U.S. Senator from Vermont
U.S. Representative for Vermont's At-large
Mayor of Burlington
Bernard "Bernie" Sanders is the junior United States Senator from Vermont, a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Vermont's at-large congressional district, and former Mayor of Burlington, Vermont. He has taken positions on many political issues, both through his public comments and based on his senatorial voting record. In 2015, he announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States in the 2016 election.
Sanders described himself as a "democratic socialist" and an admirer of the Nordic model practiced in the Scandinavian countries. In an address on his political philosophy given at Georgetown University in November 2015, Sanders identified his conception of "democratic socialism" with Franklin D. Roosevelt's proposal for a Second Bill of Rights, saying that democratic socialism means creating "an economy that works for all, not just the very wealthy," reforming the political system (which Sanders says is "grossly unfair" and "in many respects, corrupt"), recognizing health care and education as rights, protecting the environment, and creating a "vibrant democracy based on the principle of one person, one vote."
Academic commentators have pointed out that the identification of Sanders' political platform and ideology with "democratic socialism" is inaccurate. Samuel Goldman, assistant professor of political science at George Washington University, states that Sanders' platform is not socialist and is better described as "welfarism" reminiscent of the 1950s that aims to regulate rather than to replace capitalism. Goldman notes that he does not advocate public ownership of the means of production, nor does he seek to abolish the profit system - both of which are defining characteristics of socialism. Lane Kenworthy, professor of sociology at the University of California at San Diego, has stated that Sanders is a social democrat and not a democratic socialist, and that the two ideologies are fundamentally different from each other. Kenworthy points out that social democracy does not aim to abolish capitalism, and argues that Sanders' use of the term "socialism" when he actually advocates "social democracy" is causing more confusion than it is adding value, and might unnecessarily have a negative impact on his presidential campaign. Mike Konczal, an economic policy expert at the Roosevelt Institute, also characterizes Sanders' positions as "social democracy" rather than "socialist", noting that social democracy means support for a mixed economy combining private enterprise with government spending, social insurance programs, Keynesian macroeconomic policies, and democratic participation in government and the workplace - all of which are a part of Sanders' platform. Andrei Markovits, professor of political science at the University of Michigan, defines democratic socialism as "an attempt to create a property-free, socialist society" and something that does not exist in Denmark or anywhere else in the world, and argues that Sanders' definition is inaccurate. Bhaskar Sunkara, the founder, editor, and publisher of the socialist journal Jacobin, also considers Sanders to be a social democrat and not a socialist. Noted scholar, social critic, and political activist Professor Noam Chomsky has commented that, while Bernie Sanders might call himself a socialist, he is actually an "honest New Dealer" as opposed to being an actual socialist.
American socialists and representatives belonging to the Democratic Socialists of America, Socialist Workers Party and Socialist Party USA have criticized Sanders, arguing that he is not a socialist because he aims to reform capitalism rather than to replace it with an entirely different socialist system. Despite these criticisms however, the Democratic Socialists of America "strongly support" his campaign for President. Former colleague of Sanders, Peter Diamondstone, claimed Sanders was once a socialist during his time in the Liberty Union Party but later moved away from the ideology and is no longer a true socialist.
What we have seen is that while the average person is working longer hours for lower wages, we have seen a huge increase in income and wealth inequality, which is now reaching obscene levels. This is a rigged economy, which works for the rich and the powerful, and is not working for ordinary Americans … You know, this country just does not belong to a handful of billionaires.
Sanders supports repeal of some of the tax deductions that benefit hedge funds and corporations, and would raise taxes on capital gains and the wealthiest one percent of Americans. He would use some of the added revenues to lower the taxes of the middle and lower classes. Sanders has suggested that he would be open to a 90% top marginal tax rate (a rate that last existed during the years after World War II) for the wealthiest earners, as well as a 52% top income tax bracket. He has proposed a top marginal rate of 65% for the federal estate tax, up from the current 40% rate.
On May 6, 2015, Sanders introduced legislation to break up "too big to fail" financial institutions. With three of the four banks that were bailed out during the 2007–08 Global Financial Crisis now larger than they were then, Sanders believes that "no single financial institution should have holdings so extensive that its failure would send the world economy into crisis. If an institution is too big to fail, it is too big to exist." As a representative from Vermont, Sanders opposed the Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act, signed into law in 1999 by then president Bill Clinton, which repealed the provision of the Glass–Steagall Act that prevents any financial institution from acting as both a securities firm and a commercial bank. Sanders supports legislation sponsored by Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) to re-instate Glass–Steagall.
In his “Plan to Rebuild America”, the January 27, 2015 legislative proposal he co-sponsored with Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), the ranking member of the appropriations committee, and backed by the American Society of Civil Engineers, the AFL-CIO and other trade unions, Sanders insisted on the pivotal role played by infrastructure investments: “For too many years, we have dramatically underfunded the physical infrastructure that our economy depends on. That is why I have proposed the Rebuild America Act, to invest $1 trillion over five years to modernize our infrastructure […] Importantly, the Rebuild America Act will support more than thirteen million good-paying jobs – jobs that our economy desperately needs.” 
While clearly rooted in the Rooseveltian, progressivist tradition, this policy proposal also reflects, more generally, the pre-Reagan Era bipartisan American policy consensus, which was more favorable to the notion of infrastructure spending and infrastructure-driven development.
Sanders is opposed to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, which he has called "a continuation of other disastrous trade agreements, like NAFTA, CAFTA, and permanent normal trade relations with China." He believes that free trade agreements have led to a loss of American jobs and have depressed American wages. Sanders has said that America needs to rebuild its own manufacturing base by using American factories and supporting well-paying jobs for American labor rather than outsourcing to China and other countries.
According to Sanders, TPP undermines US's sovereignty: TPP grants multinational corporations power to sue a national government in UN and World Bank tribunals over lost profits (including those yet to be made) due to the regulations about labor, health and environment that the government imposed. The tribunals can require US's taxpayer to pay compensation.
Sanders was committed to creating job growth through infrastructure development and manufacturing, saying "America once led the world in building and maintaining a nationwide network of safe and reliable bridges and roads. Today, nearly a quarter of the nation's 600,000 bridges have been designated as structurally deficient or functionally obsolete...Almost one-third of America's major roads are in poor or mediocre condition...," Sanders has introduced amendments to Senate bills (S.Amendt.323) that promote the creation of millions of middle-class jobs by investing in infrastructure, paid for by closing loopholes in the corporate and international tax system. He also supports legislation that would make it easier for workers to join or form a union. Sanders' campaign website also has focused on the concerns of both the long-term unemployed and the underemployed, citing that "the real unemployment rate is much higher than the “official” figure typically reported in the newspapers. When you include workers who have given up looking for jobs, or those who are working part-time when they want to work full-time, the real number is much higher than official figures would suggest."
Sanders has said that there is a very important role for free enterprise and economic growth, especially for small business and entrepreneurs, but that the competitive landscape in the United States has become unfair, favoring large corporations. He has also said that economic growth needs to serve people and that growth for the sake enriching the top 1% does not serve the country's interests. He has said that he would accept a reduction in economic growth in order to increase fairness and reduce economic inequality.
Sanders supports the establishment of worker-owned cooperatives and introduced legislation in June 2014 that would aid workers who wanted to "form their own businesses or to set up worker-owned cooperatives." As early as 1976, Sanders was a proponent of workplace democracy, saying, "I believe that, in the long run, major industries in this state and nation should be publicly owned and controlled by the workers themselves."
In 1987, Sanders defined democracy as public ownership and workers' self-management in the workplace, stating that "Democracy means public ownership of the major means of production, it means decentralization, it means involving people in their work. Rather than having bosses and workers it means having democratic control over the factories and shops to as great a degree as you can."
Noting that American corporations are collectively holding more than $1 trillion in profits in offshore tax haven countries, Sanders has introduced legislation that would crack down on offshore tax havens by requiring companies to pay the top U.S. corporate tax rate on profits held abroad. On his website Sanders offers examples of large American companies that paid no federal taxes and even received tax refunds, with many of them receiving large amounts in financial assistance during the recent financial crisis and continuing to receive billions in subsidies. Sanders feels this is unfair and damages America's economy, believing the money used for refunds and subsidies should instead be invested in American small businesses and the working people.
Sanders believes global warming is a serious problem. Along with Senator Barbara Boxer, Sanders introduced the Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act of 2007 on January 15, 2007. In a July 26, 2012 speech on the Senate floor, Sanders addressed claims made by Senator Jim Inhofe: "The bottom line is when Senator Inhofe says global warming is a hoax, he is just dead wrong, according to the vast majority of climate scientists." He was Climate Hawks Vote's top-rated senator on climate leadership in the 113th Congress.
Believing that "[we need to] transform our energy system away from fossil fuel," Sanders voted against the Keystone Pipeline bill, saying, "Unless we get our act together, the planet that we're going to be leaving to our kids and grandchildren will be significantly less habitable than the planet we have right now...I think it's a good idea for the president, Congress, and the American people to listen to the overwhelming amount of scientists who tell us loudly and clearly that climate change is one of the great planetary crises that we face."
Sanders also stands with the Great Sioux Nation in opposition to the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, stating:
Like the Keystone XL pipeline, which I opposed since day one, the Dakota Access fracked oil pipeline, will transport some of the dirtiest fuel on the planet. Regardless of the court’s decision, the Dakota Access pipeline must be stopped. As a nation, our job is to break our addiction to fossil fuels, not increase our dependence on oil. I join with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the many tribal nations fighting this dangerous pipeline.
Following the 2011 Japanese nuclear accidents, Sanders called for a moratorium on the licensing of new nuclear plants and re-licensing of existing ones, in an effort to slow down what has been touted as a nuclear renaissance in the United States. Sanders wrote to President Obama asking him to appoint a special commission to review the safety of U.S. nuclear plants. Sanders also wants to repeal the Price–Anderson Act, which leaves the taxpayers to pay most of the costs of a major nuclear accident. He says, "in a free-enterprise system, the nuclear industry should be required to insure itself against accidents."
Sanders has gone on record against the government financial backing of the nuclear industry, which he calls "nuclear welfare". Additionally, he expresses concern over the logistics and fiscal challenges of nuclear waste. He has spoken in favor of sustainable alternatives and cites Vermont as a state leading such endeavors, saying in regard to opposition of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's 2011 extension (just one week after the Japanese accidents) of the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant's operating license, "In my state there is a strong feeling that we want to go forward with energy efficiency and sustainable energy. I believe that we have that right. I believe that every other state in the country has that right. If we want to move to sustainable energy and not maintain an aging, trouble-plagued nuclear power plant, I think we should be allowed to do that."
Sanders supports the DISCLOSE Act, which would make campaign finances more transparent and ban U.S. corporations controlled by foreign interests from making political expenditures. He has been outspoken in calling for an overturn of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, in which the Supreme Court overturned McCain-Feingold restrictions on political spending by corporations and unions as a violation of the First Amendment. Saying that he believes that the Citizens United decision is "one of the Supreme Court's worst decisions ever" and that it has allowed big money to "deflect attention from the real issues" facing voters, he has proposed a constitutional amendment to undo the ruling. He warns: "We now have a political situation where billionaires are literally able to buy elections and candidates."
In 2007, Sanders testified to the Vermont Senate Government Operations Committee that he "strongly supports instant-runoff voting" because it "allows people to vote for what they really want without worrying about the possibility of them getting what they really don't want." The committee and legislature ultimately passed legislation that would have enacted instant runoff voting for U.S. Representatives and U.S. Senators, but the governor vetoed it.
Sanders has been a leader in calling for media reform and opposes increased concentration of ownership of media outlets, as well as being a contributing author for OpEdNews. He appeared in Orwell Rolls in His Grave and Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism, two documentaries on the subject.
Early in Sanders' career he had praised the Cuban government for their reforms, including widespread education and health care in Cuba. On April 14, 2015, after the White House announced that President Barack Obama intended to remove Cuba from the United States’ list of nations that sponsor terrorism, Sanders issued a statement saying: “While we have our strong differences with Cuba, it is not a terrorist state. I applaud President Obama for moving aggressively to develop normal diplomatic relations. Fifty years of Cold War is enough. It is time for Cuba and the United States to turn the page and normalize relations.”
Sanders supports the agreement with Iran reached by President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry. While calling it less than a perfect agreement, he believes that the United States needs to negotiate with Iran rather than enter in another war in the Middle East.
Sanders strongly opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq and voted against the 2002 resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq. In a 2002 speech, he said, "I am opposed to giving the President a blank check to launch a unilateral invasion and occupation of Iraq" and "I will vote against this resolution. One, I have not heard any estimates of how many young American men and women might die in such a war or how many tens of thousands of women and children in Iraq might also be killed. As a caring Nation, we should do everything we can to prevent the horrible suffering that a war will cause. War must be the last recourse in international relations, not the first. Second, I am deeply concerned about the precedent that a unilateral invasion of Iraq could establish in terms of international law and the role of the United Nations."
Sanders has called the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) "a barbaric organization" and "a growing threat," but does not believe that the U.S. should lead the fight against it. Sanders believes that "the United States should be supportive, along with other countries, but we cannot and we should not be involved in perpetual warfare in the Middle East – the Muslim countries themselves have got to lead the effort."
On November 15, 2015, in response to ISIS' attacks in Paris, Sanders cautioned against "Islamophobia" saying "During these difficult times as Americans, we will not succumb to racism. We will not allow ourselves to be divided and succumb to Islamophobia. And while hundreds of thousands have lost everything, have nothing left but the shirts on their backs, we will not turn our backs on the refugees!"
Sanders criticized Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, and UAE, saying these "countries of enormous wealth and resources – have contributed far too little in the fight against ISIS". Sanders said Saudi Arabia, instead of fighting ISIS, has focused more on Houthi rebels in Yemen, and Kuwait has been a well-known source of financing for ISIS, and Qatar is spending $200 billion on the 2022 World Cup, yet very little to fight against ISIS. "Wealthy and powerful Muslim nations in the region can no longer sit on the sidelines and expect the United States to do their work for them."
Sanders supports a two-state solution, saying that "the Palestinian people, in my view, deserve a state of their own, they deserve an economy of their own, they deserve economic support from the people of this country. And Israel needs to be able to live in security without terrorist attacks." Sanders has said Israel must have a right to live in peace and security.
According to the Bernie Sanders senate webpage, David Palumbo-Liu wrongly noted in Salon that Sen. Sanders “voted” for a resolution supporting Operation Protective Edge which had actually passed without a vote. A statement published on his Senate website reads in part: "Sanders believes the Israeli attacks that killed hundreds of innocent people – including many women and children – in bombings of civilian neighborhoods and UN controlled schools, hospitals, and refugee camps were disproportionate, and the widespread killing of civilians is completely unacceptable. Israel's actions took an enormous human toll, and appeared to strengthen support for Hamas and may well be sowing the seeds for even more hatred, war and destruction in future years."
Rania Khalek, writing in The Electronic Intifada, a pro-Palestinian publication, has argued there is "little reason to believe a Sanders administration would be all that different on Palestine than the current one". To The Intercept's Zaid Jilani, however, Sanders "stood out in contrast to the remarks from the other four major party candidates" in the 2016 presidential election, criticizing Israel's policy of settlement expansion after violent episodes and defended self-determination, civil rights, and economic well-being for Palestinians. After AIPAC's refusal to accept Sanders's telepresence at their 2016 debate, former U.S. ambassador Marc Ginsberg explained the event saying that Bernie Sanders "has never really extolled his Jewishness, much less any support for Israel".
While being interviewed in April 2016 by the New York Daily News, Sanders said that Israel killed over 10,000 innocent civilians in Gaza, an unnecessarily high death toll. The Anti-Defamation League subsequently called on Sanders to withdraw remarks he made about the casualties, which the ADL said exaggerated the death toll of the 2014 Israel–Gaza conflict, citing a number far in excess of Palestinian or Israel sources' estimates. Sanders later clarified that he was quickly corrected in that the death toll was closer to 2,000 civilians.
In 2008, Sanders was a co-sponsor of a Senate Resolution, "recognizing the 60th anniversary of the founding of the modern State of Israel and reaffirming the bonds of close friendship and cooperation between the United States and Israel." The resolution reaffirmed Israel's right to defend itself against terror. It also congratulated Israel on building a strong nation and wished for a successful Israeli future. 
During the February 11th democratic debate, Sanders took issue with Hillary Clinton's admiration of former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, noting that he was "one of the most destructive" in US modern history, stating:
I am proud to say that Henry Kissinger is not my friend. I will not take advice from Henry Kissinger. In fact, Kissinger’s actions in Cambodia, when the United States bombed that country, overthrew Prince Sihanouk, created the instability for Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge to come in who then butchered some 3 million innocent people – one of the worst genocides in the history of the world.
During the Nicaraguan Revolution Sanders opposed the U.S funding the Contras and praised the leadership and popularity of the Sandinistas. Sanders expressed that the popularity of Sandinistas in their country was more than of the U.S. president and that the Nicaraguan people do not want invasion.
Since the deterioration of Venezuelan living standards under the direction of the self-described socialist government in the country, concerns and comparisons to Venezuela were raised over Sanders' desires to implement socialist policies in the United States. Sanders responded by attempting to distance himself from Venezuela's Bolivarian Government, replying to such worries by stating, "When I talk about Democratic socialist, I’m not looking at Venezuela. I’m not looking at Cuba. I’m looking at countries like Denmark and Sweden". Sanders also furthered himself from the Venezuelan government by calling the leader of Venezuela's Bolivarian Revolution, former President Hugo Chávez, a "dead communist dictator".
When asked by CNN's Jake Tapper in June 2016 if it was fair to criticize the American charity, the Clinton Foundation, for taking money from foreign governments which do not represent our values, Sanders responded: "Yes it is. It is. If you ask me about the Clinton Foundation, do I have a problem when a sitting secretary of state and a foundation run by her husband collects many millions of dollars from foreign governments, governments which are dictatorships -- you don't have a lot of civil liberties or democratic rights in Saudi Arabia. You don't have a lot of respect there for opposition points of view for gay rights, for women's rights. Yes, do I have a problem with that? Yes, I do." In September 2016, Sanders told NBC's Chuck Todd that if Clinton becomes president of the United States, she should cease all contact with the Foundation, but stopped short of agreeing it should be closed, noting, "I don't know enough. They do a lot of good things with A.I.D.S. and so forth. I can't, you know, definitively answer that."
Sanders has long been critical of U.S. government surveillance policies. He voted against the USA PATRIOT Act and all of its renewals and has characterized the National Security Agency as "out of control." He has frequently criticized warrantless wiretapping and the collection of the phone, email, library, and internet browsing records of American citizens without due process:
In my view, the NSA is out of control and operating in an unconstitutional manner. I worry very much about kids growing up in a society where they think 'I'm not going to talk about this issue, read this book, or explore this idea because someone may think I'm a terrorist.' That is not the kind of free society I want for our children.
During the first Democratic presidential debate in October 2015 the candidates were asked for their opinion of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. When asked the question "hero or traitor?" Sanders replied, "I think Snowden played a very important role in educating the American people to the degree in which our civil liberties and our constitutional rights are being undermined. He did—he did break the law, and I think there should be a penalty to that. But I think what he did in educating us should be taken into consideration." Journalist Norman Solomon praised Sanders's reply saying, "I think Bernie Sanders handled it the best in terms of scoping out and describing the terrain. And for the most part, I think Edward Snowden would probably agree with what he said."
Sanders won the 2014 Col. Arthur T. Marix Congressional Leadership Award from the Military Officers Association of America for his leadership in support of veterans. Sanders introduced the Veterans' Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2013 (S. 893; 113th Congress) into the Senate on May 8, 2013. The bill would increase the disability compensation rate for American veterans and their families. Sanders co-wrote, with Senator John McCain, the Veterans' Access to Care through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act of 2014, a bill intended to reform the United States Department of Veterans Affairs in response to the Veterans Health Administration scandal of 2014.
Drawing figures from a recent report that ranks the U.S. 33rd out of 36 nations in reading literacy, 27th in mathematical literacy, 22nd in science literacy, and 18th overall in secondary education, Sanders has said, "In a society with our resources, it is unconscionable to that we do not properly invest in our children from the very first stages of their lives". He has introduced legislation to provide child care and early education to all children six weeks old through kindergarten. Sanders believes that "the Foundations for Success Act would provide preschool children with a full range of services, leading to success in school and critical support for hard-pressed families nationwide."
On Common Core State Standards, Sanders used to support it, but his current public position on Common Core at the time of the campaign was unknown. However, he had voted against an amendment that would have harmed Common Core. However, he had spoken on a program related to Common Core: Race to the Top.
Sanders has long been an advocate of making college more affordable. He has spoken out against the high interest rates on federal student loans, noting that in the next ten years, the federal government will profit by as much as $127 billion from them. He has also criticized President Obama for signing legislation that temporarily freeze student loan interest rates in exchange for allowing the rates to reach historic highs over the next two years. Sanders believes closing corporate tax loopholes is the solution, and has developed a plan to bring matching grants from the federal and state governments to cut tuition at public universities by more than half. He has criticized both Republicans and Democrats for failing to institute reforms that will stop predatory lending practices in the student loan market.
Sanders is in favor of public funding for college students. He believes "we live in a highly competitive global economy and, if our economy is to be strong, we need the best-educated work force in the world." He further maintains that many other developed nations in Western Europe have long taken this approach to higher education. Sanders expects his plan to meet strong opposition from the Republican Party, but says it is ultimately "the American people" who will determine its failure or success.
On May 19, 2015, Sanders introduced the College for All Act (S.1373), which would use a Robin Hood tax of 50 cents on every "$100 of stock trades on stock sales" to fund tuition at four-year public colleges and universities for students who meet admission standards. In addition, the Robin Hood tax would include a .5% speculation fee to be charged on investment houses, hedge funds, and other stock trades, while a .1% fee would be charged on bonds, and a .005% fee on derivatives.
Sanders is a staunch supporter of a universal health care system, and has said, "If you are serious about real healthcare reform, the only way to go is single-payer." He advocates lowering the cost of drugs that are expensive because they remain under patent for years; some drugs that cost thousands of dollars per year in the U.S. are available for hundreds, or less, in countries where they can be obtained as generics.
As chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging, Sanders has introduced legislation to reauthorize and strengthen the Older Americans Act, which supports Meals on Wheels and other programs for seniors. Sanders believes that supporting seniors "is not only the right thing to do, it is the financially smart thing to do", because it decreases expensive hospitalizations and allows seniors to remain in their homes.
Sanders has stated that he believes it is "morally wrong" that residents of the District of Columbia are denied federal representation. In 2015, he joined 17 other senators in co-sponsoring legislation in support of D.C. statehood under the name "New Columbia".
Sanders has become a prominent supporter of laws requiring companies to provide their workers parental leave, sick leave, and vacation time, arguing that such laws have been adopted by almost every developed country, and that there are significant disparities among the types of workers who have access to paid sick and paid vacation time.
Sanders's Guaranteed Paid Vacation Act (S.1564) would mandate that companies provide 10 days of paid vacation for employees who have worked for them for at least one year. He is cosponsoring a Senate bill that would give mothers and fathers 12 weeks of paid family leave to care for a baby. It would also allow workers to take the same amount of paid time off if they are diagnosed with cancer or have other serious medical conditions or to take care of family members who are seriously ill. Sanders has also cosponsored a bill that would guarantee workers at least seven paid sick days per year for short-term illness, routine medical care, or to care for a sick family member.
While in the House of Representatives representing a "state with virtually no gun laws", Sanders voted against the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act that required federal background checks on firearm purchasers in the United States (he later voted for the post-Newtown Manchin-Toomey universal federal background check bill as a US Senator in 2013). In the Senate, Sanders voted for the 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act. When asked, Sanders stated his view that mandatory waiting periods were best left to states.
With regard to proposed legislation enabling victims of gun violence to sue gun manufacturers, Sanders said, "If somebody has a gun and it falls into the hands of a murderer and the murderer kills somebody with a gun, do you hold the gun manufacturer responsible? Not any more than you would hold a hammer company responsible if somebody beats somebody over the head with a hammer." Sanders has said, "we have millions of people who are gun owners in this country -- 99.9% of those people obey the law. I want to see real, serious debate and action on guns, but it is not going to take place if we simply have extreme positions on both sides. I think I can bring us to the middle."
Sanders has called for reforms to sentencing guidelines, drug policy, and use of force policies within police departments. Noting that there are more people incarcerated in the U.S. than any country in the world at an annual cost to taxpayers of $70 billion, Sanders argues that the money would be better spent on education and jobs. He has spoken out against police brutality and the uneven rates of arrest of African Americans and other minorities, saying: "From Ferguson to Baltimore and across this nation, too many African Americans and other minorities find themselves subjected to a system that treats citizens who have not committed crimes as if they were criminals and that is unacceptable." Following the release of footage depicting the arrest of African American Sandra Bland for a minor traffic violation, Sanders strongly condemned the “totally outrageous police behavior” shown in the video, stating that: “This video highlights once again why we need real police reform. People should not die for a minor traffic infraction. This type of police abuse has become an all-too-common occurrence for people of color and it must stop."
Sanders has also spoken out against the privatization of prisons throughout the United States, stating:
It is morally repugnant and a national tragedy that we have privatized prisons all over America. In my view, corporations should not be allowed to make a profit by building more jails and keeping more Americans behind bars. We have got to end the private-for-profit prison racket in America!
On September 17, 2015, Sanders introduced the "Justice Is Not for Sale" Act, which prohibits the United States government at federal, state and local levels from contracting with private firms to provide and/or operate detention facilities within two years. He noted that "We cannot fix our criminal justice system if corporations are allowed to profit from mass incarceration."
Sanders has been a strong opponent of the death penalty throughout his political career. In October 2015, he said, "I would rather have our country stand side-by-side with European democracies rather than with countries like China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and others who maintain the death penalty."
In a letter he published in the early 1970s, when he was a candidate for governor of Vermont, Sanders called for the abolition of all laws against homosexuality.
In the 1980s, Sanders supported the designation of the Burlington "Lesbian and Gay Pride Day" as the mayor of the city and signed a resolution recommending that all levels of government support gay rights.
Vermont was the first state to legalize same-sex unions in 2000. In a 2006 interview, Sanders noted that Vermont had "led the way" in creating the civil unions law, but said it was "a very divisive debate". Asked whether Vermont should legalize full marriage rights for same-sex couples, he said: "Not right now, not after what we went through." At the same time, Sanders expressed opposition to the proposed Federal Marriage Amendment, which would have prohibited same-sex marriage in the United States. Sanders voted against the amendment later that year. In 2009, Vermont was the first state to legalize same-sex marriage by statute.
When the Supreme Court took up the issue in 2015, Sanders issued a statement reaffirming his support, saying gay Americans in every state should be allowed to marry: "Of course all citizens deserve equal rights. It's time for the Supreme Court to catch up to the American people and legalize gay marriage."
Sanders believes a path to citizenship should be created for new immigrants. He voted for the comprehensive immigration reform bill in 2013, saying, "It does not make a lot of sense to me to bring hundreds of thousands of [foreign] workers into this country to work for minimum wage and compete with American kids." Sanders opposes guest worker programs and is also skeptical about skilled immigrant (H-1B) visas, saying, "Last year, the top 10 employers of H-1B guest workers were all offshore outsourcing companies. These firms are responsible for shipping large numbers of American information technology jobs to India and other countries." In an interview with Vox he stated his opposition to an open borders immigration policy, describing it as:
...a right-wing proposal, which says essentially there is no United States...you're doing away with the concept of a nation-state. What right-wing people in this country would love is an open-border policy. Bring in all kinds of people, work for $2 or $3 an hour, that would be great for them. I don’t believe in that. I think we have to raise wages in this country, I think we have to do everything we can to create millions of jobs.
Sanders was a civil rights organizer at the University of Chicago in the 1960s, and has been rated 100% by the NAACP for his civil rights voting record. In 1988, Sanders worked for Jesse Jackson's presidential campaign saying: "Jesse Jackson uniquely and alone has shown the courage to tackle the most important and basic issues facing working class Americans, poor people, elderly people, environmentalists, peace activists, women, and America's minorities."
As part of his 2016 presidential platform, Sanders calls for an end to “the four central types of violence waged against black and brown Americans: physical, political, legal and economic.” Speaking on these issues, Sanders says:
It is an obscenity that we stigmatize so many young Americans with a criminal record for smoking marijuana, but not one major Wall Street executive has been prosecuted for causing the near collapse of our entire economy. This must change. We must address the lingering unjust stereotypes that lead to the labeling of black youths as "thugs." We know the truth that, like every community in this country, the vast majority of people of color are trying to work hard, play by the rules and raise their children. It’s time to stop demonizing minority communities.
Sanders is rated by Americans United for Separation of Church and State as strongly in favor of the separation of church and state.
In 2012 Sanders, along with Senator Barbara Boxer, introduced an amendment which would have given states the right to require labels on food products which are genetically engineered. The bill has been passed by the House Agriculture Committee by a vote of nine to one, but not the full House.
On October 28, 2015, Sanders expressed his support for the decriminalization and eventual legalization of cannabis by way of its removal as a Schedule I drug at the federal level, completely removing it from the list of dangerous substances outlawed by the federal government clearing the way for it to be fully legalized at the state level unimpeded by the federal government. Sanders is also in favor of the sale and tax of marijuana at the state level in a similar manner to alcohol and tobacco.
|ACLU||Civil and Political Rights||100%||2014|
|LULAC||Immigration Reform, Liberal||100%||2013-2014|
|NAACP||Minorities and Affirmative Action||100%||2014|
|NTU||Tax Policy, Conservative||5%||2013|
|NumbersUSA||Immigration Reform, Conservative||44%||2015-2016|
|PA West||Foreign Affairs||75%||2014|
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-VT, said Monday he was making good on at least one of a handful of campaign promises — introducing a bill designed to cut U.S. contributions to global greenhouse gas emissions in the next decade. ... Sanders added that construction of new power plants is "extraordinarily expensive" and he would prefer to see federal funding support used to expand the development of sustainable energy, as well as biofuels.
Members of Congress are finding they cannot avoid talking about media issues because people really are upset with what the FCC did and with the broader issue of who controls the media," says U.S. Rep. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, a leading critic of the FCC rule changes [removing limits on the ability of individual companies to dominate more than 35 percent of television communications and to prevent "cross-ownership" schemes that allow corporations to buy up primary newspapers, radio and television stations and cable and Internet services in a city.] and a champion of media reform in the public interest.
Rep. Bernie Sanders has a burgeoning second job: movie star. Vermont's lone congressman is one of many legislators, journalists and media watchdogs interviewed for 'Orwell Rolls in His Grave,' by director Robert Pappas, and Robert Greenwald's latest film, 'Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism.'
Senator Bernie Sanders is one of the Senate's fiercest advocates for real healthcare reform that puts Americans, not private insurance companies, first. Recently, Sanders told The Nation's Katrina vanden Heuvel, '[I]f you are serious about real healthcare reform, the only way to go is single-payer.'