Just how left-wing is Bernie Sanders?

1 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Bernie Sanders to run against Clinton for president: ‘We’re in this race to win’.

Bernie Sanders immediately distanced himself from Hillary Clinton on trade, foreign policy and the environment as he announced a bid for the Democratic presidential nomination that represents her first serious challenge from the left. In a low-key press conference outside the US Capitol building, the Vermont senator acknowledged his run for the White House was a quixotic one, but insisted he was “in this race to win” and not just raise the profile of progressive causes. “I seriously wonder … whether in this day and age it is possible for any candidate, who is not a billionaire or who is not beholden to the billionaire class, to be able to run successful campaigns,” said the 73-year-old independent senator. “And if that is the case, I want you all to recognise what a sad state of affairs that is for American democracy.” But Sanders claimed his focus on tackling economic inequality and the political power of corporate America would resonate with the US public: “If you raise the issues that are on the hearts and minds of the American people, if you are trying to put together a movement which says we have got to stand together and say this beautiful Capitol, our country, belongs to all of us and not the billionaire class – that’s not raising an issue, that’s winning an election, that’s where the American people are.” Asked how he would differ from Clinton, Sanders claimed he would not run a negative campaign but highlighted three issues where the former secretary of state has been vague since announcing her frontrunner bid earlier this month – and more conservative since long before then. “I voted against the war in Iraq, and not only did I vote against it, I helped lead the effort,” he said. “I am helping right now to lead the effort about the trans-pacific partnership because I believe it continues a trend of horrendous trade policies which have cost us millions of decent paying jobs.” “I helped lead the effort against the Keystone pipeline, because I don’t think we should be transporting some of the dirtiest fuel in the world and have got to be really vigorous in terms of transforming our energy system,” he added. “Those are some of my views and we will see where secretary Clinton comes back.” With a bold program of economic populism and a fierce rejection of the corporate money now seemingly required by candidates, Sanders is considered a long-shot to secure the Democratic nomination. His website has a disclaimer: “Paid for by Bernie not the billionaires.” Although he caucuses with the Democrats in the Senate, he’s not a registered Democrat — he’s actually the longest-serving independent in congressional history. (There’s no rule, by the way, barring candidates who are not registered Democrats from running in the Democratic primary.) Sanders is one of those politicians known by only one name — everyone in the Capitol knows who “Bernie” is.

Until a few weeks ago, close aides predicted Sanders would decline to the enter the race at all, deterred by the mountain of money that increases national exposure. Senator Sanders supports a Canadian-style single-payer health-care system, sometimes called “Medicare for all.” He wants to break up America’s six largest banks. He unabashedly calls himself a “democratic socialist.” Adam Green, the co-founder of the effusively pro-Warren Progressive Change Campaign Committee, also struggled to name an issue where Sanders hasn’t been equally strong. But growing interest among activists who may provide enough small donations for a credible campaign have encouraged a rethink, aides said, especially as fellow senator Elizabeth Warren has so far resisted pressure to run against Clinton.

Sanders is likely to be joined on the left by former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley, although his still nascent campaign has been tarnished by criticism during this week’s riots in Baltimore of his policing record while mayor of the city. As expected, Sanders outlined a more full-throated progressive agenda, focusing heavily on economic equality, climate change and campaign finance reform. “This country today has more serious crises than at any time since the great depression,” Sanders said. “But most Americans, their reality is that they’re working longer hours and for lower wages.” “All over this country I’ve been talking to people,” Sanders continued. “Ninety-nine percent of all new income generated in this country is going to the top 1%.

For two years, he chaired the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee until Democrats lost the majority, and is now “ranking member” – occupying the top minority seat – on the Senate Banking Committee. According to his profile in National Journal, senators have confided to Democrat Patrick Leahy, Vermont’s senior senator, “what a pleasant surprise [Sanders] has turned out to be” in his willingness to forge legislative deals. But it’s Warren, not Sanders, who has an inexplicable and unique star power with progressive advocates that they have a hard time explaining in concrete terms.

But the contrast with Sanders may help her find that sweet spot between the left wing of the party and the center of American politics a little faster. Chamberlain added that his group is a “member-driven organization” and its members said in a November survey they prefer Warren for the presidency by a 20-point margin. She’s a progressive who says “the deck is stacked in favor of those at the top,” she supports a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United, and she wants an “end to the era of mass incarceration.” But, in comparison to Sanders, it’s clear she’s no socialist.

Last year, National Journal ranked Sanders as only the 37th most liberal senator for 2013, though that result no doubt says more about the ranking system than about Sanders’s politics. And the sparring will not be lethal because Sanders has said although he thinks questions of Clintons ethics are “fair game,” he will not air any negative ads against her. Sanders and Clinton differ in another way: More than 60 percent of his campaign contributions come in small-dollar amounts – between $1 and $199 – compared with only 10 percent of Clinton’s, according to Crowdpac.

Both men opposed the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, which Clinton voted to authorize; Sanders remains opposed to foreign military intervention, while Obama’s record in office is mixed. Sanders supports US sanctions against Russia over its meddling in Ukraine, and Obama’s negotiations aimed at preventing Iranian nuclear weapons capability.

Like Obama, Sanders is a liberal on social issues, such as gay marriage and abortion, and supports the president’s executive actions on immigration. Even though HRC’s position as the leader of the Democratic pack hasn’t changed, a multi-candidate race could make the eventual nominee a much a stronger general election candidate. Sanders calls Obama’s proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership with Pacific Rim nations, “a disastrous trade agreement designed to protect the interests of the largest multinational corporations at the expense of workers, consumers, the environment, and the foundations of American democracy.” The National Journal profile of Sanders describes a classic child of the ’60s. After several more tries at political office, Sanders finally succeeded in 1981, becoming mayor of Burlington – Vermont’s largest city (population 42,000 in 2010) – by just 10 votes. Sanders for years as he’s stood up to the Wall Street banks and wealthy interests who have rigged the game in Washington and knee-capped our country’s middle-class and working families,” said Anna Galland, executive director of MoveOn.org Civic Action, in a statement.

Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz also welcomed Sanders and the contributions he and the other candidates will make to “a healthy dialogue about the future of our party and our nation.”

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