Candidate Profile: Bernie Sanders

Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders

On the Surface

On May 26th, Bernie Sanders (I-Vt) announced his candidacy for President of the United States. He lacked the name recognition and donor base of his primary opponent, Hillary Clinton. But in recent months Sanders has shown his mettle, building tremendous momentum by raising record crowds and securing more donors than any candidate in history. Even though he has a tough fight ahead of him, Sanders could secure the presidency.

Background

Sanders was born in New York in 1941 to Jewish parents (his father was a Holocaust survivor from Poland). While attending the University of Chicago, Sanders was active in the Civil Rights Movement, coordinating sit-ins and participating in MLK’s March on Washington. In 1981 he was elected mayor of Burlington, Vermont, defeating a six-time incumbent. He served in the House of Representatives from 1991 to 2005 (winning his elections by large margins) and then went on to the Senate, where he serves currently.

Platform

Bernie Sanders is running a populist campaign. He hopes to address income inequality through progressive estate tax, by raising the minimum wage to a living wage, and by increasing accessibility to education by making public college free. He is vehemently opposed to the Citizens United decision, and has opted not to use a Super PAC (although that didn’t stop him from raising 15 million dollars so far).

Sanders is a champion for the minority, as he has been for his entire political career. He has supported gays since 1983, and voted against DOMA. He has also proposed a jobs program for black youth in order to combat unemployment and crime.

Sanders has consistently voted against the global war on terror, and says that Saudi Arabia should be the one to use military force against ISIS. He is against US interventionism in the Middle East at large.

Challenges

Bernie Sanders’ biggest challenge comes in the form of Hillary Clinton. She has wider name recognition, and appears more favorably to women (although Sanders himself is has been a vocal proponent of women’s rights). However, her lead on Sanders is shrinking; in Iowa, for example, it has decreased from 33 percent to 8 percent.

Another challenge comes from the media. Despite Sanders’ surging popularity, the media severely undercovers his campaign and dismisses him as a niche candidate. If he is to win this election, he needs a stronger media presence.

Finally, Sanders’ leftist views might alienate more centrist voters. However, this will be a bigger problem in the Democratic primary than the general election.

To conclude, while Sanders still has to overcome media stigmatization and Hillary Clinton, his populist stance has clearly struck a chord with voters, giving him a good shot at the presidency.

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