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The 2020 Democrats: Bernie Sanders

AP Photo/Alex Brandon

*See our full list of 2020 Democrats here*

Quick Facts

Who: Bernie Sanders

State: Vermont

Current position: U.S. Senator for Vermont

Campaign Website: https://berniesanders.com


Background: Bernie Sanders graduated from the University of Chicago in 1964 with a B.A. in political science. At the time, he was a member of the Young People's Socialist League on his campus. He ran three unsuccessful campaigns for the governor of Vermont and two unsuccessful campaign for U.S. Senate between 1972 and 1986. He eventually won the governor’s seat for his state as an Independent and served four terms, from 1981 to 1989.  From 1991 to 2007 he served as Vermont’s representative in the House. During his first term, he co-founded the Congressional Progressive Caucus, which today stands as the “largest caucus within the House Democratic Caucus,” according to the caucus’ website. Sanders won his seat in the U.S. Senate in 2007 and still holds office today. He ran for nomination in the Democratic primaries during the 2016 presidential election but lost to Hillary Clinton.

2020 Campaign & Endorsements

  • Date Announced: Feb. 19, 2019

  • Fundraising: $20.7 million raised in first quarter

  • Campaign Leadership: Faiz Shakir

  • Key Endorsements: Patrick Leahy, Carmen Yulín Cruz

Political Positions

  • Healthcare: Sanders co-sponsored the Medicare for All plan, which is a single-payer healthcare system designed to provide extensive medical coverage to all Americans. Sanders suggested paying for the system by taxing the top 1.8 percent of wealthy citizens.
  • Immigration: Sanders voted on the recent spending bill to protect federal employees from working without pay, despite having issues with some of the bill’s measures. He said he didn’t believe that there was a national emergency on the southern border. He called President Trump’s declaration as “unlawful.” Sanders doesn’t want to spend money on a border wall.
  • Social Security: On Feb. 13, Sanders and Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) introduced a bill to expand social security and provide more retirement benefits. The bill will provide an extra $1,342 in benefits for seniors making less than $16,000 a year. It will also make, “the wealthiest 1.8 percent of Americans – those with incomes of more than $250,000 a year – pay the same rate into the retirement system as everyone else already pays.” Finally, the bill will bring back student benefits to, “children of deceased or disabled parents.”
  • Environment: Sanders said that he believes in climate change. He supported legislation to protect wildlife areas, improve storm water use and preserve bodies of water like oceans and the Great Lakes.
  • Economy: Sanders has been a proponent for “income equality,” speaking out against the wealthy obtaining more wealth and power over the economy. He’s pushed for legislation that is meant to provide federal benefits and protections to poorer Americans by taxing the rich. He opposed the Trans-Pacific Partnership back in 2015.
  • Criminal Justice: Sanders believes the criminal justice system is inheritally racist. He supported the Black Lives Matter movement and spoke out against police brutality against the African-American population. He also advocated for ending the death penalty, calling it a “cruel and unusual punishment.”
  • Gun Control: Sanders proved to be on the fence when it came to gun control in his political history. While he currently stood for banning semi-automatic weapons after the Parkland shooting, he also voted against the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act in1993, which pushed for more background checks and a waiting period after the purchase of a handgun.
  • Abortion: Sanders is overwhelmingly pro-abortion and is against defunding Planned Parenthood. He co-sponsored the Freedom of Choice Act in 1993, voted to give women the ability to travel interstate for abortions, and voted against legislation to prevent minors from crossing state lines to get abortions.


  • Sexual Harassment Allegations: On Feb. 2, the New York Times reported that several women came forward making sexual harassment claims against campaign members during Sanders’ 2016 presidential election. In an interview with CNN, Sanders said he was too busy running his campaign to notice what was going on behind the scenes but apologized to the women who were victimized during the incident. He said he would ensure it doesn’t happen again if he decided to run in 2020.
  • Published Dark Satire about Rape Fantasy: In 1972, an essay written by Sanders was published in his state's alternative newspaper, Vermont FreemanIn it, he criticized the structure of gender roles, claiming that, “Many women seem to be walking a tightrope,” as their “qualities of love, openness, and gentleness were too deeply enmeshed with qualities of dependency, subservience, and masochism.” In the beginning of his piece, he creates scenarios where a man imagines "A woman on her knees, a woman tied up, a woman abused," while a woman, "fantasizes being raped by 3 men simultaneously."He goes on to claim that many papers create headlines about rape because gender roles evolved people's sexual interests.
  • An Independent For Life…Until Now: Throughout his political career, Sanders ran for many different offices as an Independent. But last year, the DNC issued a new rule requiring that Democratic presidential nominees run as a member of the Democratic party. Sanders was criticized by 2016 candidate Hillary Clinton for not joining the party, and it’s possible that this year’s candidates will smear Sanders for not being a genuine member. Already, Democrats are attacking Howard Schultz for considering running in 2020 as an Independent. Sanders told CBSNews that Schultz is "blackmailing" the Democrats by threatening to run if the party doesn't nominate a moderate.

This piece is part of our Election 2020 series. See below for more information on the most talked about Democrats challenging President Trump. 

Who Is Joe Biden?

Who Is Elizabeth Warren?

Who Is Kamala Harris?

Who Is Pete Buttigieg?

Who Is Beto O’Rourke?

Who Is Kamala Harris?

Who Is Cory Booker?

Who Is Eric Swalwell?

Who Is Amy Klobuchar?

Who Is Kirsten Gillibrand?

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