Democratic Presidential Candidate Profile: Bernie Sanders

The Hill Talk is giving a quick rundown of each Democratic candidate after the party’s first primary debate, held October 13 in Las Vegas.

Here is our profile of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.

Photo courtesy Mother Jones

Photo courtesy Mother Jones

Quick Facts:

  • Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Sept. 8, 1941.
  • Graduated from the University of Chicago in 1964.
  • Married to the former Jane O’Meara Driscoll, three step-children; one son with Susan Mott.

Political Experience:

  • Mayor of Burlington, Vt., (1981–1989).
  • Member of the House of Representatives from Vermont’s at-large congressional district (1991–2007).
  • Member of the United States Senate from Vermont (2007–present).
  • Chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs (2013–2015).

Positions on the issues


  • Voted for the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) in 2009, but insists the legislation did not go far enough.
  • Advocates for universal healthcare – a single-payer system in which both the federal and state governments would be required to provide health care to all.  States which participate would be forced to establish single-payer systems and a federal board would provide national oversight and create annual budgets.
  • Advocated strengthening the Older Americans Act, legislation which reduces health care costs and allows seniors to remain in their homes.
  • Voted against the 2012 Ryan Budget, which would have converted the federal share of Medicaid into block grants for states to use at their discretion, saved $750 billion, allowed choice for future Medicare recipients, capped medical liability lawsuits, halted the pilfering of Medicare funds to pay for new health-care entitlement programs, and lowered both taxes and overall tax rates.
  • Voted ‘No’ on allowing American Indians to opt out of government healthcare programs.
  • ‘No’ on allowing small business associations purchasing their own healthcare plans.
  • ‘No’ on subsidizing private insurers to pay for prescription drug coverage.
  • ‘No’ on limiting damages to $250,000 for medical malpractice.
  • ‘No’ on limiting Medicare prescription drug benefit for Medicare recipients.
  • ‘No’ on treating the unborn under State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP).


  • Favors investing $1 trillion in government jobs. The initiative would modernize the nation’s infrastructure for five years and create 13 million temporary jobs.
  • Advocates raising the minimum wage. Over the last decade, he has called for hikes to $7.25 in February 2007; $10.10 per hour by 2016 in January 2014; and a third call to $15 per hour in March 2015.
  • Wants to create worker-owned cooperatives and seeks expanded labor unions.
  • Voted ‘Yes’ on limiting farm subsidies to people earning under $750,000.
  • ‘Yes’ on restricting employer interference in union organizing.
  • ‘No’ on ending offshore tax havens and promote small business.
  • Rated 98 percent by AFL-CIO indicating a pro-union voting record.
  • Allow an Air Traffic Controller’s Union.
  • Stronger enforcement against gender-based pay discrimination.
  • Voted against or opposes NAFTA, CAFTA, TPP and a host of free-trade agreements, saying it moves American jobs overseas.
  • Introduced the Workplace Democracy Act to strengthen labor unions.
  • Voted ‘No’ on $46 billion tax-cut package for small business in 2000.


  • Promotes a tax policy which forces the wealthy and corporations to pay their “fair share” in taxes.
  • Favors expanding Social Security by lifting the cap on taxable income above $250,000.
  • Progressive tax on estates over $3.5 million (currently, first $5 million is exempt).
  • Proposes a tax on financial transactions and doubling the capital gains tax.
  • Eliminate most tax loopholes and tax deductions for U.S.-based corporations.
  • Voted in favor of modifying bankruptcy rules to avoid mortgage foreclosures.
  • In favor on additional $825 billion for economic recovery bill in February 2009.
  • In favor of expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit in 1993.

Climate Change:

  • Insists climate change is the result of human activity.
  • Opposed the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.
  • Favors alternatives to fossil fuels and has co-sponsored legislation which would promote the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.


  • Advocates for legal immigration.
  • Supports legislation granting citizenship to 11 million illegal aliens; and the DREAM Act, granting citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants.
  • Expand Mr. Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to include the parents of citizens, parents of legal permanent residents, and the parents of DREAMERs.
  • Supports raising wages for guest workers.

Social Issues:

  • Favors abortion; support for the procedure has earned him a 100 percent rating from National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL).
  • Calling for community college to become tuition free – plan would grant $18 billion to states and cut consumer costs by 55 percent; supports re-forming student debt.
  • Voted against the Brady bill, legislation requiring federal background checks on firearm buyers.
  • Supports some gun-control measures – favors a ban on assault weapons, but has opposed federal waiting periods for those who purchase guns.
  • Critic of uncontrolled, hidden money in the election system – favors constitutional amendment curtailing corporate and non-profit money to political campaigns.

Foreign Policy:

  • Critic of Israel; supported the Iran nuclear deal; voted against the war in Iraq in 2002.
  • Supports the diplomatic recognition of Cuba.
  • Opposes U.S. foreign intervention, opposes unilateralism and staying out of regional conflicts.

Relevant Scandals:

  • Penned an essay titled “Man-and woman” in which Sanders describes in explicit sexual terms, among other things, women who fantasize about being gang raped. The essay, originally published in 1972 for an underground newspaper, the Vermont Freeman, was recently reprinted in Mother Jones.
  • While not scandal worthy, Sanders once backed regulation for kennel owners to limit boarded dogs to 50 per kennel.

Who will vote for him?

An avowed socialist and firm disciple of the genius of government, Sanders will draw from the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, particularly those who align themselves with Massachusetts firebrand, Elizabeth Warren.

Sanders will also draw significantly from an element of the electorate which holds Wall Street and corporate America in disdain and has gained support from anti-war activists.

The Vermont senator’s message is also resonating with a percentage of those who are critical of income disparities.  He derides “exorbitant” CEO pay and is a champion of dissolving large banking conglomerates.

Sanders will also remain popular with voters who support campaign finance re-form: he consistently rejects donations from corporations and has no super-PAC.  Donations to his campaign average $30.

Sanders is currently polling second nationally behind Hillary Clinton, but is leading in New Hampshire.

Debate video:

On the criminal justice system




  1. Pingback: Speeches of all presidential candidates analyzed

Comments are closed.