist,” he supports universal healthcare and universal free college tuition, all paid for by the government and funded by increased taxes on the wealthy.
The son of Polish Jewish immigrants, Sanders grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y. He was active in the Civil Rights Movement as a college student in the 1960s and later protested the Vietnam War. His first elected office was mayor of Burlington, Vt., in 1981. He served as the representative for Vermont’s sole congressional district for 16 years until his election to the Senate in 2006.
In one of his more memorable moments in the Senate, Sanders gave an 8 1/2-hour speech in December 2010 against a bill to extend the Bush-era tax cuts. He condemned the rich and mocked them, shouting, “How can I get by on one house? I need five houses, 10 houses! I need three jet planes to take me all over the world!”
All of which begs the question, how can a liberal socialist who hates the rich expect to get elected president of the United States without their help? Sanders raised about $7.4 million for his last Senate campaign. Mitt Romney and Barack Obama spent almost $1 billion each in the 2012 presidential election.
If Sanders can’t win over the billionaires, he has a much better chance with another powerful institution in American politics: the media. Weary of the White House’s adversarial tactics with the press (The New York Times’ James Risen called the Obama administration “the greatest enemy of press freedom in a generation”), the media have skewered Clinton for using a personal email account while secretary of state. Clinton refused to allow inspection of the email server for privacy reasons. And now a scandal over her family foundation’s acceptance of donations from foreign governments has embroiled her young campaign.
Sanders called the Clinton Foundation donations “a very serious problem,” but part of a greater systemic issue of big money in politics.
“We’re going to be heavily outspent,” Sanders said of his campaign, “but I think the American people have had enough of establishment politics. I think they want real change. I think they want to see a movement which stands up to the billionaire class.”
Already, journalists are painting Sanders as the honest one in the Democratic race.
“He is the rarest of Washington animals, a completely honest person,” Matt Taibbi wrote for Rolling Stone. “If he’s motivated by anything other than a desire to use his influence to protect people who can’t protect themselves, I’ve never seen it.”
Though he has far to go—in an ABC News/Washington Post poll of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, he got 5 percent of the vote—his entrance to the race as Clinton stumbles could trip up her campaign even more.