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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. Despite losing the Democratic nomination for president to Hillary Clinton in 2016, Sanders remains popular with voters as he continues to espouse progressive policies on the main stage of American politics.

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.
  • 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.

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.

Go deeper: Everything you need to know about the other 2020 candidates

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