Sanders has built a strong grass-roots following among progressives by focusing strongly on income inequality, the Great Recession and Wall Street. He’s also tried to gain ground by criticizing Hillary Clinton’s support for invading Iraq in 2003, a decision he’s called one of America’s “worst foreign-policy blunders” ever. Sanders says the economy and politics are being controlled to an unacceptable extent by “Wall Street billionaires.” He proposes eliminating many tax breaks for the wealthy and proposes taxing them at a much higher rate. He would force the break-up of large financial institutions, which he blames for the 2008 stock market meltdown, and overhaul campaign-finance laws to limit corporate influence. He supports a $15 an hour minimum wage, expanded Social Security benefits and “green” energy.
Sanders, 74, was born in Brooklyn and graduated from the University of Chicago, but relocated in Vermont in 1968 where he’s been a political force since. After an unsuccessful run for governor as a third-party candidate, he was elected mayor of Burlington, Vermont’s largest city, in 1981 as an independent. In 1990, he won the state’s lone congressional seat, an office he would hold for 16 years before being elected senator in 2006. He won re-election in 2012. A long-time independent and self-described “Democratic Socialist,” Sanders joined the Democratic Party in 2015. He has been married to Jane O’Meara Driscoll since 1988, with whom he has three step-children. He also has a son from a previous relationship.