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US Government

Bernie Sanders to Announce Presidential Run

(Photo: Troy Page, Truthout)

(Photo: Troy Page, Truthout)

One of the most progressive members of the United States Senate will seek the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) will launch his presidential campaign on Thursday, Vermont Public Radio reports. The 73-year-old self-proclaimed socialist, who is technically an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, will become the first official challenger for the Democratic nomination to former first lady, US senator and secretary of state Hillary Clinton when he delivers a short statement officially declaring his entry into the race.

Sanders’ campaign is expected to focus heavily on climate change, the growing gap between rich and poor and the contraction of America’s middle class, which is shrinking even as corporations and the wealthy grow richer than ever. In 2013, he railed against a pro-corporate conservative agenda that is exacerbating the yawning gap between ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’:

“The real issue here, if you look at the Koch Brothers’ agenda, is, look at what many of the extreme right-wing people believe. Obamacare is just the tip of the iceberg. These people want to abolish the concept of the minimum wage, they want to privatize the Veteran’s Administration, they want to privatize Social Security, end Medicare as we know it, massive cuts in Medicaid, wipe out the EPA, you don’t have an Environmental Protection Agency anymore, Department of Energy gone, Department of Education gone. That is the agenda. And many people don’t understand that the Koch Brothers have poured hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars into the Tea Party and to other kinds of ancillary organizations to push this agenda.”

Recently, Sanders has been a vocal opponent of the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal, which he says will further harm America’s middle class.

“If you want to understand why the middle class in America is disappearing and why we have more wealth and income inequality in America than we have had since the late 1920s, you have to address the issue of trade,” Sanders told Vermont Public Radio in a recent phone interview.

“All of the major corporations want to continue with this trade policy. Wall Street wants to continue this trade policy,” he added. “The drug companies want to continue this trade policy. But organizations representing American workers and the environment do not want to continue the trade policy. They want new trade policies.”

President Barack Obama supports neoliberal economic policies, including TPP. Hillary Clinton also has a history of backing neoliberalism, pitting her squarely against Sanders and the handful of other progressive lawmakers, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who is often mentioned as a potential 2016 presidential candidate despite her repeated declarations that she is not running.

While Clinton is heavily favored over Sanders—HuffPost Pollster, which aggregates publicly available polling data, shows the former secretary of state leading him by 55 percentage points (Clinton 61 percent, Warren 12 percent, Vice President Joe Biden 11 percent, Sanders 6 percent), Sanders’ entry into the race will provide a platform for more progressive Democrats to challenge Clinton from the left.

Sanders, who was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1941, is a graduate of the University of Chicago, where he was active in the Civil Rights movement and earned a degree in political science. He then spent time on an Israeli kibbutz before moving to Vermont in 1964. Sanders’ political career began in 1971 when he joined the anti-Vietnam War Liberty Union Party, losing several elections, including runs for the US Senate in 1972 and 1974 and campaigns for Vermont governor in 1972 and 1976.

Success came to Sanders when he ran for mayor of Burlington, Vermont’s largest city, in 1981. He won by 10 votes, unseating the six-term incumbent Democrat. He then won three more terms as mayor before deciding not to seek reelection in 1989.

Following a short stint as a professor at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, Sanders was elected to the US House of Representatives in 1990, where he co-founded the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Over the past quarter century, he has been one of the most liberal voices in Congress, championing the rights of the poor and minorities, fighting corporate and special interest power, and almost always rejecting US militarism. He voted against the 1991 and 2003 Iraq wars, but backed the punitive 2001 US invasion of Afghanistan. Sanders has also sought to curb what he and many Americans believe are the surveillance excesses of government intelligence agencies.

Sanders was elected to the Senate in 2007. In recent years, he has been an outspoken critic of corporate tax dodgers, and has introduced a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, one of this century’s most controversial Supreme Court decisions, in which the justices affirmed that corporations are people endowed with the right to spend as much money as they please influencing the outcome of American elections. He has also been a staunch advocate of universal health care. He was most recently reelected with 71 percent of the vote in 2012.

Sanders is married to Jane O’Meara Driscoll, a former college professor. He has one child and three stepchildren.

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