Bernard “Bernie” Sanders was born in Brooklyn, New York on September 8, 1941, to Polish immigrants of Jewish descent. After attending Brooklyn College for one year, he transferred to the University of Chicago (UC) and earned a bachelor’s degree in political science in 1964. At UC, Sanders joined the Young Peoples Socialist League (youth wing of the Socialist Party USA) as well as the Congress of Racial Equality and the Student Peace Union. He also was an organizer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee; participated in an American Friends Service Committee project at a California psychiatric hospital; and worked briefly (as an organizer) for the United Packinghouse Workers Union (UPWU), which, like all the CIO unions, had a number of influential Communists among its ranks. At that time, UPWU was under investigation by the House Committee on Un-American Activities.
After college, in 1963, Sanders lived and worked for a number of months in an Israeli kibbutz known as Kibbutz Sha’ar Ha’amakim (KSH), which was co-founded by Aharon Cohen, an Arabist who was a harsh critic of Israeli policy and was arrested for spying for the Soviet Union in the 1950s. The founders of KSH referred to Joseph Stalin as the “Sun of the Nations,” and a red flag was flown at outdoor events held at the kibbutz. Sanders stayed at KSH as a guest of the Zionist-Marxist youth movement Hashomer Hatzair (HH), which pledged its allegiance to the Soviet Union; some left-wing groups described HH as Leninist and even Stalinist. HH made it plain that its cooperation with Zionists was a temporary expedient designed to help pave the way for a socialist revolution; that it viewed Israel’s independence as a transitional phase in the development of a bi-national socialist state which would ultimately end Israel’s existence as a Jewish entity.
HH founder Ya’akov Hazan described the USSR as a second homeland, and in 1953 he lamented “the terrible tragedy that has befallen the nations of the Soviet Union, the world proletariat and all of progressive mankind, upon the death of the great leader and extolled commander, Josef Vissarionovich Stalin.” “We lower our flag in grief in memory of the great revolutionary fighter, architect of socialist construction, and leader of the world’s peace movement,” Hazan added. “His huge historical achievements will guide generations in their march towards the reign of socialism and communism the world over.” In a similar vein, Eliezer Hacohen, one of HH’s ideological leaders, called Marxism “the key to renewing our spiritual creativity.” (Another individual who gravitated to an HH kibbutz as a young man was Noam Chomsky.)
Following his time at Kibbutz Sha’ar Ha’amakim, Sanders moved to Vermont where he worked variously as a carpenter, filmmaker, writer, and researcher. In 1964 he married a young woman named Deborah Shiling; the marriage lasted only until 1966. Over the next few years, Sanders worked variously as a psychiatric-hospital aide and a Head Start preschool teacher in New York; as a Department of Taxes employee in Vermont; and as a staffer for a nonprofit organization called the Bread and Law Task Force, where he registered people for food stamps. In 1969 he fathered a child out-of-wedlock.
In the 1960s as well, Sanders, a self-identified pacifist, applied for conscientious objector status in order to avoid military service. His application was eventually rejected, but by that time he was too old to be drafted.
In 1971 Sanders joined the Liberty Union Party (LUP), which strongly opposed the Vietnam War, called for the nationalization of all U.S. banks, and advocated a government takeover of all private utility companies.
That summer, Sanders went to live briefly on a hippie commune in northeast Vermont called Myrtle Hill Farm. According to the Washington Free Beacon: “Sanders came to the farm while researching an article on natural childbirth for the Liberty Union’s party organ, Movement. Interest in alternative medicine was strong among members of the counterculture as part of their wider suspicion of modern science, which was associated with the sterility of hospitals and the destruction of war.” In his piece, Sanders criticized traditional methods where “infants were bottle fed on assembly line schedules designed by assembly line doctors in order to prepare them for assembly line society.” “All of life is one and if we want to know, for example, how our nation can napalm children in Vietnam—AND NOT CARE—it is necessary to go well beyond ‘politics,'” he wrote. In her 2016 book We Are As Gods, author Kate Daloz writes that Sanders spent a great deal of his time at Myrtle Hill in “endless political discussion” rather than doing any work, a habit that annoyed many of the commune’s other residents. For example, writes Daloz, one resident, a man named Craig, “resented feeling like he had to pull others out of Bernie’s orbit if any work was going to get accomplished that day.” Consequently, “When Bernie had stayed for Myrtle’s allotted three days, Craig politely requested that he move on.”
Sanders made unsuccessful runs for the U.S. Senate in January 1972 and November 1974, and for Governor of Vermont in November 1972 and November 1976—all on the LUP ticket. Sanders’ LUP platform called for the nationalization of all U.S. banks; public ownership of all utilities, drug companies, capital, and major means of production (such as factories); and the establishment of a worker-controlled federal government. According to the Guardian, a press release from his 1974 campaign stated that as a means of addressing the problem of rising energy prices, Sanders advocated “the public takeover of all privately owned electric companies in Vermont.” Moreover, Sanders called for a 100% income tax on America’s highest income earners. (Sanders chaired the LUP from 1973-75.)
In a 1973 open letter to Vermont Sen. Robert Stafford, Sanders called for the nationalization of America’s energy industry: “I would also urge you to give serious thought about the eventual nationalization of these gigantic companies. It is extremely clear that these companies, owned by a handful of billionaires, have far too much power over the lives of Americans to be left in private hands. The oil industry, and the entire energy industry, should be owned by the public and used for the public good — not for additional profits for billionaires.”
During his 1974 Senate run, Sanders said that one plan he was considering would make it illegal for anyone to accumulate more wealth than he or she could spend in a lifetime, and that any income above $1 million per year would be taxed at a rate of 100%. “Nobody should earn more than a million dollars,” he stated.
Sanders reiterated a number of his positions in 1976. “I will be campaigning in support of the Liberty Union utility proposal which calls for the public ownership of Vermont’s private electric companies without compensation to the banks and wealthy stockholders who own the vast majority of stock in these companies,” he said in a July press release. “I will also be calling for public ownership of the telephone company — which is probably the single greatest rip-off company in America.”
In a press release the following month, Sanders introduced a proposal to crack down on private companies wishing to relocate: “We have got to begin to deal with the fact that corporations do not have the god-given right to disrupt the lives of their workers or the economic foundation of their towns simply because they wish to move elsewhere to earn a higher rate of profit.” He stated that large businesses should not be able to leave a city without first obtaining permission from that locale and the workers therein; and that if the company failed to get that approval, it should be required to pay the workers a guaranteed two years of severance, and to pay the town 10 years of taxes. “In the long run,” Sanders added, “the problem of the fleeing corporations must be dealt with on the national level by legislation which will bring about the public ownership of the major means of production and their conversion into worker-controlled enterprises.” In a 1976 LUP brochure, Sanders said: “I believe that, in the long run, major industries in this state and nation should be publicly owned and controlled by the workers themselves.” Speaking at a forum that same year, Sanders said: “There is a handful of people sitting at the head of the main banks controlling the destiny of underprivileged nations, the country as well as Vermont’s economy. That is not tolerable. That control cannot be held by them. We need public control over capital; and the capital must be put to use for public need not for the advancement of those who made the investments.”
Also in 1976, Sanders said: “I believe in socialized medicine, public ownership of the drug companies and placing doctors on salaries. The idea that millionaires can make money by selling poor people drugs that they desperately need for highly inflated prices disgusts me.”
Sanders left LUP in 1977, over what he described as the party’s inactivity between election seasons. “The function of a radical political party is very simple,” he said in his farewell speech. “It is to create a situation in which the ordinary working people take what rightfully belongs to them. Nobody can predict the future of the workers’ movement in this country or the state of Vermont. It is my opinion, however, that if workers do not take power in a reasonably short time this country will not have a future.” After splitting away from LUP, Sanders became a political Independent.
In the mid-1970s, Sanders spent about two years as an amateur historian and film-maker, selling educational film strips to schools in New England. Sanders also became the head of the American People’s History Society, which journalist Paul Sperry has described as “an organ for Marxist propaganda.” “There,” writes Sperry, “[Sanders] produced a glowing  documentary on the life of socialist revolutionary Eugene Debs, who was jailed for espionage during the Red Scare and hailed by the Bolsheviks as ‘America’s greatest Marxist.’ This subversive hero of Sanders, denounced even by liberal Democrats as a ‘traitor,’ bashed ‘the barons of Wall Street’ and hailed the ‘triumphant’ Bolshevik revolution in Russia.” (To this day, Sanders continues to hang a portrait of Debs, who ran six times for U.S. president on the Socialist Party ticket, on a wall inside his Senate office.)
After Iranian extremists took control of the American embassy in Tehran on November 4, 1979 and began a 444-day siege during which 52 American diplomats and citizens were held hostage by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini‘s theocratic government, Sanders in 1980 aligned himself with the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), which was founded in 1938 by devotees of the Russian revolutionary communist Leon Trotsky. Promoting an ideology of international revolution, SWP at its founding declared its purpose to be “the abolition of capitalism through the establishment of a Workers and Farmers Republic” and — in accordance with the teachings of Trotsky, Karl Marx, and Vladimir Lenin — the organization advocated the elimination of most private property. In addition, SWP lauded the Soviet Union and Fidel Castro‘s Communist Cuba during the Cold War era, and a 50th anniversary issue of the Party’s official publication, The Militant, featured a series of articles celebrating the paper’s “tradition of revolutionary Marxism in the United States.”
As historian Ronald Radosh notes, Sanders “became [SWP’s] presidential elector in Vermont [in 1980], and campaigned for its candidates and platform that defended the Iranian hostage seizure.” “In fact,” says Radosh, “SWP’s position on Iran is part of what distinguishe[d] it from democratic socialist groups” [of that period]…. Sanders could have supported the Socialist Party, the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee, or Social-Democrats U.S.A., the three leading democratic socialist organizations existing in 1980. He rejected them. Instead he embraced a Marxist-Leninist communist sect that proclaimed its solidarity with Iran.”
Sanders chaired an October 1980 meeting where SWP’s candidate for U.S. president, Andrew Pulley, spoke at the University of Vermont. According to The Militant, Pulley that day: (a) condemned “anti-Iranian hysteria around the U.S. hostages”; (b) denounced President Jimmy Carter‘s “war drive against the Iranian people”; and (c) claimed that the U.S. “was on the brink of war with Iran” because of “American imperialism” and its desire “to protect the oil and banking interests of the Rockefellers and other billionaires.” As for the hostages, Pulley said “we can be sure that many of them are simply spies … or people assigned to protect the spies.”
Pulley had a long history of anti-American radicalism. During the Vietnam War era, he had urged American soldiers to “take up their guns and shoot their officers.” When he ran for president on the SWP ticket in 1980, a New York Times report stated that Pulley advocated the abolition of America’s military, the nationalization of “virtually all private industry,” and the establishment of “official … ‘solidarity’ with the revolutionary regimes in Iran, Nicaragua, Grenada and Cuba.” Moreover, Pulley cited the Cuban revolution as a model for the U.S., and he claimed that “racism [had] been abolished” under Castro. With all these things in mind, Sanders “proudly endorsed and supported” Pulley in the 1980 U.S. presidential race, emphasizing that “I [Sanders] fully support the SWP’s continued defense of the Cuban revolution.” Meanwhile, Pulley’s vice-presidential running mate, Matilde Zimmermann, said that Americans “could learn a lot from the Cuban example,” and she characterized the claim that Castro was running a “dictatorship” as nothing more than American “propaganda.”
Six months after the 1980 election, on May 21, 1981, Sanders spoke at another Pulley rally where he (Sanders) lamented that SWP had been wrongly maligned and targeted by the U.S. government for many years.
In 1982 Sanders was a featured speaker at a Boston rally for SWP’s Massachusetts candidates for governor, lieutenant governor, and Congress.
In 1984 Sanders spoke out in support of SWP’s then-presidential candidate, former Black Panther Mel Mason, who praised the Russian and Chinese communist revolutions and said: “The greatest example of a socialist government is Cuba, and Nicaragua is right behind, but it’s still developing.” “At a time when the Democratic and Republican parties are intellectually and spiritually bankrupt,” Sanders told The Militant in January 1984, “it is imperative for radical voices to be heard which offer fundamental alternatives to capitalist ideology.” In that same issue of The Militant, the newspaper’s editorial board called for the “nationalization of America’s steel industry” as a necessary component of the “revolutionary struggle” by which “workers” would eventually “form” a new government in the U.S. During the 1984 campaign as well, Sanders told Mason that if he were ever to visit Burlington, Vermont (where Sanders was mayor), Sanders would give him a key to the city.
The FBI at one point investigated Sanders for his ties to SWP, and it is not known when he ended his affiliation with the organization.
(Note: The information in this section of the Sanders profile is derived mainly from “Bernie Sanders Campaigned for Marxist Party in Reagan Era” (by Joseph Simonson, 5-30-2019), and “When Iran Took Americans Hostage, Bernie Backed Iran’s Defenders” (by Ron Radosh, 1-16-2020).
During the 1980s as well, Sanders kept dozens of socialist publications in his personal files. One of these was the Socialist Republic, a paper published by the Marxist Industrial Union Party. Other leaflets and papers in Sanders’s collection celebrated Marxist revolutionaries in Latin America.
In 1981 Sanders was elected mayor of Burlington, Vermont, by a margin of just 10 votes. He was subsequently re-elected three times and served as mayor until 1989.
Shortly after his first electoral victory in 1981, Sanders told an audience of charity workers: “I don’t believe in charities, because only government should provide social services to the needy.”
In 1981 as well, Sanders said: “Do I believe that the profit motive is fundamental to human nature? The answer is no. I think the spirit of cooperation, that you and I can work together, better, rather than having to compete against each other … and destroy each other.”
Russia & East Germany:
Sanders created some controversy when he hung a Soviet flag in his mayoral office, in honor of Burlington’s Soviet sister city, Yaroslavl, located some 160 miles northeast of Moscow. During his tenure as mayor, Sanders placed restrictions on the property rights of landlords, set price controls, and raised local property taxes in order to fund communal land trusts. Further, he named Burlington’s city softball team the “People’s Republic of Burlington,” and its minor league baseball team the “Vermont Reds.” Local business owners, meanwhile, distributed fliers asserting that Sanders “does not believe in free enterprise.”
According to an Accuracy In Media report, Sanders during the 1980s “collaborated with Soviet and East German ‘peace committees'” whose aim was “to stop President Reagan’s deployment of nuclear missiles in Europe.” Indeed, he “openly joined the Soviets’ ‘nuclear freeze’ campaign to undercut Reagan’s military build-up.”
In 1985 Sanders traveled to Managua, Nicaragua to speak at the sixth anniversary celebration of the revolution by which the Marxist-Leninist Sandinistas had taken power from an American-backed leader, Anastasio Somoza, and had instituted a revolutionary socialist government. (The “Sandinista Creed” read as follows: “I believe in the doctrines and struggles of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Che, the great teachers and guides of the working class, which is the productive and true driving force of the class struggle which will bury forever the dehumanized, anti-Christian exploiting class. I believe in the building of the Marxist-Leninist socialist society.”)
In the course of his 1985 speech, Sanders said: “[I]n the last 30 years, the United States has overthrown governments in Guatemala, [the] Dominican Republic, they murdered Salvador Allende in Chile, they’ve overthrown the government of Grenada, they attempted to overthrow the government of Cuba, they overthrew a government in Brazil, and now they are attempting to overthrow the government of Nicaragua.” He also denounced the U.S. for “dominating weak nations and poor nations.”
In a letter which he addressed to the people of Nicaragua, Sanders denounced the anti-Communist activities of the Reagan administration, which he said was under the control of corporate interests. Assuring the Nicaraguans that Americans were “fair minded people” who had more to offer “than the bombs and economic sabotage” promoted by President Reagan, he declared: “In the long run, I am certain that you will win, and that your heroic revolution against the Somoza dictatorship will be maintained and strengthened.”
Following his trip to Nicaragua, Sanders penned a letter to the White House indicating that Sandinista President Daniel Ortega would be willing to meet with Reagan to negotiate a resolution to the conflict. The mayor also sought to enlist the help of former president Jimmy Carter, telling him that the people of Nicaragua were very fond of him (Carter). Sanders even invited Ortega to visit Burlington, though the Nicaraguan president declined.
Also following his trip to Nicaragua, Sanders reported that he had been “treated in a special way” by his Nicaraguan hosts. He praised the living conditions under that country’s Communist regime:
Praising the Nicaraguan government’s seizure of private farms and businesses, Sanders said: “In terms of land reform, giving, for the first time in their lives, real land to farmers. And people of Nicaragua, the poor people, respect that. Rich people, needless to say, are used to having a good life there, are not terribly happy.”
In an August 8, 1985 television interview, Sanders also stated that he “was impressed” with Nicaragua’s Foreign Minister Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann, a Catholic priest whom Pope John Paul II had barred from celebrating Mass because Brockmann had defied a church rule forbidding priests from holding government jobs. “If this guy is the foreign minister of a ‘terrorist nation,’ then they should get another foreign minister, because he is a very gentle, very loving man,” said Sanders.
Moreover, Sanders characterized Daniel Ortega as “an impressive guy” while criticizing then-U.S. President Ronald Reagan. “The Sandinista government, in my view, has more support among the Nicaraguan people, substantially more support, than Ronald Reagan has among the American people,” said Sanders. “If President Reagan thinks that any time a government comes along, which in its wisdom, rightly or wrongly, is doing the best for its people, he has the right to overthrow that government, you’re going to be at war not only with all of Latin America, but with the entire Third World.”
Notably, Sanders did not mention the fact that by 1985, watchdog organizations had exposed the Sandinistas as perpetrators of enormous human-rights violations, including mass executions, the persecution of indigenous peoples, and the unexplained disappearance of hundreds of citizens each month.
Accusing the American media and the Reagan administration of deliberately covering up the good news of a successful socialist society, Sanders said: “Many of us get depressed about what’s [supposedly] going on in Nicaragua today, the absolute lies that are coming out of the White House. In fact, we have a right to be very exhilarated.” He praised the Sandinistas for “talking about a transformation of society, giving power to the poor people, to the working people.”
Lauding “the type of example Nicaragua is setting for the rest of Latin America,” Sanders responded to critics of the Sandinistas by saying: “Is [the Sandinistas’] crime that they have built new health clinics, schools, and distributed land to the peasants? Is their crime that they have given equal rights to women? Or that they are moving forward to wipe out illiteracy? No, their crime in Mr. Reagan’s eyes and the eyes of the corporations and billionaires that determine American foreign policy is that they have refused to be a puppet and banana republic to American corporate interests.”
Sanders had no problem with the Sandinistas’ war against La Prensa, a daily newspaper renowned for its criticism of the Daniel Ortega dictatorship. When asked to comment on the Sandinistas’ heavy-handed censorship of Nicaraguan media outlets, Sanders stated that undemocratic measures were sometimes necessary in times of war. “If we look at our own history,” he expanded, “I would ask American citizens to go back to World War II. Does anyone seriously think that President Roosevelt or the United States government [would have] allowed the American Nazi Party the right to demonstrate, or to get on radio and to say this is the way you should go about killing American citizens?” (It should be noted that La Prensa never printed any document with instructions on how to kill Nicaraguans.)
Through the Mayor’s Council on the Arts, Sanders funded a Vermont-based cable-access station that showed films from Cuba and television programs from Nicaragua.
In 1987 Sanders hosted Sandinista politician Nora Astorga in Burlington. Astorga was a woman who, as the publication The Daily Beast puts it, was “notorious for a Mata Hari-like guerrilla operation that successfully lured Gen. Reynaldo Perez-Vega, a high-ranking figure in the Somoza dictatorship, to her apartment with promises of sex. Perez-Vega’s body was later recovered wrapped in a Sandinista flag, his throat slit by his kidnappers.” When Astorga died of cancer in 1988, Sanders publicly praised her as “a very, very beautiful woman” and a “very vital and beautiful woman.” He also speculated that her illness may have been brought about by the stress she felt as a result of American policies toward Nicaragua. “I have my own feelings about what causes cancer, and the psychosomatic aspects of cancer,” said Sanders. “One wonders if the war didn’t claim another victim; a person who couldn’t deal with the tremendous grief and suffering in her own country.”
At one point in the Eighties, Sanders asked a group of University of Vermont students to consider how “we [the United States] deal with Nicaragua, which is in many ways Vietnam, except it’s worse. It’s more gross.” To help offset the effects of America’s many alleged transgressions against Nicaragua, Sanders sought to raise money and material support for the Sandinista revolution; he also established a sister city program in Nicaragua, like he did in the Soviet Union and attempted (without success) to do in Cuba.
In 1991 a sympathetic biographer wrote that Sanders “probably has done more than any other elected politician in the country to actively support the Sandinistas and their revolution.”
Sanders also visited Communist Cuba in the 1980s, in hopes of meeting with Fidel Castro, but he was only able to secure an audience with the mayor of Havana. “I remember for some reason or other, being very excited when Fidel Castro made the revolution in Cuba,” said Sanders in a 1985 interview. “I was a kid, and I remember reading about it. It just seemed right and appropriate that poor people were rising up against the ugly rich people.”
“In 1961,” stated Sanders, “[America] invaded Cuba, and everybody was totally convinced that Castro was the worst guy in the world, that all the Cuban people were going to rise up in rebellion against Fidel Castro. They forgot that he educated the kids, gave them health care, totally transformed the society. You know, not to say Fidel Castro and Cuba are perfect — they are certainly not — but just because Ronald Reagan dislikes these people does not mean to say that the people in their own nations feel the same way.”
In 1989 Sanders traveled to Cuba on a trip organized by the Center for Cuban Studies, a pro-Castro organization based in New York, in hopes of gaining a “balanced” perspective on the island nation’s communist dictatorship. “I think there is tremendous ignorance in this country as to what is going on in Cuba,” he told The Burlington Free Press just before embarking on the trip, and he marveled at the “enormous progress” which Cuba had made in “improving the lives of poor people and working people.” When he returned to Vermont following his trip, Sanders reported that Cuba had “solved some very important problems” with which America, by contrast, was struggling mightily. “I did not see a hungry child. I did not see any homeless people,” he told the Free Press. “Cuba today not only has free healthcare but very high quality healthcare.” “The people we met had an almost religious affection for [Castro],” added Sanders. “The revolution there is far deep and more profound than I understood it to be. It really is a revolution in terms of values.”
In a February 2020 interview with CBS News’ 60 Minutes, host Anderson Cooper said while narrating a segment: “Back in the 1980s, Sanders had some positive things to say about the former Soviet Union and the Sandinistas in Nicaragua. Here he is explaining why the Cuban people didn’t rise up and help the U.S. overthrow Cuban leader Fidel Castro: ‘…he educated their kids, gave them health care, totally transformed the society, you know?’” In response to Cooper’s remarks, Sanders said: “We’re very opposed to the authoritarian nature of Cuba but you know, it’s unfair to simply say everything is bad. You know? When Fidel Castro came into office, you know what he did? He had a massive literacy program. Is that a bad thing? Even though Fidel Castro did it?”
Following Sanders’ comments, Politifact.com pointed out that the Castro literacy program which Sanders had praised was in fact a massive Communist propaganda campaign:
“A 1984 United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) report found that in 1959, 23.6% of the population above the age of 10 were illiterate. By 1961, the number had fallen to 3.9%…. Bringing literacy to Cuba’s peasants was a long-standing policy in Castro’s broader agenda. In his 1957 manifesto, he included: ‘Immediate initiation of an intensive campaign against illiteracy, and civic education emphasizing the duties and rights of each citizen to his society and fatherland.’
“In 1961, about a quarter of a million teachers fanned out across the island nation. Their ranks included formally trained teachers and members of such groups as the National Federation of Sugar Workers, the Rebel Youth Association and the Ministry of the Revolutionary Armed Forces. They identified nearly 1 million illiterate people, and by the end of the year over 700,000 passed a basic literacy test.
“The teaching materials came with a blunt political message. They were built on 15 lessons with titles that included ‘Fidel is Our Leader,’ ‘The Land is Ours,’ ‘Racial Discrimination’ and ‘Housing.’ The final literacy exam was based on the lesson ‘The Cuban Fishermen.’”
Moreover, the Foundation for Economic Education notes that the rise in Cuban literacy under Castro was hardly remarkable or unusual:
“Castro did not give Cubans literacy. Cuba already had one of the highest literacy rates in Latin America by 1950, nearly a decade before Castro took power, according to United Nations data (statistics from UNESCO). In 2016, the Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler debunked a politician’s claim that Castro’s rule significantly improved Cuban healthcare and education.
“In today’s Cuba, children are taught by poorly paid teachers in dilapidated schools. Cuba has made less educational progress than most Latin American countries over the last 60 years.
“According to UNESCO, Cuba had about the same literacy rate as Costa Rica and Chile in 1950 (close to 80 percent). And it has almost the same literacy rate as [those countries] do today (close to 100 percent).
“Meanwhile, Latin American countries that were largely illiterate in 1950—such as Peru, Brazil, El Salvador, and the Dominican Republic—are largely literate today, closing much of the gap with Cuba. El Salvador had a less than 40 percent literacy rate in 1950, but has an 88 percent literacy rate today. Brazil and Peru had a less than 50 percent literacy rate in 1950, but today, Peru has a 94.5 percent literacy rate, and Brazil a 92.6 percent literacy rate. The Dominican Republic’s rate rose from a little over 40 percent to 91.8 percent. While Cuba made substantial progress in reducing illiteracy in Castro’s first years in power, its educational system has stagnated since, even as much of Latin America improved.”
In August 2019, Sanders stated that Communist China had made “more progress in addressing extreme poverty than any country in the history of civilization.”
In 1986 Sanders ran unsuccessfully for Governor of Vermont.
Two years later, he placed second in an election to fill former Republican Congressman Jim Jeffords’ vacated seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. In his campaign, Sanders was supported by the Communist author and journalist I.F. Stone, who wrote a letter stating that Sanders “has proved that a socialist, running as an Independent … can be successful by speaking out for working people, the elderly and the poor,” and by advancing “a pragmatic socialism to deal with the grave problems of our economic system.”
After Sanders married his second wife, Jane, on May 28, 1988, the couple honeymooned in Yaroslavl, Russia. In an interview with that city’s mayor, Alexander Riabkov, Sanders acknowledged that housing and health care were “significantly better” in the U.S. than in the Soviet Union, but added that “the cost of both services is much, much, higher in the United States.” After returning to the U.S., Sanders told reporters that he had been “extremely impressed with their [the Soviet] transportation system.” He continued: “The stations themselves were absolutely beautiful…. It was a very, very effective system. Also, I was impressed by the youth programs that they have. Their palaces of culture for the young people, a whole variety of programs for young people. And cultural programs which go far beyond what we do in this country.” At the same press conference, Jane Sanders said: “The city [Moscow] was beautiful. We were astounded with the openness, the optimism, the enthusiasm in the nation…. I think the things that struck me the most were the way that they dealt with children and with the cultural life of their community…. They put the money into public facilities, and they have palaces of culture which are paid for strictly by trade union dues. And those places have movies and dances and a lot of artistic outlets for people…. The thing that struck me is, instead of compartmentalizing their lives into a job and hobbies, it’s all interrelated and it’s all under the banner of community involvement.”
In November 1989 Sanders addressed the national conference of the U.S. Peace Council, a Communist Party USA front whose members were committed to advancing “the triumph of Soviet power in the U.S.” The event focused on how to “end the Cold War” and “fund human needs.” Other speakers included such notables as Leslie Cagan, John Conyers, and Manning Marable.
Sanders spent 1989-90 working as a lecturer at Hamilton College in upstate New York and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
That same year, he ran successfully for Congress as a socialist, representing Vermont’s single at-large congressional district.
During each year of the Bill Clinton administration—starting in 1993, shortly after the first al-Qaeda attack on the World Trade Center—Sanders introduced legislation to cut the U.S. intelligence budget sight unseen. He justified this approach by noting that “the Soviet Union no longer exists,” and that such concerns as “massive unemployment,” “low wages,” “homelessness,” “hungry children,” and “the collapse of our educational system” represented “maybe a stronger danger [than foreign terrorists] for our national security.”
Sanders was a vocal critic of the Patriot Act, the anti-terrorism bill passed in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, as an assault on civil liberties.
In 1995 Sanders co-sponsored Rep. Ron Dellums’s “Living Wage, Jobs For All Act,” which stated, among other things, that: (a) “every adult American able and willing to earn a living through paid work has the right to a free choice among opportunities for useful and productive part- or full-time paid employment at decent real wages or for self-employment,” and (b) “every adult American unable to work for pay or find employment has the right to an adequate standard of living that rises with increases in the wealth and productivity of the society.” Other co-sponsors of the bill included Corrine Brown, John Conyers, Lane Evans, Chaka Fattah, Bob Filner, Alcee Hastings, Maurice Hinchey, Jesse Jackson Jr., Marcy Kaptur, Jim McDermott, Cynthia McKinney, Jerrold Nadler, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Major Owens, Nancy Pelosi, Charles Rangel, Nydia Velazquez, Maxine Waters, and Lynn Woolsey.
Sanders was a guest speaker at a January 9, 1997 event titled “The Progressive Challenge: Capitol Hill Forum,” sponsored by the Congressional Progressive Caucus, the Democratic Socialists of America, and numerous other left-wing organizations. The primary objective of this event was to “identify the unifying values shared by progressives at this point in U.S. history, to help define core elements of a forward-looking progressive agenda, and to pinpoint ways to connect that agenda with the concerns of millions of disillusioned people who lack voices in present politics and policy-making.” Other speakers included Noam Chomsky, Barbara Ehrenreich, Patricia Ireland, Jesse Jackson, and Richard Trumka.
In 1997 Sanders co-sponsored Congressman Matthew Martinez’s Job Creation and Infrastructure Restoration Act, which proposed to use $250 billion in federal funds for the establishment of union-wage jobs rebuilding infrastructure (e.g., schools, hospitals, libraries, public transportation, highways, and parks). Martinez had previously introduced this bill in 1995 at the the request of the Los Angeles Labor Coalition for Public Works Jobs, whose leaders were all supporters or members of the Communist Party USA.
In 1999, Sanders expressed his strong support for Hugo Chavez, the authoritarian Marxist who had recently been elected as president of Venezuela. Specifically, Sanders endorsed — and posted to his official website — an op-ed that said “the American dream is more apt to be realized in South America, in places such as Ecuador, Venezuela and Argentina … Who’s the banana republic now?” Ultimately, Chavez’s presidency became best known for completely destroying the economy of Venezuela, formerly the most prosperous country in all of South America.
Sanders signed a letter of support for Chavez in January 2003. That same month, a Reuters news report described what was happening in the country at that time:
“Venezuelan troops fired tear gas on Sunday to drive back tens of thousands of anti-government protesters as President Hugo Chavez ordered a crackdown against a six-week-old opposition strike that is bleeding the economy…. He condemned his opponents as ‘fascists and coup mongers’ and described them as desperate. ‘They don’t know what to do next,’ said Chavez, who survived a brief coup in April. He himself attempted a botched coup bid in 1992.
“Chavez, who has already sacked 2,000 striking state oil employees, repeated threats to send troops to take over private factories and warehouses if they hoarded food supplies. He also threatened to revoke the broadcasting licenses of private TV stations that criticize his rule, describing their hostile programming as ‘worse than an atomic bomb.’”
From 2005-07, Sanders participated in the Campaign For America’s Future‘s (CAF) annual “Take Back America” (TBA) conferences, whose goal was to help leftist political candidates win their respective races. Sanders has also been a supporter of CAF’s sister organization, the Institute For America’s Future. In 2011 he addressed the “Take Back the American Dream” conference—the new name for TBA—hosted by CAF and the Institute for Policy Studies.
In 2006 Sanders co-sponsored a resolution by Rep. John Conyers to impeach President Bush on grounds that he had led the United States into an illegal and immoral war in Iraq.
In November 2006 Sanders ran successfully for a seat in the U.S. Senate. Then-Senator Barack Obama, whom Sanders described as “one of the great leaders” of that legislative body, campaigned enthusiastically on Sanders’ behalf. When a Washington Post reporter asked Sanders just prior to the election: “Are you now or have you ever been a Socialist?” Sanders replied, “Yeah. I wouldn’t deny it. Not for one second. I’m a democratic Socialist.”
In 2007 Senator Sanders and Rep. Maurice Hinchey together introduced the Media Ownership Reform Act, which was designed to tightly restrict the number of radio stations that any firm could own. It also sought to resurrect the so-called “Fairness Doctrine”—a measure that, if passed, would greatly diminish the influence of conservative talk radio.
Sanders has long maintained that “global warming/climate change” not only threatens “the fate of the entire planet,” but is caused chiefly by human industrial activity and must be curbed by means of legislation strictly limiting carbon emissions. In 2007 Sanders and Senator Barbara Boxer proposed the Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act, which, according to an MIT study, would have imposed on U.S. taxpayers a yearly financial burden of more than $4,500 per family, purportedly to check climate change.
In February 2010 Sanders likened climate-change skeptics to people who had disregarded the Nazi threat prior to WWII: “During that period of Nazism and fascism’s growth … there were people in this country and in the British parliament who said, ‘Don’t worry! Hitler’s not real! It’ll disappear!’”
Stating unequivocally that “the scientific community is unanimous” in its belief that “the planet is warming up,” Sanders in 2014 declared that the “debate is over” and emphasized the importance of “transform[ing] our energy systems away from fossil fuels.”
In an August 2011 op-ed decrying income inequality in America, Sanders wrote: “These days, the American dream is more apt to be realized in South America, in places such as Ecuador, Venezuela and Argentina, where incomes are actually more equal today than they are in the land of Horatio Alger. Who’s the banana republic now?”
In September 2011, Sanders hailed the work of the anti-capitalist Occupy Wall Street movement as “extremely important,” lauding its activists for focusing a “spotlight” on the need for “real Wall Street reform.”
In March 2013, Sanders and fellow Senator Tom Harkin together introduced a bill to tax Wall Street speculators. “Both the economic crisis and the deficit crisis are a direct result of the greed, recklessness, and illegal behavior on Wall Street,” said Sanders.
On April 29, 2015, Sanders announced that he was running for the Democratic Party’s 2016 presidential nomination, citing economic inequality, climate change, and the Citizens United Supreme Court decision as issues of particular concern to him.
In May 2015, Sanders told CNBC interviewer John Harwood that he was in favor of dramatically raising the marginal tax rate on America’s highest earners. “[When] radical socialist Dwight D. Eisenhower was president,” Sanders said sarcastically, “I think the highest marginal tax rate was something like 90 percent.” When Harwood asked whether Sanders thought that was too high, the senator replied: “No. What I think is obscene, and what frightens me is, again, when you have the top one-tenth of one percent owning almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 [percent]. Does anybody think that is the kind of economy this country should have?” Notably, in 2014 Sanders paid $27,653 in federal income taxes — an effective federal tax rate of 13.5 percent.
In his first public speech as a presidential candidate in Burlington, Vermont, Sanders in May 2015 broadly laid out the major planks of his campaign’s agenda:
In a September 18, 2015 appearance on CBS This Morning, Sanders discussed his plan to raise taxes on the wealthy; to provide free public college tuition for all Americans; to provide 12 weeks of paid family leave and paid vacation time for all workers; to “create universal health care for every man, woman and child”; to put private health insurance companies “out of business”; and to require “the wealthiest people in this country who are doing phenomenally well” — along with “large corporations that are making billions of dollars in profits” — to “start paying their fair share of taxes.” Following are some highlights of his exchange with co-hosts Norah O’Donnell and Vinita Nair:
In a June 2016 press conference in California, Sanders stated unequivocally that he would ban fracking if he were elected president: “I hope very much that Monterey County will continue the momentum that makes it clear that fracking is not safe, is not what we want for our kids. If elected president, we will not need state-by-state, county-by-county action, because we are going to ban fracking in 50 states in this country…. I would hope the Democratic Party makes it clear that it has the guts to stand up to the fossil fuel industry and tell them that their short-term profits are not more important than the health of our children or the future of our planet.”
In September 2015, Sanders’ presidential campaign received the support of the former Weather Underground terrorist Bill Ayers, who wrote: “I believe that among the Sanders supporters there are thousands who are dissatisfied, who are disgruntled, but who do not have a coherent left analysis, who therefore are open to our ideas as they weren’t before they got involved in the Sanders surge…. So, why don’t we joi[n] a Sanders local campaign or go to a mass rally?… We could have lists of places and projects where anarchists and others are working with people in projects that are using anarchist and community participatory ideas and vision. Places where Bernie supporters might get involved once they knew about them.”
In 2015 as well, Sanders enthusiastically supported the nuclear deal that the Obama administration negotiated with Iran—an agreement allowing the terrorist regime in Tehran to inspect its own Parchin nuclear weapons research site, conduct uranium enrichment, build advanced centrifuges, purchase ballistic missiles, fund terrorism, and have a near-zero breakout time to a nuclear bomb approximately a decade down the road. Notwithstanding these undeniable realities, Sanders saw the deal as “the best way forward if we are to accomplish what we all want to accomplish — that is making certain that Iran does not acquire a nuclear weapon.”
In a September 14, 2015 campaign appearance at Liberty University, Sanders was asked: “If you were elected president, what would you do to bring healing and resolution to the issue of racism in our country?” His reply made it clear that he viewed racism as a trait found chiefly in white people:
“… I would hope and I believe that every person in this room today understands that it is unacceptable to judge people, to discriminate against people, based on the color of their skin. And I would also say that as a nation, the truth is, that a nation which in many ways was created—and I’m sorry to have to say this—from way back on racist principles. That’s a fact. We have come a long way as a nation. Now I know, my guess is probably not everybody here is an admirer or a voter for Barack Obama. But the point is, that in 2008, this country took a huge step forward … in voting for a candidate based on his ideas and not the color of his skin…. We all know to what degree racism remains alive in this country. [Sanders then cited a recent incident where a white South Carolina man had shot and killed nine black members of a church.] And I cannot understand, for the life of me, how there can be hundreds of groups in this country, whose sole reason for existence is to promote hatred [against] African Americans or gays or Jews or immigrants or anybody that is different from us…. [L]et us be clear, that when you have unarmed African Americans shot by police officers — something which has been going on for years — That is also institutional racism and cries out for reform.”
During a presidential primary debate on February 7, 2020, Sanders said: “We have a racist society from top to bottom impacting health care, housing, criminal justice, education — you name it.”
During a Democratic presidential debate on November 14, 2015 — in the aftermath of the horrific ISIS terror attacks that had killed well over 100 people in Paris the day before — Sanders was asked if he still thought (as he had indicated on numerous prior occasions) that climate change was the biggest threat facing the world. He replied: “Climate change is directly related to the growth of terrorism and if we do not get our act together and listen to what the scientists say, you’re going to see countries all over the world … struggling over limited amounts of water and land to grow their crops and you’re going to see all kinds of conflict.” On CBS’ Face the Nation the following day, Dickerson asked Sanders to expand on his statement that “climate change in fact is related to terrorism.” The senator replied: “If we are going to see an increase in drought and flooding and extreme weather disturbances as a result of climate change, what that means is that peoples all over the world are going to be fighting over limited natural resources. If there is not enough water, if there is not enough land to grow your crops, then you’re going to see migrations of people fighting over land that will sustain them. And that will lead to international conflicts…. [W]hat happens say, in Syria, for example … is that when you have drought, when people can’t grow their crops, they’re going to migrate into cities. And when people migrate into cities and they don’t have jobs, there’s going to be a lot more instability, a lot more unemployment, and people will be subject to the types of propaganda that al Qaeda and ISIS are using right now. So, where you have discontent, where you have instability, that’s where problems arise, and certainly, without a doubt, climate change will lead to that.”
In a November 15, 2015 interview on CBS’s Face the Nation, Sanders doubled down on his claim, saying: “If we are going to see an increase in drought and flood and extreme weather disturbances as a result of climate change, what that means is that peoples all over the world are going to be fighting over limited natural resources. If there is not enough water, if there is not enough land to grow your crops, then you’re going to see migrants of people fighting over land that will sustain them, and that will lead to international conflict.”
In early April 2016, Sanders’ presidential campaign hired a young woman named Simone Zimmerman as its national Jewish outreach coordinator. According to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz: “During the 2014 Gaza war, Zimmerman was one of the leaders of a group of young Jews that held regular protest vigils outside the offices of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, reading the names of Palestinians and Israelis killed in the conflict. She opposes Israel’s occupation, wants Hillel to allow participation by groups that support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions [BDS] movement against Israel, is against Jewish federation funding for Israeli projects in the West Bank, and wrote favorably of the efforts of Jewish Voice for Peace, a pro-BDS group, to get ‘international corporations to stop profiting off human rights abuses.’” “We’re paying attention to what’s happening in Israel — and we are angry,” Zimmerman wrote in a February 2016 column about her fellow millennials. “The hypocrisy of expecting feel-good social justice projects to offset millennials’ deep outrage at the grave injustices committed by the Jewish state is almost too much to bear. No public relations trick can save Israel’s image. The problem isn’t with the hasbara. The problem is nearly 50 years of occupation. The problem is rampant racism in Israeli society. The problem is attacks on human rights defenders by extremists and by the state. The problem is a Jewish establishment that ignores or justifies all of this.”
On April 13, 2016, the Sanders campaign suspended Zimmerman from her position after the Washington Free Beacon reported that on March 3, 2015, she had written an expletive-laden Facebook post denouncing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a mass-murderer: “Bibi Netanyahu is an arrogant, deceptive, cynical, manipulative asshole…. Fuck you, Bibi … you sanctioned the murder of over 2,000 people this summer.” At a later date, Zimmerman edited the Facebook post, replacing “asshole” with “politician” and “Fuck you” with “shame on you.”
During a May 2016 town hall meeting in Puerto Rico, Sanders stated that he wanted President Obama to pardon the 73-year-old convicted Puerto Rican terrorist Oscar López Rivera, who was a founder of the Marxist-Leninist organization FALN (Fuerza Armadas de Liberacion Nacional), which waged a violent campaign for Puerto Rican independence. He had been imprisoned in the U.S. since 1981, when he was arrested and convicted of trying to overthrow the U.S. government, seditious conspiracy to destroy federal property, armed robbery, weapons violations, and interstate transportation of stolen property. Said Sanders: “Oscar López Rivera is one of the longest-serving political prisoners in history — 34 years, longer than Nelson Mandela. We are talking about a Vietnam War veteran who was awarded a Bronze Star. I say to President Obama — let him out!” Moreover, Sanders promised that “I will pardon him” if elected president.
Sanders invited Paul Bustinduy, the Secretary of International Relations of the Spanish far-left political party Podemos — which belongs to a leftist coalition called United We Can (UWC) — as his guest at the July 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. Historian Ronald Radosh notes that UWC: (a) “models itself on the Marxist Greek party Syiriza which brought the Greek economy to near total collapse,” and (b) is “composed of old Communists, Trotskyists, independent revolutionaries, Basque and Catalan nationalists, leftist urban intellectuals and former supporters of the Socialist Party annoyed at what they perceive as its continuing compromises.” Describing Podemos, meanwhile, as “blatantly anti-Semitic,” Radosh writes:
“In Madrid the [Podemos] Party’s affiliate is called Ahora Madrid. The head of Madrid’s department of culture, Guiller Zapata, who is a [Podemos] member, tweeted: ‘How do you fit five million Jews in a SEAT 600? [a version of the Fiat car of the same name] Answer: In an ashtray.’ … Podemos is so anti-Israel, that it defends publication of a notorious anti-Semitic Spanish magazine, El Jueves [which once published a cartoon] about Israel, using the symbols of Hitler’s SS to indicate that Israel is composed of Nazis.”
As further evidence of its anti-Semitism, Podemos supports the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, a Hamas-inspired initiative that aims to use various forms of public protest, economic pressure, and court rulings to advance the Hamas agenda of permanently destroying Israel as a Jewish nation-state.
The Democratic presidential primary race ended on July 26, 2016, when Hillary Clinton officially won the Party’s nomination over Sanders.
In February 2016, while Sanders — who had long identified as an Independent rather than as a Democrat — was still in the thick of a hard-fought battle for the Democratic presidential nomination, he told a New Hampshire town hall meeting: “Of course I am a Democrat and running for the Democratic nomination.” In an interview two months later on Bloomberg’s With All Due Respect, host Mark Halperin asked Sanders’ campaign manager Jeff Weaver if the senator planned to stay in the Democratic Party even if he failed to become its nominee. Weaver replied: “Well, he is a Democrat, he said he’s a Democrat and he’s gonna be supporting the Democratic nominee, whoever that is.” “But he’s a member of the Democratic Party now for life?” Halperin pressed. “Yes, he is,” said Weaver. But when Sanders was asked whether he still identified as a Democrat in an April 2017 interview on MSNBC, the senator replied: “No, I’m an Independent.”
In August 2016, Sanders purchased a seasonal waterfront home on Lake Champlain in Vermont, for $575,000. He already owned a row house on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., and a home in Burlington, Vermont. Notwithstanding the fact that he owns three homes, Sanders has consistently articulated his belief that the luxuries of wealthy people should be limited — or at least taxed at a very high rate. In April 2017, for instance, the senator tweeted: “How many yachts do billionaires need? How many cars do they need? Give us a break. You can’t have it all.”
All told, Sanders earned more than $1 million in 2016. That total included: (a) his $174,000 Senate salary; (b) a $795,000 advance for his book, Our Revolution; (c) another $63,750 for his forthcoming book, Bernie Sanders’ Guide to Political Revolution; and $6,735 in royalties for his 1997 memoir, Outsider in the House.
In 2017, Sanders earned $1.06 million. Defending his high income, he told a crowd at a community meeting in Gary, Indiana: “I didn’t know that it was a crime to write a good book which turns out to be a bestseller. My view has always been that we need a progressive tax system which demands that the wealthiest people in this country finally start paying their fair share of taxes. If I make a lot of money, you make a lot of money, that is what I believe. So again, I don’t apologize for writing a book that was number three on the New York Times bestseller, translated into five or six languages and that’s that.”
During the January 2017 Senate confirmation hearing for Georgia Republican Rep. Tom Price, who was President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for Health and Human Services Secretary, Sanders and Price had the following exchange:
Sanders: “The United States of America is the only major country on earth that does not guarantee healthcare to all people as a right. Canada does it. Every major country in Europe does it. Do you believe healthcare is a right for all Americans whether they’re rich or they’re poor? Should people, because they are Americans, be able to go to the doctor when they need to go into a hospital because they are Americans?”
Price: “Yes we are a compassionate society –”
Sanders (interrupting): “No, we are not a compassionate society in terms of poor and working people. Our record is worse than virtually any other country on earth, and half of our senior workers have nothing set aside for retirement, so I don’t think compared to other countries we are particularly compassionate. But my question is in Canada all people have the right to get healthcare. Do you believe we should move in that direction?”
Price: “If you want to talk about other countries’ healthcare systems there are consequences to the decisions they made just as there are consequences to the decisions that we’ve made. I believe, and I look forward to working with you, that every single American has access to the highest quality care and coverage that is possible.”
Sanders: “’Has access to’ does not mean they are guaranteed healthcare. I can have access to buying a 10 million dollar home but I don’t have the money to do that.”
On March 18, 2017, Sanders posted a Twitter message denouncing America for its alleged indifference to the needs of poor people: “We are living in a nation which worships wealth rather than caring for the poor. I don’t think that is the nation we should be living in.”
In a March 2017 letter, Sanders asked David Friedman, whom President Donald Trump had nominated for the post of U.S. Ambassador to Israel, whether he would support the idea of diverting “a portion” of the $38 billion which the United States had earmarked as aid to Israel over the ensuing ten years, and sending it instead to the Hamas-led government of the Gaza Strip — to “facilitate a much greater flow of humanitarian and reconstruction materials” to that region. Israel Nation News, however, pointed out that historically, “Hamas has taken most of the aid monies it receives to strengthen its fighting capability.” Also in his letter to Friedman, Sanders asked the ambassador whether he thought that the tax-exempt status of groups raising funds for Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria should be revoked, so as to help “end the flow of donations to illegal settlements.”
In a speech he delivered at a February 2017 conference hosted by J Street, Sanders called for an end to Israel’s “50-year occupation” of “Palestinian territories,” suggesting that “its daily restrictions on the political and civil liberties of the Palestinian people runs contrary to fundamental American values.” In addition, Sanders likened the Palestinians who had fled their homes shortly before Israel’s establishment in 1948, to Native Americans. “Like our own country, the founding of Israel involved the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people already living there, the Palestinian people,” he said. “Over 700,000 people were made refugees.”
In 2017, Senator Sanders’ wife, Jane Sanders, became the subject of an FBI investigation. The probe centered around a 2010 deal in which Mrs. Sanders, who at the time was the president of Burlington College, secured a $6.7 million loan from People’s United Bank and used the money to purchase a 33-acre lakefront campus for the school. But as the news website VT Digger explains, the deal was illegitimate:
“Jane Sanders … overstated donation amounts in a bank application for [the loan]…. She told People’s United Bank in 2010 that the college had $2.6 million in pledged donations [from 31 people] to support the purchase of the … property. The college, however, received only $676,000 in actual donations from 2010 through 2014, according to figures provided by Burlington College. Two people whose pledges are listed as confirmed in the loan agreement told VTDigger that their personal financial records show their pledges were overstated. Neither was aware the pledges were used [by Mrs. Sanders] to secure the loan.”
For example, a separate VT Digger report says that Mrs. Sanders “appears to have counted [Corinne Bove] Maietta’s bequest as a cash gift that was available as collateral to finance the land deal. The 2010 loan agreement says ‘CBM’ pledged $1 million to the school over five years in increments of $150,000, with a final payment of $100,000 in year six.” Maietta told reporters that she was incredulous that Burlington College would try to use her bequest to secure a bank loan. “You can’t borrow money on the future,” she said. “That doesn’t exist.”
Burlington College closed in 2016, citing the “crushing weight of debt” which had resulted from Mrs. Sanders’ financial activities.
When Senator Sanders was asked in June 2017 about the allegations against his wife, he replied: “My wife is about the most honest person I know. When she came to that college [Burlington], it was failing financially and academically. When she left it, it was in better shape than it had ever been…. All that I will tell you now … it is a sad state of affairs in America, not only when we have politicians being destroyed … but when you go after … people’s wives. That is pretty pathetic….”
In November 2018, a spokesman for Jane Sanders announced that the U.S. Attorney in Vermont had closed its investigation of Mrs. Sanders’ land deal and had decided not to bring any criminal charges against her.
In June 2017, Sanders had a contentious exchange with Russell Vought, President Donald Trump’s nominee to be Deputy Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget. As National Review noted, Sanders was “imposing a religious test for public office, in direct violation of Article VI of the United States Constitution.” Below is a transcript of the Sanders-Vought exchange:
Sanders: Let me get to this issue that has bothered me and bothered many other people. And that is in the piece that I referred to that you wrote for the publication called Resurgent. You wrote, “Muslims do not simply have a deficient theology. They do not know God because they have rejected Jesus Christ, His Son, and they stand condemned.” Do you believe that that statement is Islamophobic?
Vought: Absolutely not, Senator. I’m a Christian, and I believe in a Christian set of principles based on my faith. That post, as I stated in the questionnaire to this committee, was to defend my alma mater, Wheaton College, a Christian school that has a statement of faith that includes the centrality of Jesus Christ for salvation, and . . .
Sanders: I apologize. Forgive me, we just don’t have a lot of time. Do you believe people in the Muslim religion stand condemned? Is that your view?
Vought: Again, Senator, I’m a Christian, and I wrote that piece in accordance with the statement of faith at Wheaton College.
Sanders: I understand that. I don’t know how many Muslims there are in America. Maybe a couple million. Are you suggesting that all those people stand condemned? What about Jews? Do they stand condemned too?
Vought: Senator, I’m a Christian . . .
Sanders (shouting): I understand you are a Christian, but this country are made of people who are not just — I understand that Christianity is the majority religion, but there are other people of different religions in this country and around the world. In your judgment, do you think that people who are not Christians are going to be condemned?
Vought: Thank you for probing on that question. As a Christian, I believe that all individuals are made in the image of God and are worthy of dignity and respect regardless of their religious beliefs. I believe that as a Christian that’s how I should treat all individuals . . .
Sanders: You think your statement that you put into that publication, they do not know God because they rejected Jesus Christ, His Son, and they stand condemned, do you think that’s respectful of other religions?
Vought: Senator, I wrote a post based on being a Christian and attending a Christian school that has a statement of faith that speaks clearly in regard to the centrality of Jesus Christ in salvation.
Sanders: I would simply say, Mr. Chairman, that this nominee is really not someone who this country is supposed to be about.
In April 2018, Sanders was one of 12 U.S. senators who sought to punish the Sinclair Broadcast Group – widely perceived as a conservative media company – which (a) consisted of 193 television stations and 614 channels in 89 markets nationwide, and (b) had recently announced plans to acquire the Tribune Media Company’s 42 TV stations in 33 markets, a merger that, if completed, would extend Sinclair’s reach to 72% of all American households. The twelve senators included Sanders and 11 Democrats: Tammy Baldwin, Richard Blumenthal, Cory Booker, Maria Cantwell, Edward Markey, Jeff Merkley, Patty Murray, Tina Smith, Tom Udall, Elizabeth Warren, and Ron Wyden.
In a letter to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Ajit Pai, these senators expressed concern over the fact that Sinclair had recently aired an ad showing its various local anchors reading from a corporate script extolling the virtue of “balanced journalism”; stating that “truth is neither politically ‘left or right’”; emphasizing the importance of a “commitment” to reporting that “seek[s] the truth and strive[s] to be fair, balanced and factual”; criticizing “some members of the media” for “us[ing] their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control ‘exactly what people think’”; and condemning “the troubling trend of irresponsible, one sided news stories plaguing our country.”
Viewing the Sinclair ad as an implicit defense of President Donald Trump, who had long been under withering attack by media outlets nationwide, the senators wrote in their letter: “We are concerned that Sinclair is engaged in a systematic news distortion operation that seeks to undermine freedom of the press and the robust localism and diversity of viewpoint that is the foundation of our national broadcasting laws.” “We have strong concerns,” they added, “that Sinclair has violated the public interest obligation inherent in holding broadcast licenses. Sinclair may have violated the FCC’s longstanding policy against broadcast licensees deliberately distorting news by staging, slanting, or falsifying information.” The senators also demanded that the FCC put on hold its review of Sinclair’s potential merger with Tribune.
In his response, Pai said he “must respectfully decline” the senators’ request “in light of my commitment to protecting the First Amendment and freedom of the press.” “I understand that you disliked or disagreed with the content of particular broadcasts,” he added, “but I can hardly think of an action more chilling of free speech than the federal government investigating a broadcast station because of disagreement with its news coverage or promotion of that coverage.”
In November 2018, Sanders was re-elected to a third term in the U.S. Senate. During his campaign that year, he emphasized anthropogenic climate change — allegedly caused by excessive carbon emissions from human activity — as an issue of enormous import and urgency. For example, he wrote in an October 10 tweet: “Climate change is a planetary crisis. Our task is clear. We must take on the fossil fuel industry that’s largely responsible for global emissions and accelerate our transition toward energy efficiency and sustainable energy sources.” A week later, he tweeted: “Climate change is the single greatest threat facing our planet…. we must show up at the polls coast to coast and stand with candidates who are willing and ready to accelerate our transition to clean energy, and finally put people before the profits of polluters.” But during that same campaign, Sanders spent nearly $300,000 on private jet services just in the month of October 2018.
This was reminiscent of Sanders’ 2016 bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, when his campaign paid more than $1.6 million going to the Air Charter Team just in the month of March. The following month, Sanders took 50 staffers and reporters on a chartered Delta 767 for a trip to the Vatican where he briefly met Pope Francis.
In 2019, Politico reported a number of additional details of Sanders’ frequent use of private jets. Some excerpts:
On February 20, 2019, Sanders announced that he would seek the Democratic Party’s nomination for the 2020 presidential election.
Below is an overview of Sanders’ positions on a wide range of key issues as of early 2020, as laid out by Sanders and his presidential campaign:
A Welcoming & Safe America for All
Medicare for All
Green New Deal
College For All
Housing for All
Expand Social Security
Justice & Safety for All
Eliminating Medical Debt
Reinvest in Public Education
Tax on Extreme Wealth
High-Speed Internet for All
Free & Fair Elections
Income Inequality Tax Plan
Get Corporate Money out of Politics
Tax Increases for the Rich
Empowering Tribal nations
Real Wall Street Reform
Jobs For All
In an October 2019 piece in City Journal, Manhattan Institute economic policy expert Brian Riedl laid bare exactly how much it would cost to implement Sanders’s various agenda items. Below are numerous key excerpts from Riedl’s important article:
On March 1, 2019, Sanders hired 25-year-old Arizona activist Belén Sisa, an illegal alien describing herself as an immigrant without legal status, as a deputy press secretary. Former President Obama’s “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” (DACA) program protected Sisa from deportation.
In a 2019 interview, Sanders said: “You have more and more growth producing products that we do not necessarily need. I mean you know, at the end of the day, you don’t necessarily need the choice of 23 underarm spray deodorants or 18 different pairs of sneakers, when children are hungry in this country.”
On another occasion, Sanders stated candidly: “My vision is not just making modest changes around the edge. It is transforming American society. So when I use the word ‘socialist,’ and I know some people are uncomfortable about it, I say that it is imperative that we create a political revolution, and I hope you will be part of that movement, because if you are, we can in fact transform this country.”
When extolling the virtues of “democratic socialism,” Sanders typically distances his model from those of the old Soviet Union or present-day China. Rather, he cites the Scandinavian economies of Sweden, Denmark, and Norway as the ideal for which he is aiming. But those countries do not in fact have socialist economies. Rather, they have free-market economies coupled with very high taxation rates on all working people, to pay for a very generous social-welfare system. As Jeffrey Dorfman explains in Forbes magazine:
“As the American left embraces a platform that continues to look more and more like a socialist’s dream, it is common for those on the right to counter with the example of Venezuela as the nightmare of socialism in reality. A common response from the left is that socialism (or democratic socialism) works just fine in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark. It is certainly true that Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Denmark are notable economic successes. What is false is that these countries are particularly socialist.
“The myth of Nordic socialism is partially created by a confusion between socialism, meaning government exerting control or ownership of businesses, and the welfare state in the form of government-provided social safety net programs. However, the left’s embrace of socialism is not merely a case of redefining a word. Simply look at the long-running affinity of leftists with socialist dictators in Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela for proof many on the left long for real socialism.
“To the extent that the left wants to point to an example of successful socialism, not just generous welfare states, the Nordic countries are actually a poor case to cite. Regardless of the perception, in reality the Nordic countries practice mostly free market economics paired with high taxes exchanged for generous government entitlement programs.
“First, it is worth noting that the Nordic counties were economic successes before they built their welfare states. Those productive economies, generating good incomes for their workers, allowed the governments to raise the tax revenue needed to pay for the social benefits. It was not the government benefits that created wealth, but wealth that allowed the luxury of such generous government programs.
“Second, as evidence of the lack of government interference in business affairs, there is the fact that none of these countries have minimum wage laws. Unions are reasonably powerful in many industries and negotiate contracts, but the government does nothing to ensure any particular outcome from those negotiations. Workers are paid what they are worth, not based on government’s perception of what is fair.
“A third example of Nordic commitment to free markets can be found in Sweden which has complete school choice. The government provides families with vouchers for each child. These vouchers can be used to attend regular public schools, government-run charter schools, or private, for-profit schools. Clearly, the use of government funds to pay for private, for-profit schools is the opposite of socialism.
“We can also confirm these isolated facts by looking at a comprehensive measure of capitalism relative to socialism. The Fraser Institute, a Vancouver-based, pro-free market, think tank, compiles a worldwide ranking of countries called the economic freedom index. Its website explains that its ranking ‘is an effort to identify how closely the institutions and policies of a country correspond with a limited government ideal, where the government protects property rights and arranges for the provision of a limited set of public goods such as national defense and access to money of sound value, but little beyond these core functions.’ Clearly, a socialist country should perform poorly in any ranking based on these principles.
“What we find, however, is the Nordic countries rank quite high on this index of economic freedom. In fact, while Hong Kong and Singapore top the list and the U.S. ranks 12th, we can find the Nordic countries in quite respectable rankings. Denmark ranks 15, Finland 17, Norway 25, and Sweden 27. In terms of numerical scores, Sweden is only 5% lower than the U.S. For further comparison, South Korea and Japan, both considered fairly pro-free market, rank 32 and 39, respectively.
“Socialism can take the form of government controlling or interfering with free markets, nationalizing industries, and subsidizing favored ones (green energy, anyone?). The Nordic countries don’t actually do much of those things. Yes, they offer government-paid healthcare, in some cases tuition-free university educations, and rather generous social safety nets, all financed with high taxes. However, it is possible to do these things without interfering in the private sector more than required. It is allowing businesses to be productive that produces the high corporate and personal incomes that support the tax collections making the government benefits feasible. The Nordic countries are smart enough not to kill the goose that lays the golden egg.
“If the left insists on naming a system of generous government benefits combined with a free market democratic socialism, I cannot stop them. That seems unnecessarily confusing since the government is actually running no industries other than education (and meddling somewhat in healthcare). It certainly isn’t socialism. In fact, the only reason most such countries can afford those benefits is that their market economies are so productive they can cover the expense of the government’s generosity. Perhaps a better name for what the Nordic countries practice would be compassionate capitalism.”
On January 14, 2019, Project Veritas published an undercover video showing one of the top Iowa field organizers in Sanders’ 2020 presidential campaign stating that Soviet gulags were a positive phenomenon, and suggesting that some similar program of detention and torture might be able to effectively reshape the values and worldview of Trump supporters and wealthy people. The video began with a Project Veritas journalist asking Sanders organizer Kyle Jurek, who was a paid worker for the campaign, if “MAGA people” — a reference to the acronym for Trump’s 2016 “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan — could be re-educated to think differently if Sanders were to be elected president. “We gotta try,” Jurek replied. “In Nazi Germany, after the fall of the Nazi Party, there was a shit-ton of the populace that was fucking Nazified. Germany had to spend billions of dollars re-educating their fucking people to not be Nazis. We’re probably going to have to do the same fucking thing here. That’s kind of what all Bernie’s whole fucking like, ‘hey, free education for everybody’ because we’re going to have to teach you to not be a fucking Nazi.”
Elsewhere in the video, Jurek said that that the CIA had been excessively critical of former Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin’s use of gulags: “People were actually paid a living wage in the gulags. They have conjugal visits in gulags. Gulags were meant for re-education.” The most effective way to re-educate the billionaire class, Jurek added, would be to force them to do hard, purposeless physical labor: “[The] greatest way to break a fucking billionaire of their privilege and their idea that they’re superior, go and break rocks for 12 hours a day. You’re now a working class person, and you’re going to fucking learn what the means, right?”
The video also showed Jurek warning that Milwaukee, where the 2020 Democratic National Convention was scheduled to be held, would go up in flames — followed by additional cities — if Sanders failed to win the party’s nomination. “If Bernie doesn’t get the nomination or it goes to a second round at the DNC convention, fucking Milwaukee will burn,” said the organizer. “It’ll start in Milwaukee and then when the police push back on that, other sites will fucking [explode].” “Be ready to be in Milwaukee for the DNC convention,” he added. “We’re going to make [the riots that occurred during the 1968 Democratic National Convention] look like a fucking girl’s scout fucking cookout,” Jurek warned. “The cops are going to be the ones fucking beaten in Milwaukee.”
Later in January 2020, Project Veritas released undercover video footage of Martin Weissgerber, a field organizer for Sanders in South Carolina, proclaiming his desire to see the United States to undergo a “revolution” and stating also:
Sanders supported the New Way Forward Act which was introduced in December 2019 by Democratic Illinois Rep. Jesús García and was subsequently co-sponsored by more than 40 additional House Democrats. The Daily Caller summarized some key provisions of the bill:
“Under the auspices of the bill, minimum prison sentences that require deportation would rise from one year to five years. This could mean that illegal aliens who are convicted of crimes such as car theft, weapons offenses and fraud — all crimes that carry average sentences of less than five years, according to Bureau of Justice Statistics — would not be required to be removed from the country.
“Additionally, the legislation calls for the widespread return of criminal illegal aliens who have been previously deported from the country. Any illegal aliens deported since April 1996 — if they would have otherwise been considered undeportable under the terms of this bill — would be allowed to come back to the U.S.”
Kris Kobach, a candidate for a United States Senate seat representing Kansas, added additional context:
“Any crime where the minimum sentence is less than five years, you can’t kick that person out of the country.… so we’re talking about auto theft, gun offenses, child abuse, rape, manslaughter, and a host of other crimes, and then here’s where it gets really crazy. It invites back into the United States any deported criminal who has committed those offenses in the last 24 years.
“Alien criminals get to come back and skip the line. So we’re talking about rapists, drug dealers, people convicted of manslaughter in the last 24 years that the United States has spent billions of dollars in apprehending, detaining, prosecuting, removing. They get to come back, and you and I get to pay for it.
“The taxpayer will give all of these deported criminals free flights back into the United States.… You don’t have to spend a penny if you come back if we deported you for your crimes here in the last 24 years…. In the part of the bill that says the criminal alien gets to come home for free, that’s the word, ‘home.’ It says the alien has a ‘right to come home.’ That’s the title of that section of that bill. Never mind that the alien was never a citizen of the United States and has been back in his country of origin for up to 24 years.… They wrote this bill insisting that the United States is his true home and so that’s why we have to fly him ‘home.’”
In late January 2020, the Washington Post reported that the Sanders campaign had outlined dozens of possible executive orders that Sanders might enact upon taking office as president. “As we continue discussing the early work of your presidency and the progress we can make, below for review is a brief overview of executive actions you could take early in your administration,” read one document reviewed by the Post. “We cannot accept delays from Congress on some of the most pressing issues, especially those like immigration where Trump has governed with racism and for his own corrupt benefit.” According to the Post, some of the executive orders would reverse President Trump’s policies on immigration, including an immediate halt of border wall construction, the removal of limits on refugees accepted for asylum, and the reinstatement of President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Other orders would ban the exportation of crude oil and the termination of any federal contracts with companies that paid employees less than $15 per hour.
In a February 2020 video presentation, Peter Schweizer, author of the book Profiles in Corruption, stated:
“When Bernie was first elected mayor of Burlington, Vermont, he appointed his then girlfriend Jane Driscoll to a position in his administration. Though the position was originally unpaid, Bernie eventually put her on the payroll over the objections of the city council. And Jane’s income would continue to be tied to Bernie’s public service.
“Once Bernie and Jane were married, Jane received a big raise. And when Bernie won election to Congress, Jane’s business ties to her husband went to a new level.
“By 2000, Bernie was in Washington D.C, serving in Congress. Jane and her children formed a new LLC called Sanders and Driscoll. The new firm was a for-profit consulting company, and was run by Jane, daughter Carina, and son David. The family ran this new business out of the Sanders family home. Because of the way it was structured, it’s impossible to know just how much money Bernie’s wife and children made from his congressional campaign. But critics would claim that Sanders doled out more than $150,000 to his family through the new company.
“Jane would even set up a media buying company, meaning that she would get paid every time candidate Bernie Sanders bought television advertising for his Congressional campaigns.
“Then, during his 2016 presidential run, the Sanders campaign would funnel $82 million through a mysterious media buying company run by Jane’s former colleagues. That company, known as Olde Towne Media, was located in private home in a cul de sac in Virginia. When a Vermont reporter called to ask Jane about her possible ties to Old Town Media, she said, ‘I have no idea what Old Towne Media is’ and hung up the phone.”
In February 2020, federal officials notified Sanders as well as lawmakers on Capitol Hill that Russia was trying to boost his campaign for U.S. President. According to The Washington Post: “Some analysts believe that the Kremlin’s goal is to cause the maximum disruption within the United States, and it throws the support of its hackers and trolls behind candidates based on that goal, not any particular affinity for the persons running.”
During a February 2020 campaign rally in Texas, Sanders said: “This is the United States of America. We should not be having more people in jail than any other country on earth including Communist China [which is] four times our size.” Lamenting America’s “racist and broken criminal justice system,” he stated: “The people in jail, as everybody here knows, are disproportionately African American, Latino, and Native Americans.” Sanders also pledged that, as president, he would invest money in more education for young people instead of “more jail and incarceration,” and that he would end the cash bail system.
On March 1, 2020, the Daily Caller reported:
“Sanders’s 2020 presidential campaign website touts an endorsement from the radical group, Dream Defenders, and the group’s co-director, Phillip Agnew, is a top Sanders surrogate. The group’s political arm, Dream Defenders PAC, has been holding twice-weekly phone banking events in support of Sanders…. Dream Defenders … has declared its support for the anti-Israel boycott, divest and sanction (BDS) movement, which has its own ties to designated terrorist organizations. [Dream Defenders] has also has repeatedly promoted the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which has been a U.S.-designated terrorist organization since 1997.”
Sanders campaigned with Rep. Ilhan Omar in Virginia on March 1, 2020. There, he called the congresswoman “one of the greatest people I know.”
In March 2020, the Sanders campaign hired a new senior advisor, Philip Agnew, about whom Sanders himself said: “I am excited to welcome Phillip to our team. He is a gifted organizer.” Some background information about Agnew:
After a string of poor performances in the Democratic presidential primaries of mid-March 2020, Sanders fell significantly behind Joe Biden in the delegate count: 1,196 to 883. Concluding that it would be “virtually impossible” for him to win the nomination, Sanders announced that he was suspending his campaign on April 8, 2020. He added, however, that he would remain on the ballot in the remaining states in order to amass more delegates, which would enable him to influence the party’s platform at its August convention. Sanders then congratulated Biden but did not explicitly endorse him. He described the former vice president as “a very decent man who I will work with to move our progressive ideas forward.”
On May 11, 2020, Sanders and the Greek Marxist academic/politician Yanis Varoufakis collaborated to launch the Progressive International, a broad alliance of left-wing activists, organizations, trade unions, and publications aiming to create a society that is “egalitarian” and “post-capitalist.”
In May 2020, while the U.S. and most other nations were battling a deadly coronavirus pandemic, Sanders appeared on ABC’s This Week and told host George Stephanopoulos:
“George, to tell you the truth, that if there’s any silver lining in this midst of this terrible, terrible, and unprecedented moment in American history in terms of the economy and in terms of the pandemic, is that maybe we start rethinking some fundamental tenets about the way our government and society works. And we should ask ourselves, among other things, is health care a human right that all of us deserve? Because we’re human beings. Or is it simply a health care benefit that somehow we lose when we lose our jobs?
“You know, Mr. Navarro [Trump advisor Peter Navarro] talked about the great economy, a beautiful economy that existed before the pandemic — well, half of people in America were living paycheck to paycheck. I don’t think it’s beautiful economy that when paychecks stop for two weeks, millions and millions of people don’t have enough money to buy the food that they need to feed their families. We need an economy that works for all, not just Trump and his billionaire friends. We need an economy that says we shouldn’t have three people on top owning more wealth than the bottom half of the American society. We need an economy that says health care is a human right, like every other country. We’re not getting ripped off by the pharmaceutical industry.
“There’s a lot to be done. And if there’s anything that I hope we learn out of this horribly painful experience is that maybe we create an economy and a government that works for all, not just the few and wealthy campaign contributors.”
For an overview of Sanders’ voting record on an array of key issues, click here.
Over the years, Bernie Sanders’ political campaigns have received strong support from such organizations as the AFL-CIO, the American Association for Justice, the Backbone Campaign, the Council for a Livable World, the Democratic Socialists of America, and Peace Action.
Among the notables who have contributed money to Sanders’ political campaigns over the years are Aris Anagnos, Ed Asner’s wife Cindy, Brent Blackwelder, Ossie Davis, Rob Reiner, Susan Sarandon, Jan Schakowsky, Pete Seeger, Barbra Streisand, and Margery Tabankin.
For additional information on Bernie Sanders, click here.
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