Bernie Sanders is an American politician who has served as the junior United States Senator from Vermont since 2007 and as U.S. Representative for the state’s at-large congressional district from 1991 to 2007.
Sanders is the longest-serving independent in U.S. congressional history, though he has a close relationship with the Democratic Party, having caucused with House and Senate Democrats for most of his congressional career.
Sanders ran unsuccessfully for the 2016 Democratic nomination for president and is running again in 2020. Before entering each race, he pledged to serve as a Democrat if elected.
- Full name: Bernard Sanders
- Born: 8 September 1941 (age 78 years), Brooklyn, New York, United States
- Height: 1.83 m
- Office: Senator (D-VT) since 2007
- Spouse: Jane Sanders (m. 1988), Deborah Shiling (m. 1964–1966)
- Children: Levi Sanders
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About Bernie Sanders
Sanders was born on 8 September 1941, in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.
His father, Elias Ben Yehuda Sanders (1904–1962), was born in Słopnice, Galicia, in Austria-Hungary (now part of Poland), to a Jewish family. In 1921, Elias immigrated to the United States, where he became a paint salesman.
Sanders’s mother, Dorothy Sanders (née Glassberg, 1912–1960), was born in New York City to Jewish immigrant parents from Radzyń Podlaski, in modern-day eastern Poland.
Sanders became interested in politics at an early age. He said, “A guy named Adolf Hitler won an election in 1932. He won an election, and 50 million people died as a result of that election in World War II, including six million Jews. So what I learned as a little kid is that politics is, in fact, very important.” In the 1940s, many of his relatives in German-occupied Poland were murdered in the Holocaust.
Sanders lived in Midwood, Brooklyn. He attended elementary school at P.S. 197, where he won a borough championship on the basketball team. He attended Hebrew school in the afternoons, and celebrated his bar mitzvah in 1954. His older brother, Larry, said that during their childhood, the family never lacked for food or clothing, but major purchases, “like curtains or a rug,” were not affordable.
Sanders attended James Madison High School, where he was captain of the track team and took third place in the New York City indoor one-mile race. In high school, he lost his first election, finishing last out of three candidates for the student body presidency. Not long after his high school graduation, his mother died at the age of 46. His father died a few years later in 1962, at the age of 57.
Sanders studied at Brooklyn College for a year in 1959–1960 before transferring to the University of Chicago and graduating with a bachelor of arts degree in political science in 1964. He has described himself as a mediocre college student because the classroom was “boring and irrelevant,” while the community was more important to his education.
An advocate of social democratic and progressive policies, Sanders is known for his opposition to economic inequality and neoliberalism.
On domestic policy, he supports labour rights, universal and single-payer healthcare, paid parental leave, tuition-free tertiary education, and an ambitious Green New Deal to create jobs addressing climate change.
On foreign policy, he supports reducing military spending, pursuing more diplomacy and international cooperation, and putting greater emphasis on labour rights and environmental concerns when negotiating international trade agreements.
Commentators have described his political philosophy as aligned with the New Deal policies of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Nordic model, noting the strong influence his views have had on Democratic Party politics since his 2016 presidential campaign.
Sanders was born into a working-class Jewish family and raised in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.
He attended Brooklyn College before graduating from the University of Chicago in 1964.
While a student, he was an active protest organizer for the Congress of Racial Equality, as well as for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee during the civil rights movement.
After settling in Vermont in 1968, he ran unsuccessful third-party political campaigns in the early to mid-1970s.
As an independent, he was elected mayor of Burlington in 1981 and reelected three times. He won election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1990, representing Vermont’s at-large congressional district; he later co-founded the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
He served as a U.S. Representative for 16 years before being elected to the U.S. Senate in 2006; he was reflected to the Senate in 2012 and 2018.
In April 2015, Sanders announced his campaign for the 2016 Democratic nomination for president of the United States.
Despite initially low expectations, he went on to win 23 primaries and caucuses and around 43% of pledged delegates, to Hillary Clinton’s 55%.
His campaign notably generated grassroots enthusiasm and rejected large donations and Super PAC funds, relying mostly on small-dollar donations.
In July 2016, he formally endorsed Clinton in her general election bid against Republican Donald Trump. In February 2019, Sanders announced a second presidential campaign, joining a large field of Democratic candidates pursuing the party nomination.