Updated Mar 7, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Bernie Sanders on the issues, in under 500 words

Bernie Sanders speaks at a podium
Sen. Bernie Sanders. Photo: Sean Rayford/Getty Images

Bernie Sanders is an independent Vermont senator whose platform has been a force in driving the party to the left. He is one of the last major candidates standing — alongside former Vice President Joe Biden — in the race for the 2020 Democratic nomination.

Key facts:
  • Current position: Senator from Vermont — 12 years served
  • Age: 77
  • Born: Brooklyn, New York
  • Undergraduate: Brooklyn College, University of Chicago
  • Date candidacy announced: Feb. 19, 2019
  • % of votes in line with Trump, per FiveThirtyEight: 14.4%
  • Previous roles: House Representative for Vermont's at-large congressional district, Mayor of Burlington, Vermont
Stance on key issues:
  • Medicare for All: Spearheaded a sweeping Medicare for All plan introduced in 2017.
  • Green New Deal: Co-sponsor and has spoken consistently about the severity of climate change.
  • Reproductive health care: His plan aims to codify Roe v. Wade, make birth control available over-the-counter, and ban abstinence-only sex education. He also wants to fully fund Planned Parenthood and Title X, and appoint federal judges who align with Roe v. Wade.
  • Taxes: Supports raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans. Proposed hiking estate taxes for millionaires and billionaires, including a top rate of 77% for estates over $1 billion.
  • Minimum wage: Co-sponsored a bill in April 2017 that would raise the federal minimum wage to $15. In September 2018, he introduced the Stop Bad Employers by Zeroing Out Subsidies Act, to tax companies for public benefits their workers accessed.
  • Voting rights: Says felons should be allowed to vote from prison.
  • College tuition: Plans to eliminate all $1.6 trillion of student debt and pay for it by raising taxes on Wall Street. Public universities, community colleges and trade schools would become tuition-free.
  • Marijuana: Co-sponsored Sen. Cory Booker's Marijuana Justice Act to legalize marijuana federally.
  • Agriculture: Proposed helping revitalize rural farming communities and breaking up big agriculture corporations.
  • Criminal justice: Promises to end "profiteering" by corporations, reform police and prison systems and end mass incarceration.
  • Hong Kong violence: Willing to sanction foreign officials involved in human rights abuses, including violence against demonstrators.
  • Education: His K-12 plan focuses on the needs of students of color and low-income students.
  • Labor: Wants to overhaul labor laws and increase union membership and rights.
  • Broadband access: Expand access and break up large companies.
Key criticisms:
  • Socialism: That he's too far left or the party has moved past him and he is no longer the only potential candidate who carries the "progressive" label.
  • Campaign staff sexual misconduct: Sanders' 2016 presidential campaign was plagued by patterns of sexism and inappropriate behavior.
  • Age: A recent poll found 43 of Iowa's 76 Democratic county leaders say they want a young candidate as their 2020 nominee for president.
  • Lack of loyalty: Despite running for president as a Democrat in 2016, Sanders has long identified as an independent and said he won't join the party.
  • Pragmatism: Many of Sanders' proposals would need high levels of government spending, prompting questions about how feasible some actually are.
1 fun thing:
  • While serving as mayor of Burlington, he recorded a folk album — titled "We Shall Overcome" — with 30 Vermont musicians.

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