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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 progressive 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: Sanders spearheaded a sweeping Medicare for All plan, which he introduced in 2017.
  • Green New Deal: Sanders is a co-sponsor of the bill and has spoken consistently about the severity of climate change.
  • Taxes: Sanders has long said he supports raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans. He recently proposed hiking estate taxes for millionaires and billionaires, including a top rate of 77% for estates over $1 billion.
  • Minimum wage: Sanders 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 (Stop BEZOS) Act, which would tax companies for public benefits their workers accessed.
  • Voting rights: Says felons should be allowed to vote while in prison.
  • College tuition: He 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 also become tuition-free.
  • Marijuana: He co-sponsored fellow 2020 presidential candidate Sen. Cory Booker's recently reintroduced Marijuana Justice Act, that would legalize marijuana on the federal level.
  • Agriculture: Sanders rolled out a proposal to help revitalize rural farming communities and break up big agriculture corporations. The comprehensive plan would enact "Roosevelt style trust-busting laws," address climate change and propose job training and education for farmers.

Key criticisms:

  • Socialism: That he's too far left. Or that the party has moved past him and he is no longer the only potential candidate who can carry the "progressive" label.
  • Campaign staff sexual misconduct: Sanders' 2016 presidential campaign was plagued by patterns of sexism and inappropriate behavior among members.
  • Age: A recent poll found 43 of Iowa's 76 Democratic county party leaders say they want a young candidate to be their nominee for president in 2020.
  • Lack of loyalty: Despite running for president as a Democrat in 2016, Sanders has always identified as an independent and has said he won't join the party.
  • Pragmatism: Many of Sanders' proposals would need high levels of government spending, creating questions about how feasible some of them 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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