Bernie Sanders: From Modest Upbringings to Presidential Nominee


  1. Bernie Sanders was born on September 8, 1941 in Brooklyn, New York. His father, Elias Ben Yehuda Sanders, immigrated to the United States from Austrian Poland in 1921 and worked as a paint salesman. His mother, Dora Sanders, was a daughter of Jewish immigrants from Poland and Russia, although she herself was born in the US. While his parents never had a problem affording the bare necessities, such as food and clothes, they would struggle in buying luxuries. His parents passed away while he was young, his mother died in 1960 when he was 19 and his father died in 1962 when he was just 21. As such they would never live to see the day their son become a successful politician.
  2. Since some of Sanders’ immediate family remained in Poland, many had fallen victim to Hitler’s atrocities and were killed in the Holocaust. Hitler’s rise and the resulting deaths of 6 million Jews made Bernie realize from a young age how important politics is, and how it can be used as a force for harmony or absolute carnage. Moreover, his working class upbringing helped influence his political beliefs and ideology.
  3. In 1964, Bernie graduated from the University of Chicago with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science. He became politically active as a student having joined the now dissolved Young People's Socialist League. During the 1960s he became involved in the Civil Rights movement; examples of his civil rights activism include taking part in a sit-in protesting Chicago University’s segregated student housing and accommodation and joining the Congress of Racial Equality. Bernie also participated in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in which civil rights activist, Martin Luther King Jr., delivered the famous “I Have a Dream” speech.
  4. Bernie was opposed to the Vietnam War and applied for conscientious objector status to avoid fighting in the war. His application was rejected, but by the time he received his rejection he had become too old to serve in the military.
  5.  Bernie’s success did not happen overnight; as a matter of fact he had to endure many defeats during his early political career. In 1972, he unsuccessfully ran for Governor of Vermont and US senate. The 1970s would prove to be a turbulent time for his career as he lost another bid for the senate in 1974 and another bid for Vermont Governor in 1976. His big break would come at start of the 1980s when he was elected Mayor of Burlington in 1980 and would remain at his post for another four terms until 1989.
  6. In 1990, Bernie would run for a seat in the US House of Representatives for Vermont. Running as an Independent candidate he faced off against Republican Peter Plympton Smith. Despite not running as a party candidate, he successfully beat Smith by gaining 56 per cent of the vote. His win marked the first time since 1950 that an Independent candidate won a seat in Congress.
  7. During his time in the House of Representatives, Sanders would criticize both Democrats and Republicans for working on behalf of the wealthy rather than common citizens. He would also co-found and chair the Congressional Progressive Caucus, which was a group that consisted of liberal and leftist Democratic members of Congress. As a House Representative he also vocally opposed the Iraq War, warning that a US invasion would destabilize the country and the Middle East. Sanders would remain a House Representative until 2007.
  8. In 2006, he ran for Vermont seat in the US Senate. He once again ran as an Independent against Republican Richard Tarrant and successfully beat him with 65 per cent of the votes. As Senator he campaigned for tax reforms and an elimination of tax policies that favored the wealthy. He also introduced a bill to raise minimum wage of federal workers and another bill that would alleviate workers from sanctions should they choose to join a union. In 2018, he introduced the Stop Bad Employers by Zeroing Out Subsidies (Stop BEZOS) Act which aimed to make corporations (specifically Amazon), not taxpayers, pay for their employees’ health insurance and food stamps. The publicity and pressure of the act persuaded Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos, to raise his employees’ minimum wage.
  9. He ran for 2016 Presidential elections and despite the fact that he ran as an Independent, he sought out the Democratic Party’s nomination. Even though he did not take any campaign donations from corporations, wealthy donors, Super-PACs or lobby groups, he was able to make it all the way to the primary elections which he eventually lost to Democratic Senator Hilary Clinton.
  10. Having showed his perseverance and determination in the past, he has done the same now as he recently announced his candidacy for the upcoming 2020 presidential elections. 

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