Independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has officially launched his 2016 campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, promising a political revolution. The Vermont family affair kickoff on Tuesday, May 26, 2015 seemed like country fair or summer festival meets political rally, with the folksy charm of small town America, mixed with promises to revolutionize the country. The event in Burlington Vermont brought out over 5,000 Sanders supporters, who enjoyed music, ice cream and grassroots politics. Sanders capped off the launch delivering a fiery speech outlining his campaign and policy priorities speaking with Lake Champlain as the backdrop.
Sanders’s event was held in his adopted hometown of Burlington, where he had been mayor four terms. Ben Cohen, co-founder of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream introduced and endorsed Sanders, saying, “Unlike some other Johnny-come-latelys, Bernie is the real thing. He has been saying the same thing and doing the same thing for 30 years… For those of us that have been sitting on the sidelines, finally a candidate worth voting for. Sometimes the underdog wins.”
Jerry Greenfield, the other half of the Ben and Jerry’s duo, Donna Bailey, the executive director of the Addison County Parent/Child Center, and Climate activist Bill McKibben, and Brenda Torpy, the CEO of Champlain Housing Trust also introduced and endorsed Sanders.
Sanders, a “self described,” “Democratic Socialist,” promised “a political revolution to transform the country – economically, politically, economically and environmentally.” Sanders gave a fiery speech introducing some of his policy priorities, a progressive’s wish list, instituting a “$15 minimum wage,” $1 trillion infrastructure spending bill creating 13 million jobs, universal health care in the model of “Medicare-for-all.”
Additionally, his domestic priorities include overturning the Supreme Court campaign spending case Citizens United, expanding social security, free tuition at public universities, low interest college loans, universal prekindergarten, equal pay for women, paid sick leave, and Wall Street reform. As for foreign policy Sanders called for “an international coalition led by the Muslim nations” to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
Sen. Sanders’ biggest concern growing income inequality, telling those in attendance, “Today, we say clearly enough is enough. This great nation and its government belong to all of the people and not just a handful of billionaires.” Continuing, he expressed, “There is something profoundly wrong when one family owns more wealth than the bottom 130 million Americans. This grotesque level of inequality is immoral. It is bad economics. It is unsustainable. This type of rigged economy is not what America is supposed to be about. This has got to change.”
The new Democratic presidential candidate chooses not to make his campaign about his competition, be it Democrat or Republican. Sanders clarified, “Let’s be clear: This campaign is not about Bernie Sanders, it is not about Hillary Clinton, it is not about Jeb Bush or anyone else. This campaign is about the needs of the American people.” Sanders only mentioned his main competitor for the nomination once, but implied she is part of the past, “Now is not the time for thinking small. Now is not the time for the same old, same old establishment politics and stale inside-the-beltway ideas.”
Sanders promises not to run a negative campaign, because “As someone who has never run a negative political ad in his life, my campaign will be driven by issues and serious debate; not political gossip, not reckless personal attacks or character assassination. This is what I believe the American people want and deserve. I hope other candidates agree, and I hope the media allows that to happen. Politics in a democratic society should not be treated like a baseball game, a game show or a soap opera. The times are too serious for that.”
Sanders is only polling in the single digits still he is trying to play to the party’s liberals and progressives, that were looking to draft liberal Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren who is adamant against running. Although Sanders is considered a long shot, he has already raised over $4 million, just from small donors, without having a Super PAC, Sanders is looking to raise $50 million for the primary.
Sanders first announced his candidacy with an April 30 Capitol Hill press conference, becoming the second declared Democratic candidate after Hillary Clinton to make their candidacy official. Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley plans to become the third on Saturday, May 30.
Bonnie K. Goodman is the Editor of the Academic Buzz Network, a series of political, academic & education blogs which includes History Musings: History, News & Politics. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies, both from McGill University, and has done graduate work in Jewish history at Concordia University as part of the MA in Judaic Studies program. She covers US, Canadian & Israeli politics, with a particular focus on the Obama presidency, Congress, domestic policy, and elections.