Role: US Senator
Areas of Leadership
Problems: Income and Wealth Inequality, Money in Politics
After spending much of his political life on the periphery of American politics, Bernie Sanders took center stage in the Democratic primary race to be the Party’s nominee in the 2016 Presidential election. His campaign made solving income and wealth inequality its primary message. As a result, his singular focus compelled his opponent and eventual Democratic Party nominee, Hillary Clinton, to embrace the issue as a key part of the Party’s platform. His campaign also stirred enough right-leaning voters that it encouraged candidates in the Republican Party primary to address the issue, including the GOP’s eventual nominee, Donald Trump. Furthermore, as part of his campaign, Senator Sanders’ proposals to raise the minimum wage, increase taxes on the wealthy, and provide tuition-free higher education introduced – or reintroduced – these ideas to our national policy discussion.
Sanders also made a statement on the influence of money in politics by refusing to create a super PAC to support his campaign or to actively court large corporate donors for contributions to any PACs that supported him. Instead, his campaign set records by collecting more than $226.6 million in individual contributions – 59% of which came from individuals contributing $200 or less. The campaign benefited from an additional $923,000 raised by PACs and SuperPACs, or less than 0.5% of the total raised.
(By contrast, the campaigns of the last two candidates to drop from the Republican primary, Ted Cruz and John Kasich, received 37% and 45%, respectively, in PAC money. And the two presidential nominees, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, received 29% and 23%, respectively, from PACs and SuperPACs.)
Although Sanders ended his campaign when he endorsed his opponent in July of 2016, the movement he started inspired several of his supporters to create Our Revolution, an advocacy organization committed to Sanders’ progressive goals.
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