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Bernie Sanders- Political Career

Updated on March 27, 2016

Meet Bernie Sanders in 3 Minutes [CC] by captions for Bernie

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Bernie's Political Experience & Actions

Early Life and School

Bernie Sanders was raised by his Poland-immigrant Father and New York high school graduate Mother in Brooklyn, New York.(1) Bernie attended Booklyn College for one year and later transferred and graduated from University of Chicago in 1964, with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. He then attended New York's New School for Social Research for graduate school(8), but dropped out a year later(9). Bernie was drafted for the Vietnam War, but fought it, citing Conscientious Objector status. By the time the investigation was complete, he was too old to be officially drafted.(9) He worked odd jobs as a Head Start teacher, psychiatric aide, and carpenter. He moved to Vermont because he enjoyed small town life.(8)

1960's: College and Early Activism

Bernie's political career seems to have begun while he attended college at the University of Chicago in the 1960's. During this time, Bernie led and was involved in many social movements in his community. He was a member of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) group, which fought racial injustices such as segregated housing, and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Bernie was influenced during this time by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and was present during his "I Have A Dream" speech in Washington, D.C..(1)

1970's: First Elections and Mayor-ship

In 1972, at age 31, Bernie ran for a U.S. Senate seat in Vermont and later ran in a gubernatorial election, where he won 2% and 1% of votes, respectively. He ran again for state senate in 1974, where he won 4% of the vote. In 1976, he ran for Governor and won 7% of the vote. Bernie then ran against 6-term Mayor in 1981 in Burlington, Vermont, and won the mayor-ship by 10 votes, as an Independent candidate. In 1983, Bernie was re-elected as mayor, with 52% of the votes. This election began to show his ability to draw in new voters, as voter turnout was a record high of over 10,000 voters.(1)(2) During this time, Bernie created the Burlington Community Land Trust, which was the first municipal land trust in the country for affordable housing, and won him an award from Jack Kemp, the Republican HUD-Director in 1989-1993(1)(3). Bernie was re-elected in 1985 as Mayor for a third term.(1)

1990's: House of Representatives and Early Legislation

In 1990, Bernie was the first Independent elected to the House in 40 years, where he served as the sole congressman of Vermont for 8 terms.As a congressman, Bernie voted against sending American militia to the Gulf War in 1991. His first passed legislation was the creation of the National Program of Cancer Registries, which eventually helped all 50 states create a cancer registry, where researches can share and gather information. Bernie toured Mexico and decided to vote against President Clinton's North American Free Trade Agreement, which Bernie believed would drive American corporations to Mexico, due to the ability to hire local workers at lower (unfair) pay. In 1996, Bernie voted against the Defense of Marriage Act, citing the obvious discriminatory nature of the bill. In 1999, Bernie continued his community organizing, and assisted people living with cancer in purchasing cancer fighting drugs in Canada, where they are much more affordable and available than in the United States.(1) (Although not technically legal, the FDA and other government officials have decided not to prosecute as long as you have a prescription, the drugs are not narcotics or controlled substances, and you get 3 months or less of a supply.)(4) During this time, Bernie also spoke out against IBM's decision to cut pensions of older workers by 50% and was inspired to pass amendments that led to IBM's cuts being deemed a violation of pension age discrimination laws and a large settlement for those employees effected.(1) In 1999, Bernie was in the minority of voting against the repeal, but Congress repealed the Glass-Steagall laws, which were enacted during the Great Depression to separate commercial and investment banking.(1)(5) Author, James Rickards, wrote in US News that "the financial crisis might not have happened at all but for the 1999 repeal of the Glass-Steagall law".(5)

2000's: Senate and More Activism

Bernie voted against the USA Patriot Act in 2001, 2006, and 2011, because he felt that although protection is important, it must "not undermine basic freedoms". Bernie also voted against American involvement in the Iraq war, worried that it would “result in anti-Americanism, instability and more terrorism.” Keeping with this theme for basic freedoms and privacy, Bernie passed an amendment which prevented the United States government from accessing library book rental and book purchasing records of individuals. This amendment was later removed. In 2006, Bernie finally won the Vermont senate seat as an Independent.(1) Over the next few years, Bernie showed his commitment to sustainability with the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program, co-authored with Democratic Senator Robert Menendez and the Green Jobs Act, co-authored with then Democratic Senator Hilary Clinton.(6) In 2008, Bernie helped allocate funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which provides a subsidy for low income families to pay their utility bills (electric and sometimes water).(1) The same year, Bernie partnered with Republican Senator Chuck Grassley to pass the Sanders-Grassley Amendment to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which prevents Wall Street banks who are using taxpayer bailouts to replace workers who were laid-off with cheaper, foreign workers.(1)(7) In 2009, Bernie made an addition to the Affordable Care Act, which allows companies to receive waivers until 2017 in order to plan better for "Obama Care" requirements. Bernie was very active in the drafting and passing of the Affordable Care Act in general.(1)

2010's: Senate and Presidential Candidacy

In 2010, Bernie and Republican Congressman, Ron Paul, added a measure to the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform bill, which implicated the Federal Reserve in giving near-zero interest loans to big banks (and possibly a major cause of the 2008 depression). Bernie also spoke out against President Obama and Republican's push to continue tax breaks for America's wealthiest families. In 2012, Bernie became the chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. Bernie and Republican Speaker of the House, John Boehner, led in the fight against a chained-CPI (a way of measuring cost of living index which results in lower than expected income of social security, including Veteran's benefits) proposal by President Obama in 2013.(1)(10) In 2013, Bernie introduced the Too Big to Fail, Too Big to Exist Act, a third of its kind that seeks to break up businesses that are so big, if they fail, they could have major impact on American economy (possibly another depression).(1)(11) Bernie, Republican Senators, John McCain and Jeff Miller, successfully wrote and passed the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014, which seeks to improve Veterans' care and other programs.(12) Bernie became the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee in early 2015. Bernie voted against the Keystone XL pipeline, which stopped the pipeline from would carrying 800,000 barrels per day of tar sands oil from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.(1)(13) In May 2015, Bernie announced his bid to run for the United States' Presidency.

Bernie Sanders

"Bernie Sanders penned an opinion piece in the Washington Post detailing his argument for free tuition at public colleges."
"Bernie Sanders penned an opinion piece in the Washington Post detailing his argument for free tuition at public colleges." | Source

References for this section:

(1) Bernie Sanders Official Website

(2) Burlington, Vermont Mayor Race Voting Records

(3) Jack Kemp Wiki Page

(4) Elder Law Answers on Buying Prescription Drugs from Canada

(5) US News article on the Repeal of Glass-Steagall

(6) Grist Article on Bernie’s Green Achievements

(7) Press Release on the Sanders-Grassley Amendment

(8) Bernie Sanders Wiki Page

(9) The Atlantic Article on Bernie Sanders as Mayor

(10) Chained CPI Information

(11) Article on Bernie’s Too Big to Fail, Too Big to Exist Act

(12) Article on Bernie’s successful leadership during the passing of the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014

(13) Stop the Keyston XL Pipeline Movement Website

Britney Kay

The author of this Hub is a life-long resident of a small desert town in Southern California. She earned an AA in Liberal Studies from Victor Valley College and then a BA in Social Work from California State University Los Angeles. She then obtained a substitute teaching credential and worked in a nonpublic school for children with autism spectrum disorders and emotional disturbance diagnoses. She then spent one year working for Children and Family services as both an intake and carrier worker. She attended the University of Denver in Colorado after earning $20,000 in scholarships and grants. She received an MA in Social Work, with a concentration on Children and Youth: Risks and Healthy Development and a master's level certificate in Animal-Assisted Social Work. Britney currently resides in Southern California with her mother, son, younger sister, brother-in-law, partner, and their six cats and dogs.


Please keep an eye out for my future articles on other Presidential candidates and separate articles on their platforms and positions on key issues. Next up: Donald Trump.


Bernie's Political Offices

Office Held
Years Active
Presidential Hopeful
Chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs
U.S. Senator (Vermont)
U.S. Representative (Vermont)
Mayor of Burlington, Vermont
Liberty Union Party Member
Young People's Socialist League Member
Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) Member
Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee Member
Student Peace Union Member
Environment and Public Works Committee
Energy and Natural Resources Committee
Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee

5 Quick Facts



I will not lie, I am a Bernie supporter. I attempted to only report the factual account of Bernie's political movements and I plan on doing the same with other Presidential candidates in the future. I only wish to educate readers and in no way wish to sway your decisions or create arguments. I am open to any thoughts, suggestions, or political discourse, but I urge you to be calm, respectful, and factual. Feel free to send me a private message.

Comments and Questions

Thank you for reading this Hub. If you are to comment, please be respectful and courteous of the author and other readers.


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    • MrsBkay profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Southern California Desert

      Current polls show otherwise :)

    • emge profile image

      MG Singh emge 

      5 years ago from Singapore

      Good writeup on Bernie, but he has zero chance, good or bad


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