Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders Enters the Presidential Race

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has announced that he will seek the Democratic nomination for the 2016 presidential race.

Early Thursday morning, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders told the Associated Press that he would be seeking the Democratic nomination for the office of President of the United States. Sanders also sent out an email to his supporters and media announcing his intentions.

Sanders began his political career in the early 70’s, running as an anti-Vietnam War candidate with the Liberty Union Party in Vermont. In 1981, the was elected as the Mayor of Burlington. In 1990, he was elected to the House of Representatives and in 2005 he was elected to the Senate. The Senator runs as an Independent, but caucuses with the Democratic Party. He is the longest-serving independent in the history of the U.S. Congress.

Despite working closely with the Democratic Party and running as an independent, Sanders self-identifies as a Democratic Socialist. He plans to release “very specific proposals” regarding raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans and corporations. He also previously said he supports free education at public colleges and universities and universal healthcare. The Senator has also voted against the controversial Keystone XL pipeline and spoken against the Trans-Pacific Partnership. So far, Hilary Clinton, Rand Paul and other presidential candidates have either supported the TPP or been wary to speak against the trade agreement. The Senator has also consistently spoken about breaking up Wall Street banks and keeping corporations accountable to the people.

One of his more contentious proposals is a national minimum wage of at least fifteen dollars. The Senator has called for giving every American a “living wage” to help those struggling in the face of inflation, and a widening gap between the rich and poor. However, the effects of a fifteen dollar minimum wage are already being seen in places like Seattle.

Barry Donnegan reports:

“A Z Pizza franchise in Seattle employing 12 people has announced that it will close in August due to financial pressure caused by Seattle’s $15 per hour minimum wage hike.

 The franchise’s owner, Ritu Shah Burnham, described the efforts she’s already taken to adapt to the phased increase to the new $11 minimum hourly wage, “I’ve let one person go since April 1, I’ve cut hours since April 1, I’ve taken them myself because I don’t pay myself.” However, the fact that her 12-employee business has a franchise relationship with Z Pizza means that, under the new minimum wage law, she is required to retool her business such that it can stay open while paying employees $15 per hour within just 2 years, rather than being able to wait until 2021 like other small businesses, a feat Burnham says she can not manage. “I know that I would have stayed here if I had 7 years, just like everyone else, if I had an even playing field. The discrimination I’m feeling right now against my small business makes me not want to stay and do anything in Seattle,” she said.”

Another area where Sanders is sure to receive criticism from his supporters and libertarians, is his support of Israel.

In July of 2014, Sanders voted with the rest of the Senators in support of a Senate resolution that called for supporting “the State of Israel as it defends itself against unprovoked rocket attacks from the Hamas terrorist organization.” He would later excuse the Israeli attacks on civilian populations in Gaza by saying that missiles were being fired from populated areas in Gaza into Israel.

CounterPunch News reported:

“However, the facts differ.

A report issued by the authoritative the “Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center” (ITIC), a private Israeli think tank that “has close ties with the country’s military leadership,” unintentionally debunked the Senate resolution more than a week before its unanimous consent vote in the Senate. The weekly ITIC reports regarding rocket fire are frequently quoted on the Israeli government’s own web site.

The ITIC July 8, 2014 report,“News of Terrorism and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (July 2 – 8, 2014),” states: “For the first time sinceOperation Pillar of Defense [November 2012], Hamas participated in and claimed responsibility for rocket fire [on July 7, 2014].”

Thus, Hamas rocket fire only re-started on July 7after a 19 month cease-fire. As we will see, this was nearly a month after Israeli forces launched massive military operations in the West Bank and Gaza starting on June 12. But those Israeli military operations were not the only provocation.”

In August 2014 Sanders was confronted by supporters at a town hall in Vermont regarding his position on Israel. He stated he felt Israel “overreacted” by bombing United Nations schools, but became irate when members of the audience challenged him.“Excuse me! Shut up! You don’t have the microphone,” he told the audience.

However, Sanders would go on to boycott Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress in March.

Even if Sanders can get Americans to look past his position on Israel, he might not be able to run in the New Hampshire primary. CNN reported:

“William Gardner, who has guarded the state’s first-in-the-nation presidential primary for four decades as Secretary of State, said he isn’t sure whether Sanders meets the state’s requirement to be on the presidential ballot.

“If they’re going to run in the primary, they have to be a registered member of the party,” Gardner told CNN. “Our declaration of candidacy form that they have to fill out says ‘I am a registered member of the party.'”

Gardner, who takes pride in personally greeting all presidential candidates in the fall when they file their paperwork at the State Capitol in downtown Concord, N.H., stopped short of saying Sanders would be excluded from the 2016 Democratic primary ballot. But he said he did not know how Sanders could answer the simple question on the form: Are you a registered Republican or Democrat?

“We have only two legal parties in New Hampshire,” Gardner said in an interview. “The primary is only for those legal parties.”

On the surface Bernie Sanders seems to be more of champion for the people than most of the other candidates. He espouses positions that warm the heart of the working class, and give hope to those struggling to survive as the rich get richer. But will his policies lead to an increase in the size of government? Would a Sanders Presidency end the War on Terror? Would President Sanders put an end to the mass surveillance being conducted by the NSA?

Certainly Bernie Sanders offers potential voters on the left a better option than Hilary Clinton, and perhaps even Rand Paul, but is voting for the lesser evil a strategy Americans should really be considering? We have to ask ourselves if any of the candidates truly represent our interests or if we are simply settling and hoping that one more vote will change the dangerous direction the United States is heading.