U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who is seeking the Democratic nomination for president in 2016, offers something unusual for a major party candidate, for he is a self-described democratic socialist.
What does that mean? If we look at Sanders’ political track record and his positions on the issues, we find that he consistently favors the interests and rights of the average person over those of the selfish corporate elite, who have dominated economic policy for more than 30 years, producing the worst income inequality in the developed world.
“What we have seen is that while the average person is working longer hours for lower wages, we have seen a huge increase in income and wealth inequality, which is now reaching obscene levels,” said Sanders, who has praised Scandinavian-style social democracy. “This is a rigged economy, which works for the rich and the powerful, and is not working for ordinary Americans … You know, this country just does not belong to a handful of billionaires.”
A cornerstone of Sanders’ campaign is rebuilding the middle class by decreasing income and wealth inequality. Along these lines, he supports raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, strengthening union rights, pay equity for women workers, creating employee-owned cooperative enterprises, increasing taxes on the wealthy and corporations, boosting infrastructure spending, eliminating the income cap on Social Security taxes and increasing Social Security payments.
Sanders favors closing some of the tax deductions that benefit hedge funds and corporations, while raising taxes on capital gains and the wealthiest two percent of Americans. He would use these additional revenues to lower taxes on the middle and lower classes.
On May 19, Sanders introduced the College for All Act, which would create a Robin Hood tax of 50 cents on every $100 of stock trades or sales to fund student tuition at four-year public colleges and universities. On May 6, Sanders, who supports more effective regulation of Wall Street, introduced legislation to break up too big to fail financial institutions.
Sanders is opposed to the Trans-Pacific Partnership and other “free trade” agreements. During the 113th Congress, he introduced the Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2013 (S. 893), which sought to increase the disability compensation rate for American veterans and their families.
A liberal on social issues, Sanders is a staunch supporter of a single-payer universal health care system, as well as LGBT rights, same-sex marriage and pro-choice legislation.
On foreign policy, Sanders opposed the Iraq and Persian Gulf wars, voting against authorizing the use of force in 2002 and 1991. He opposes the PATRIOT Act and supports President Barack Obama’s Iran nuclear deal.
Sanders pursues a progressive environmental agenda. A vocal advocate about the ramifications of global warming, he wants to address climate change by moving away from fossil fuels, opposes the Keystone XL pipeline, and has called for a moratorium on licensing new nuclear plants and re-licensing existing ones.
When it comes to campaign finance, Sanders supports the DISCLOSE Act, which would make campaign financing more transparent and ban U.S. corporations controlled by foreign interests from making political expenditures. He has also been a leader in calling for media reform and opposes increased concentration of media outlet ownership.
Perhaps the only issue where Sanders doesn’t take a liberal position is gun control, which he opposes, a concession to Vermont being a rural state with a lot of hunters.
Sanders, 73, is the longest-serving independent member of Congress in history, having been first elected to the U.S. House in 1990 and moving up to the Senate in 2006.
His presidential run is Sanders’ first race as a Democrat and reflects a long-time pragmatic streak. A co-founder of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, he caucuses with the Democrats and is now the ranking Democrat on the Senate Budget Committee. Sanders has been endorsed by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, has almost always voted with the Democrats throughout his years in Congress, and has endorsed Democratic presidential candidates. He last faced a Democratic opponent in 2004.
As of now, Sanders is considered a long shot to win the Democratic presidential nomination. The clear frontrunner is former Secretary of State, Senator from New York and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton. Other possible Democratic contenders include Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who several progressive groups are trying to draft into the race but may endorse Sanders instead; former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley; and former Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA).
But whatever the pundits of the mainstream media, with their obsession for predicting, may forecast, we should keep in mind at this point that no one has voted yet.