Wednesday, 03 June 2015 15:41

25 Things You May Not Know About Bernie Sanders

Written by  Steve Cobble
Senator Bernie Sanders Senator Bernie Sanders Alex Wong/Getty Images
*Bernie Sanders entered into politics through the civil rights movement, more than a half century ago.  He organized with CORE (the Congress of Racial Equality) in Chicago, and led a sit-in against segregated housing as far back as 1962.  

*According to John Nichols of The Nation, Sanders is one of only 2 sitting U.S. Senators who actually attended the 1963 March on Washington, and saw Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., give his “I Have A Dream” speech in person.  (The other is Mitch McConnell, believe it or not...)  At the time, Sanders was an organizer for SNCC (the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee).

*Bernie Sanders is one of the only elected White officeholders who endorsed Jesse Jackson for President (twice!).  In 1984, he got slapped at a rally when he endorsed Jackson (though the slap was probably for remaining an Independent Socialist, rather than a Democrat).  In 1988, Sanders and his organizers helped Jackson win a surprise victory in the Vermont caucuses--by one state delegate.  In Jesse’s memorable phrase, Bernie Sanders & Jim Hightower were among the few elected White officeholders brave enough to “cross the color line” to support him when it mattered.

*Born in Brooklyn, Sanders moved to Vermont in the early 1970s, and worked as a writer for alternative newspapers and as a carpenter.  He became a leader of the Liberty Union Party in Vermont, an alternative third party that fiercely opposed the war in Vietnam and stood for reform of the marijuana laws.

*Senator Sanders was one of the very first to respond with a Constitutional Amendment to roll back the awful Citizens United decision by the Roberts Supreme Court.

*Now in his 25th year in Congress, Bernie Sanders has served longer in the House & Senate than any independent in American history. 

*Bernie defeated a multi-term Democratic incumbent to become Mayor of Burlington by 10 votes, after expanding the electorate with new voter registrations & grassroots GOTV.

*When Bernie entered politics, Vermont was considered a Republican state. He was the first non-Republican to ever win his Senate seat, after a century-and-a-half of GOP control. (Democrat Patrick Leahy was the first non-Republican to win the other Senate seat, in the Watergate year of 1974.) Earlier Sanders had been the first ever to defeat a Republican incumbent House member, since 1854, when the GOP was created.

*While in the House, Sanders voted against the anti-gay, anti-lesbian Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).  He is the only one running who can say that.  (It was a very controversial vote at the time.)

*While in the House, Sanders voted against both the first Iraq War & the second Iraq War.  Again, he is the only one running who can say that.

*Bernie marched in New York City last September, at the massive climate change march there.  Maybe that’s one of the big reasons that 350.org Founder Bill McKibben endorsed Sanders at his kickoff rally in Burlington last week.  Or maybe it’s because Bernie is the only one running who actually voted against the Keystone XL Pipeline.

*Bernie Sanders has been a national leader in the media reform movement.

*Bernie may be the only Senator who has never run a negative campaign ad.

*At one point during Sanders’ service in the House, he had successfully passed more amendments to bills than any other Representative.  He knows his way around.

*Sanders was the first Congressperson to take senior citizens across the border to Canada to obtain cheaper prescription drugs.  Bernie also took women suffering from breast cancer, enabling them to purchase medications in Canada at 1/10 their cost in the U.S.

*Bernie got the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) started.  Now it is the largest caucus in the House, and--headed by Rep. Keith Ellison & Rep. Raul Grijalva--also the most valuable.

*Rep. Sanders voted against the original USA Patriot Act in 2001.  As you might expect, this was also an extremely controversial vote at the time.

*Working across the aisle with Rep. Ron Paul, in 7/10 Sen. Sanders surprised everyone by successfully passing a requirement to “Audit the Fed” (Federal Reserve Board).

*Bernie is the only one running who voted to protect Glass-Steagall from Wall Street, a decade before the financial crisis, way back in 11/99.

*In 12/10, Sanders gave an 8.5-hour “filibuster” speech on the Senate floor, opposing the continuation of the Bush tax breaks for the 1%.  He turned his remarks into a popular book, The Speech, and donated the profits to charity.

*Bernie Sanders is the only one running who has voted against NAFTA, voted against CAFTA, voted against Permanent Normal Trade Relations status for China...And, of course, he is currently helping lead the fight against Fast Track & against the TPP.

*Bernie Sanders has 4 children and 7 grandchildren.

*Bernie has lived on a kibbutz.

*Bernie once released a folk album.  Fortunately, he kept his day job...

*Bernie Sanders might well be the most successful politician from the ‘60s generation who has also remained true to the antiwar, anti-authoritarian, independent, progressive spirit & values of the ‘60s.