Bernie Sanders

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U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders

Bernard Sanders (born September 8, 1941)[1] is a U.S. senator from Vermont and currently running for president in the 2020 Democratic Party primary. Sanders served as the mayor of Burlington, Vermont between 1981 and 1989 and was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives between 1991 and 2007. He has served as one of Vermont's senators since 2007.[1]


News and Controversy

2020 campaign

Won Democrats Abroad Primary

On March 23, 2020, Sanders won the Democrats Abroad primary by 25 points.[2]

Potential Paths Forward for Campaign and Shift of Focus to Coronavirus Response

After Sanders's March 17 losses, he trailed Biden by over 300 total pledged delegates.[3] Due to the three-week gap between the March 17 contests and the following primaries, Sanders's campaign had time to explore multiple options for its path forward.[4][5]

Washington Post described three potential options that had been discussed by Sanders's campaign: "One option that has been raised: Keep the campaign technically active with a goal of winning votes and accumulating delegates to the July nominating convention, but forgo attack ads aimed at delegate leader Joe Biden. Another: Stay in the race and aggressively compete for the nomination. A third choice: End the campaign."[4]

As described by Politico, "As he weighs his options, many of Sanders’ aides and allies are urging him to press forward, even if it is nearly impossible to win the nomination at this point. They see a benefit for him in trying to push Joe Biden to the left and continuing to grow the progressive movement."[5]

After the March 17 primaries, Sanders and his campaign shifted their focus to "the government response to the coronavirus outbreak and ensuring that we take care of working people and the most vulnerable". As of March 20, 2020, the global pandemic had caused many states to postpone their presidential primaries, including Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Lousiana, Maryland, Ohio, Puerto Rico, and Wyoming.[6]

By March 21, 2020, Sanders's campaign had raised over $2 million "for several charities that are working to combat the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S."[7]

Lost all March 17, 2020 primaries to Biden by double digits

By March 17, 2020, Sanders and Biden were the only contenders left in the presidential race with a significant number of delegates. In the three scheduled contests on that date, Biden swept Sanders, winning Arizona, Illinois, and Florida by 11 or more points. Biden notably won Florida by over 39 points.[3]

Super Tuesday II

Sanders won the North Dakota caucuses on March 10, 2020, while Biden won four other states, including Michigan, which allocated the largest number of delegates. Following these contests, the Associated Press reported "The Vermont senator’s path to the presidential nomination considerably narrowed after decisive losses to Biden in Michigan, Missouri and Mississippi."[8] Despite facing pressure "to end his presidential bid and work to unify the party against President Donald Trump", Sanders resolved to stay in the race and will attend a March 15 debate scheduled with Biden.[8]

The Associated Press discussed the positive and negative aspects of Sanders leaving the race early, saying: "Should Sanders get out soon, he could save Democrats months of a messy and expensive primary fight. But an early departure would also deprive the Democrats’ most passionate supporters, including many young people, of the one man who embodies the dramatic change they crave. And there is reason to question whether they would rally behind Biden."[8]

Super Tuesday

By the morning of March 4, 2020, Sanders had won four Super Tuesday races: California, Colorado, Utah, and Vermont.[9]

As described by Politico, Super Tuesday "showed the limits of Sanders’ appeal relative to his 2016 candidacy. Two of the states he lost— Minnesota and Oklahoma— Sanders had won in 2016. He was also trailing in Maine [as of March 4], another state he won that year. California, which he lost in 2016, was a glaring exception."[10]

Second-Place Finish in South Carolina

Sanders received second-place in the South Carolina primary, losing to Biden by over 28 points. Of the candidates still in the race for Super Tuesday, only Biden and Sanders received pledged delegates in the state's contest.[11]

Won Nevada Caucuses

Multiple news outlets projected Sanders as the winner of the Nevada caucuses on the evening of February 22, 2020.[12][13][14]

After Sanders won the state by over 26 points, many news outlets reported how his Nevada victory solidified his status as a front-runner to win the Democratic nomination. NBC wrote, "Bernie Sanders heads into South Carolina stronger than ever"[15] NPR wrote, "The 2020 Democratic nomination is now Sen. Bernie Sanders' to lose",[16] and FiveThirtyEight reported, "This was a big, impressive win for Sanders, and it should be even clearer now that Sanders is easily the most likely Democrat to win the nomination."[17]

Won New Hampshire Primary

Multiple news outlets projected Sanders as the winner of the New Hampshire primary the night of February 11, 2020.[18] Pete Buttigieg finished second, and because the senator's margin of victory was less than 2%, both candidates received 9 of New Hampshire's 24 pledged delegates.[19]

Iowa Caucuses

  • Declared Victory in Iowa Three Days After Caucuses

In a February 6, 2020 speech held in Manchester, New Hampshire, Sanders declared victory in the Iowa caucuses, saying, "when 6,000 more people come out for you in an election than your nearest opponent, we here in northern New England call that a victory."[20]

Sanders's speech referred to his numbers in the initial alignment of caucusing Iowa voters. As of the time of the speech, Sanders led Buttigieg by around 2,500 votes in the final vote tallies, which took place after voters had the option to switch candidates. As of this same time, however, Buttigieg maintained a 0.1% lead in state delegate equivalents with 99.94% of the precincts reporting.[21]

On February 11, 2020, the day of the New Hampshire primary, AP was still unable to declare a winner in Iowa.[22] A February 11 article by AP reported that Sanders's campaign had requested a recanvass of the state to double-check votes and that campaigns had the additional option to pay for a full recount after the recanvass was completed.[22]

  • Led Iowa Caucuses Popular Vote with 71% of Precincts Reporting

The results of the Democratic February 3, 2020 Iowa Caucuses were delayed until the following day due to technical failure.[23] As of the morning of February 5, Sanders held a 1.1% lead in the popular vote, but Buttigieg maintained a 1.6% lead in state delegates.[24]

Conflict over Call Script and Sanders's Alleged Comments in Private Meeting to Warren

Throughout 2019, Sanders and Warren remained allied, supporting each other in the early debates when attacked on their Medicare for All plans by centrist Democrats.[25]

By January 2020, however, Politico reported that "The nonaggression pact between Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren is seriously fraying", highlighting a Sanders campaign script which read: "people who support [Warren] are highly-educated, more affluent people who are going to show up and vote Democratic no matter what... she's bringing no new bases into the Democratic Party."[26]

Warren responded to the news by saying "I was disappointed to hear that Bernie is sending his volunteers out to trash me", while Sanders claimed he had never seen nor approved the memo, saying "I have never said a negative word about Elizabeth Warren who is a friend of mine. We have differences of issues, that’s what the campaign is about, but no one is going to be attacking Elizabeth."[27]

Shortly after the Politico story, CNN reported Sanders had told Warren in a 2018 private meeting that a woman couldn't win the presidency.[28] Sanders denied the claim, while "Warren herself backed up this account of the meeting, saying in part in a statement Monday, 'I thought a woman could win; he disagreed.'"[28]

An article in The Guardian shortly before the January 2020 debate speculated that the Sanders-Warren conflict would help Biden's chances of winning the nomination.[29]

January 2020 Debate

In the January 2020 Democratic debate, hosted by CNN, Sanders's alleged statements in the private meeting came up.[30] Sanders denied the accusation, pointing out that in 2015, he encouraged Warren to run in the Democratic primary and waited for her to decline before announcing his own bid for the presidency. He also reminded viewers that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in 2016 by over 3 million votes.[31]

Following Sanders's statement, the debate moderator sided with Warren's account of the meeting, framing the next question: "Sen. Warren, what did you think when Sen. Sanders told you a woman could not win the election?" to which Warren responded, "I disagreed".[31]

After the debate, Warren appeared to refuse Sanders's handshake.[30][32] CNN released the audio of the confrontation a day after the debate. Warren said, "I think you called me a liar on national TV", to which Sanders responded, "You know, let's not do it right now. If you want to have that discussion, we'll have that discussion". The two then agreed to meet at another time.[33]

After the debate, CNN drew criticism from progressive journalists, who claimed "Democrats assembled in Iowa Tuesday night for the opportunity to take him on in the upcoming general election. This time, though, it was CNN moderators who brought out the bat and swung it hard at Sen. Bernie Sanders"[34] and "CNN was so consistently aligned against Bernie Sanders that it compromised its claim to journalistic neutrality."[35]

Sanders Suffered Heart Attack

On October 1, 2019, while campaigning in Nevada, Sanders suffered a heart attack.[36] Sanders survived the heart attack and held a rally called "Bernie's Back" in Queens, New York on October 21. The rally was attended by an estimated 26,000 and featured U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who endorsed him there.[37] Later in 2019, doctors declared Sanders to be in good health.[36]

Media Bias Against Sanders

Writing for Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), progressive journalist Katie Halper highlighted bias against Sanders by New York Times journalist Sydney Ember, claiming Ember often quotes "as neutral authorities individuals who are on the other side of a wide ideological divide, with longstanding antipathies to Sanders’ left socioeconomic perspective. Moreover, many of these 'experts' are corporate lobbyists, whose work in a particular area is not guided by academic, journalistic or other professional standards, but by the economic and political interests of their clients."[38]

In another FAIR piece, Halper pointed criticism at MSNBC, claiming "The cable news network has repeatedly made on-air and online mistakes about Sanders’ polling and other numbers— always to his detriment, and never with any official correction" and highlighting other coverage which mischaracterized his percentage of female donors and falsely accused him of ignoring race and gender in his campaign kickoff speech.[39]

Other sources have also criticized MSNBC for "systemic bias" against Sanders.[40]A March 2019 article in The Intercept, talking about MSNBC coverage of Sanders, claimed the media organization "systematically and deliberately refuses to adopt a defining attribute of a news outlet: a willingness to acknowledge factual errors, correct them, and apologize."[41]

Controversial Nonprofit Status of Our Revolution

After his 2016 run concluded, Sanders founded Our Revolution, a group who mission he described as "fighting at the grassroots level for changes in their local school boards, in their city councils, in their state legislatures and in their representation in Washington."[42] Our Revolution was founded as a nonprofit and shortly before its launch, many staff members resigned in protest, "unhappy with the way [Jeff] Weaver had managed Sanders’ primary campaign, as well as having concerns over Our Revolution’s 501(c)(4) status."[43]

Many Sanders supporters criticized the choice to make Our Revolution a nonprofit. The group's former data and analytics director commented: "We have an enormous core of dedicated volunteers. But when Our Revolution was set up as a 501(c)(4), that prevented us from mobilizing that big pool of Bernie supporters to work jointly with [a Congressional] campaign to get out the vote."[44]

Our Revolution has also been criticized because its nonprofit status means it does not need to disclose its donors.[42][45]

In January 2020, the right-wing publication The Daily Caller reported: "Our Revolution received $9.5 million in contributions since 2016 through 2018, but unlike Super PACs, which Sanders often decries, the group is not required to disclose the identity of its donors. Our Revolution reported in its 2018 tax filing that it received contributions of $218,309 and $195,000, but didn’t list the name of the individual or group behind those donations. Our Revolution does disclose on its website the names of donors who have given $250 or more in a single year, but it doesn’t disclose the exact amount each individual has given."[46]

According to Our Revolution's website, "Because of our commitment to transparency, donors who have given $250 or more in a single year are disclosed voluntarily. In addition, annual contributions from a single source are limited to $5,000 unless approved by a majority vote of the Board of Directors."[47]

2016 primary run

Won 22 States, 43% of Popular Vote

Sanders ran for president in 2016 and emerged as the most successful challenger to Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary. Sanders won 22 states,[48] but ended up losing to Clinton, who won the popular vote 55.2% to 43.1% (around 16.9 million vs. 13.2 million total votes).[49][50]

Sanders Supporters Won Progressive Aspects of Democratic Party Platform

Despite losing the nomination, Sanders was allowed to choose five members of the drafting committee at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, who fought to include his political stances in the 2016 Democratic Party platform. His nominees included activist and public intellectual Cornell West and environmental activist Bill McKibben.[51]

Clinton's and Sanders's appointees discussed the Israel-Palestine conflict; Sanders supporters wanted to "exclude references to Jerusalem as belonging wholly to Israel... and consider language that labels Israeli settlements in the West Bank 'an occupation'", but Clinton's backers' views largely won out.[52] The final 2016 Democratic party platform claimed "Jerusalem... should remain the capital of Israel" and affirmed the party's support for "Israel’s right to defend itself, including by retaining its qualitative military edge, and oppose any effort to delegitimize Israel, including at the United Nations or through the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement."[53]

Sanders supporters won a party commitment to raising the minimum wage to $15/hour, abolishing the death penalty, legalizing marijuana, and expanding social security.[54] Other positions held by Sanders, such as opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, a ban on fracking, and support for single-payer healthcare, did not make it into the party platform.[54][55]

Many sources credited Sanders and his supporters for helping craft the "most progressive Democratic party platform in modern history."[56][57][58]

Criticism of Superdelegates' Influence on the Democratic Primary

During the primary, the influence of superdelegates, largely consisting of members of the Democratic Party establishment, overwhelmingly supported Clinton. Clinton's large lead in superdelegates gave her a substantial delegate advantage before voters went to the polls. As described in May 2016 by Huffington Post, "Hillary Clinton entered Super Tuesday in March in a virtual tie in pledged delegates with both candidates holding just about 50 pledged delegates, yet she held the support of nearly 400 super delegates. This early lead created the visual that Sanders could not defeat her for many voters, clearly affecting the race."[59]

During the primary, Sanders supporters criticized superdelegates, calling for them to "align yourself with regular voters- not party elites."[60] By 2018, the Democratic National Committee had changed superdelegate rules, preventing them "from voting on the first ballot to choose the party's presidential nominee unless a candidate has secured a majority of the convention using only pledged delegates, whose votes are earned during the primary process."[61]

Civil Rights Activism

While in college at the University of Chicago, Sanders engaged in civil rights activism. He helped lead a sit-in protesting segregated student housing in 1961, was arrested in 1963 for protesting segregated schooling, and attended the 1963 March on Washington, where Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous "I Have a Dream" speech.[62][63]

Sanders was the chairman of the University of Chicago chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and merged the group with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).[62]

Notable Votes

For a more complete picture of Sen. Bernie Sanders's voting record, visit Vote Smart.

2002 Opposition to the Iraq War

Sanders has been vocal in his presidential campaigns about his vote opposing the Iraq War. In 2016, he criticized Hillary Clinton's vote in favor of the war[64] and in his current campaign, he has attacked Joe Biden for the same.[65] Both Clinton and Biden were among the 77 senators who voted in favor of the war, while Sanders was among the 23 who voted against it.[66]

Political Stances

Sanders is squarely among the most progressive U.S. politicians and is seen by many as the most progressive choice in the 2020 race.[67][68][69]

Sanders introduced Medicare for All legislation in 2019.[70] His campaign website claims Medicare for All will lead to "No networks, no premiums, no deductibles, no copays, no surprise bills." and "Medicare coverage will be expanded and improved to include:... dental, hearing, vision, and home- and community-based long-term care, in-patient and out-patient services, mental health and substance abuse treatment, reproductive and maternity care, prescription drugs, and more."[71]

Sanders's campaign website details his support of several issues, including the Green New Deal[72], raising taxes on Americans with a net worth of over $32 million to "raise an estimated $4.35 trillion over the next decade",[73] and free public universities and elimination of all student loan debt.[74]

Identifies as Independent in Congress

In Congress, Sanders has served as an independent who caucuses with Democrats. However, rules enacted by the Democratic Party before his 2020 run required him to file as a Democrat for his presidential run. According to National Public Radio, "Sanders' ambiguous party loyalty was one reason the Democratic National Committee adopted rules for 2020 candidates to affirm that they are, in fact, a Democrat, and will run and serve as one."[75] Sanders, however, was still allowed to simultaneously file for a potential 2024 Senate run as an Independent.[75]

Inspiration from Early 18th Century American Socialists and Scandinavian Countries

Eugene V. Debs, who founded the Socialist Party of America in 1901, helped inspire Sanders's political views.[76] Sanders made a documentary in 1979 in which he voiced Debs.[77]

In a 1990 interview, Sanders clarified his political views, saying "To me, socialism doesn’t mean state ownership of everything, by any means, it means creating a nation, and a world, in which all human beings have a decent standard of living."[78]

While Sanders shied away from the term "socialist" during the beginning of his political career, he had fully embraced the label of "Democratic Socialist" by the early 2000's. He frequently points to Scandinavian society as an example of his brand of democratic socialism, saying "there is a lot to be learned from countries that have created more egalitarian societies than has the United States of America."[78]


National Polling Average

According to data collected by FiveThirtyEight before the Iowa caucuses, Sanders fluctuated between second and third in national polling average, behind Joe Biden and competing with Elizabeth Warren for second place. In late November, Sanders began to overtake Warren in national polling and he remained in second place throughout December 2019 and January 2020.[79]

Sanders overtook Biden in national polling average on February 10, 2020,[79] but after winning a majority of states on both Super Tuesday contests, Biden regained a lead of between 15 and 20 points throughout most of March.[80]

Early State Polling Averages

According to FiveThirtyEight, Sanders's polling average of 22.2% in Iowa had him in first place on February 3, 2020, the day of the state's caucuses. Throughout 2019, Sanders fluctuated between second and fourth place, but his polling improved in 2020 and he broke 20% in January.[81]

In New Hampshire, the second state to vote, Sanders's polling average of 21.9% has him in first place. Throughout 2019, Sanders has polled between first and third place.[82]

In Nevada and South Carolina, the following scheduled voting states, Sanders is in second place behind Biden. According to the most recent polling as of mid-January 2020, Sanders trailed Biden by single digits in Nevada but Biden enjoyed a 20+ point lead over all other candidates in South Carolina.[83] [84]


Fourth-Quarter Fundraising

According to Sanders's campaign, he raised $34.5 in the fourth quarter of 2019, $9.8 million more than the nearest Democratic competitor. In the fourth quarter, the campaign also announced it had received over 5 million contributions, more than any other presidential candidate of either party.[85] During this period, his average donation size was $18.53, lower than Warren's and Buttigieg's (Biden has not released average donation numbers).[86]

Core Financials

From the Federal Election Commission as of February 2020:[87]

  • Total raised: $134,268,972.81
  • Total spent: $122,809,504.51
  • Cash on hand: $16,835,494.84

Source of Funds

As of September 2019:[88] (percentages may not add up to 100)

Contribution Size Amount Percentage of Total
Large contributions $47,010,885 35.11%
Small individual contributions (< $200) $73,942,140 55.23%
Other (likely transfer from previous campaigns)[89] $12,934,495 9.66%

Top Contributors

From OpenSecrets:[90] "The money came from the organizations' PACs; their individual members, employees or owners; and those individuals' immediate families" (Only top 15 contributors shown).[90]

Contributor Amount
University of California $297,781
Alphabet Inc (parent company of Google) $296,622
Amazon $212,872
Microsoft Corp $165,590
US Postal Service $146,826
Apple Inc $145,204
City of New York, NY $131,306
Kaiser Permanente $119,757
AT&T Inc $103,864
Walmart, Inc. $91,645
US Army $88,620
US Dept of Veterans Affairs $81,885
US Navy $81,543
US Air Force $80, 306
State of California $78,761

Expenditures Breakdown

From OpenSecrets:[91]

Type Amount Percentage of total
Salaries $12,976,395 32.46%
Fundraising $6,823,013 17.06%
All Other $6,006,143 15.02%
Administrative $5,555,270 13.89%
Unclassifiable $5,023,969 8.07%
Media $3,596,297 8.99%
Top Vendors/Recipients

From Open Secrets:[91]

Recipient Amount
Adp LLC $3,573,908
Aisle 518 Strategies $3,490,588
ActBlue $2,246,183
Tigereye Designs $1,379,326
Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Vermont $1,122,912
Haystaqdna LLC $779,000
Sinclair Strategies $628,391
Yellow Leaf LLC $553,503
Macmillan Publishers $467,542
Hotels.Com $436,914
Apollo Jets $378,356
Tulchin Research $346,582
Production Management One $327,302
US Postal Service $311,678
Twilio Inc $307,475
Dwf V 1133 15th $299,017
First Step Print Shop $272,574
Foster Garvey PC $261,632
Front Runner Productions $249,825
Maverick Strategies & Mail $233,827
Solidarity Strategies $229,042
Egencia $222,618
Revolution Messaging $216,957
XL Graphics $207,579
Gordon & Schwenkmeyer $197,776

Outside Spending in Favor of Sanders

As described by OpenSecrets, "Organizations and individuals looking to do more than just write a check to their favorite candidates can spend unlimited money-- independently-- to buy ads, send mail or otherwise advocate for the election or defeat of specific candidates. Corporations, labor unions and ideological groups may also spend directly on these activities as a result of the Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. FEC. They cannot coordinate with candidates or parties."[92] (Only top 10 contributors shown).

Committee Amount in Support of Sanders
Vote Nurses Values PAC $641,776
National Nurses United for Patient Protection $69,738
Sunrise PAC $60,711
Democratic Socialists of America $48,760
Popular Democracy PAC $19,500
Dream Defenders Fight PAC $16,199
People's Action $13,509
Democratic Socialists of America/East Bay $10,564
Democracy for America $10,000
Democratic Socialists of America/Seattle $2,572

Outside Spending Opposing Sanders

Taken from OpenSecrets:[92] (Only expenditures above $5,000 shown)

Committee Amount Opposing Sanders
Democratic Majority for Israel $800,000
Club for Growth Action $59,077

Independent Spending for Biden and Warren Far Exceeded That for Sanders

A Center for Media and Democracy report published after Super Tuesday investigated the outside spending for Biden, Sanders, and Warren and found that "When subtracting the negative outside spending from the positive spending, Warren’s net outside spending total is +$15 million. Biden’s is +$8.2 million. Bernie’s is far below, at -$5 million."[93]


As of February 2020, Sanders was fourth in endorsement points behind Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, and Michael Bloomberg, according to FiveThirtyEight's endorsement tracker. The prediction website ranks endorsements based on their position within the party. For example, former presidents and vice presidents are worth 10 points, governors are worth 8 points, U.S. senators are 6 points, and U.S. representatives are 3 points.[94]

By October 2019, Sanders's notable endorsements included Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ihlan Omar, and Rashida Tlaib, three members of "The Squad", "a group of four freshmen congresswomen of color who have rallied around progressive policy views."[95] The fourth member of "The Squad", Ayanna Presley, endorsed Elizabeth Warren.[96]

Endorsed By Top Members of Congressional Progressive Caucus

In January 2020, Mark Pocan and Pramila Jayapal endorsed Sanders as well. Following their endorsements, Sanders had secured support from the top four members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus: co-chairs Pocan and Jayapal, first vice chair Ro Khanna, and whip Ihlan Omar.[97]

Notably, Sanders was one of the original founders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and served as its first chair in 1991.[1]


  • 1964: B.S. in political science, University of Chicago[1]


  • Mayor of Burlington, Vermont, 1981-1989[1]
  • U.S. Representative from Vermont, 1991-2007
  • U.S. Senator from Vermont, 2007-present

Campaign Media

Campaign website: Bernie 2020
Facebook: @BernieSanders
Instagram: @BernieSanders
Twitter (presidential campaign account): @BernieSanders
Twitter (senate account): @SenSanders
Youtube: Bernie Sanders

Related SourceWatch


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