Political positions of Bernie Sanders

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Bernie Sanders speaks at a rally in Portland, Oregon during the 2016 Presidential campaign.

The political positions of Bernie Sanders are reflected by his United States Senate voting record, public speeches, and interviews. A self-described democratic socialist, Sanders is an independent senator from Vermont who has served in government since 1981.

In 2016, Sanders campaigned for the Presidency of the United States in the Democratic primaries. His proposed policies emphasize reversing economic inequality.[1][2] Since the election, Sanders has criticized the presidency of Donald Trump.[3]

Political and economic philosophy

Sanders described himself as a "democratic socialist"[4] and an admirer of aspects of social democracy as practiced in the Scandinavian countries. In an address on his political philosophy given at Georgetown University in November 2015, Sanders identified his conception of "democratic socialism" with Franklin D. Roosevelt's proposal for a Second Bill of Rights,[5][6] saying that democratic socialism means creating "an economy that works for all, not just the very wealthy," reforming the political system (which Sanders says is "grossly unfair" and "in many respects, corrupt"), recognizing health care and education as rights, protecting the environment, and creating a "vibrant democracy based on the principle of one person, one vote."[7] He explained that democratic socialism is not tied to Marxism or the abolition of capitalism, it instead describes a program of extensive social benefits, funded by broad-based taxes.[8]

Commentary of others

Multiple commentators have examined Sanders' characterization of his political platform and ideology as "socialism" and generally found it to support tax-funded social benefits rather than social ownership of the means of production.


Samuel Goldman, assistant professor of political science at George Washington University, states that Sanders' platform is not socialist and is better described as "welfarism" reminiscent of the 1950s that aims to regulate rather than to replace capitalism. Goldman notes that Sanders does not advocate public ownership of the means of production nor does he seek to abolish the profit system, both of which Goldman considers to be defining characteristics of socialism.[9]

Lane Kenworthy, professor of sociology at the University of California at San Diego, has stated that Sanders is a social democrat and not a democratic socialist, and that the two ideologies are fundamentally different from each other. Kenworthy points out that social democracy does not aim to abolish capitalism, and argues that Sanders' use of the term "socialism" when he actually advocates "social democracy" is causing more confusion than it is adding value, and might unnecessarily have a negative impact on his presidential campaign. Mike Konczal, an economic policy expert at the Roosevelt Institute, also characterizes Sanders' positions as "social democracy" rather than "socialist", noting that social democracy means support for a mixed economy combining private enterprise with government spending, social insurance programs, Keynesian macroeconomic policies, and democratic participation in government and the workplace—all of which are a part of Sanders' platform.[10]

Andrei Markovits, professor of political science at the University of Michigan, defines democratic socialism as "an attempt to create a property-free, socialist society" and something that does not exist in Denmark or anywhere else in the world, and argues that Sanders' explanation of the term is inaccurate.[11]

Socialist organizations

American socialists and representatives belonging to the Democratic Socialists of America, Socialist Workers Party and Socialist Party USA have criticized Sanders, arguing that he is not a socialist because he aims to reform capitalism rather than to replace it with an entirely different socialist system.[12] Despite these criticisms however, the Democratic Socialists of America "strongly support(ed)" his campaign for President.[13] Former Sanders colleague, Peter Diamondstone, claimed that Sanders was a socialist during his time in the Liberty Union Party but is no longer a true socialist.[14]

Bhaskar Sunkara, the founder, editor, and publisher of the socialist journal Jacobin, considered Sanders to be a social democrat and not a socialist.[5]

Other commentators

In 2015, The New Republic distinguished between socialism and "democratic socialism", suggesting that Sanders himself was loose with the distinction in his terminology and that the United States already had such social democratic programs as Social Security and Medicare.[15]Noam Chomsky, a social commentator and activist, called Sanders an "honest New Dealer" and not a true socialist.[16] In a 2016 editorial, The Economist suggested that, despite calling himself a "democratic socialist", Sanders actually fits the mold of a "social democrat" for his embrace of "private companies that thrive and grow in America" and belief that "the middle class and the working families who produce the wealth of America deserve a fair deal".[17] A Forbes commentator suggested that his "democratic socialism" is really social democracy, as found in much of Europe and especially in the Nordic countries.[18] In 2018, The Week suggested that there was a trend towards social democracy in the United States and highlighted elements of its implementation in the Nordic countries and suggested that Sanders popularity was an element in favor of its possible growth in acceptance.[19]


Income and wealth inequality

Campaign video on income inequality

A cornerstone of Sanders's 2016 presidential campaign was to fight the increasing wealth inequality in the United States. In April 2015, the Associated Press wrote:

What we have seen is that while the average person is working longer hours for lower wages, we have seen a huge increase in income and wealth inequality, which is now reaching obscene levels. This is a rigged economy, which works for the rich and the powerful, and is not working for ordinary Americans ... You know, this country just does not belong to a handful of billionaires.[20]

In July 2015, Sanders introduced legislation that would incrementally increase the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2020.[21][22]


Sanders supports repeal of some of the tax deductions that benefit hedge funds and corporations, and would raise taxes on capital gains and the wealthiest one percent of Americans. He would use some of the added revenues to lower the taxes of the middle and lower classes.[23][24] He has suggested that he would be open to a 90% top marginal tax rate (a rate that last existed during the years after World War II) for the wealthiest earners, as well as a 52% top income tax bracket.[25] He has proposed a top marginal rate of 65% for the federal estate tax, up from the current 40% rate.[26]

In 1974, while running for the Senate, Sanders said, "nobody should earn more than $1 million."[27]

In March 2017, Sanders introduced legislation ending the ability of corporations to defer from paying taxes in the United States on their foreign earnings until the money was repatriated, the bill also having provisions that limited the tax benefits of corporate inversions and prohibiting American companies from asserting themselves as foreign companies in the event that their management and operations were based in the US. In a press conference, Sanders stated that the US had "a rigged tax code that has essentially legalized tax-dodging for large corporations."[28]

Wall Street reform

On May 6, 2015, Sanders introduced a legislation designed to break up "too big to fail" financial institutions. With three of the four banks bailed out during the 2007–08 global financial crisis now larger than they were then, Sanders believes that "no single financial institution should have holdings so extensive that its failure would send the world economy into crisis. If an institution is too big to fail, it is too big to exist."[29][30] As a representative from Vermont, Sanders opposed the Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act, signed in 1999 by President Bill Clinton, which repealed the provision of the Glass–Steagall Act preventing any financial institution from acting as both a securities firm and a commercial bank. Sanders supports legislation sponsored by Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) to re-instate Glass–Steagall.[31]


In his "Plan to Rebuild America", the January 27, 2015 legislative proposal he co-sponsored with Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), the ranking member of the appropriations committee, and backed by the American Society of Civil Engineers, the AFL-CIO and other trade unions, Sanders insisted on the pivotal role played by infrastructure investments:"For too many years, we have dramatically underfunded the physical infrastructure that our economy depends on. That is why I have proposed the Rebuild America Act, to invest $1 trillion over five years to modernize our infrastructure ... Importantly, the Rebuild America Act will support more than thirteen million good-paying jobs – jobs that our economy desperately needs." [32]

While clearly rooted in the Rooseveltian, progressivist tradition,[33] this policy proposal also reflects, more generally, the pre-Reagan Era bipartisan American policy consensus, which was more favorable to the notion of infrastructure spending[34] and infrastructure-driven development.


According to PolitiFact, Sanders has "consistently argued for protectionist trade policies as opposed to free trade."[35] Sanders opposes the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, which he has called "a continuation of other disastrous trade agreements, like NAFTA, CAFTA, and permanent normal trade relations with China." He believes that free trade agreements have caused a loss of American jobs and have depressed American wages. Sanders has said that America needs to rebuild its own manufacturing base by using American factories and supporting well-paying jobs for American labor rather than outsourcing to China and other countries.[36][37][38][39]

According to Sanders, TPP undermines US's sovereignty: TPP grants multinational corporations power to sue a national government in UN and World Bank tribunals over lost profits (including those yet to be made) due to the regulations about labor, health and environment that the government imposed. The tribunals can require US's taxpayer to pay compensation.[40]

The Panama Free Trade Agreement, which, according to Sanders, allowed and made the abuses documented in the Panama Papers leaks worse, was opposed by Sanders.[41]

In September 2016, Sanders was one of twelve senators to sign a letter to President Obama asserting that the passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership "in its current form will perpetuate a trade policy that advantages corporations at the expense of American workers" and there would be an "erosion of U.S. manufacturing and middle class jobs, and accelerate the corporate race to the bottom" if provisions were not fixed.[42]

On November 30, 2018, Sanders announced his opposition to the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement, saying "a re-negotiated NAFTA must stop the outsourcing of U.S. jobs, end the destructive race to the bottom, protect the environment, and lower the outrageously high price of prescription drugs" and that corporations would persist in shipping "U.S. jobs to Mexico where workers are paid as little as $2 an hour" until the agreement's text was revised to include "strong enforcement mechanisms".[43]


Sanders was committed to creating job growth through infrastructure development and manufacturing, saying, "America once led the world in building and maintaining a nationwide network of safe and reliable bridges and roads. Today, nearly a quarter of the nation's 600,000 bridges have been designated as structurally deficient or functionally obsolete ... Almost one-third of America's major roads are in poor or mediocre condition ..." Sanders has introduced amendments to Senate bills (S.Amendt.323) promoting the creation of millions of middle-class jobs by investing in infrastructure, paid for by closing loopholes in the corporate and international tax system.[44][45] He also supports legislation that would make it easier for workers to join or form a labor union.[46] Sanders' campaign website also has focused on the concerns of both the long-term unemployed and the underemployed, citing that "the real unemployment rate is much higher than the 'official' figure typically reported in the newspapers. When you include workers who have given up looking for jobs, or those who are working part-time when they want to work full-time, the real number is much higher than official figures would suggest."[47]

Sanders has said that there is a very important role for free enterprise and economic growth, especially for small business and entrepreneurs, but that the competitive landscape in the US has become unfair, favoring large corporations. He has also said that economic growth needs to serve people and that growth for the sake of enriching the top 1% does not serve the country's interests. He has said that he would accept a reduction in economic growth in order to increase fairness and reduce economic inequality.[38][48][49]

Employee ownership

Sanders supports establishing worker-owned cooperatives and introduced legislation in June 2014 that would aid workers who wanted to "form their own businesses or to set up worker-owned cooperatives."[46][50][51] As early as 1976, Sanders proposed workplace democracy, saying, "I believe that, in the long run, major industries in this state and nation should be publicly owned and controlled by the workers themselves."[52]

In 1987, Sanders defined democracy as public ownership and workers' self-management in the workplace, stating that "Democracy means public ownership of the major means of production, it means decentralization, it means involving people in their work. Rather than having bosses and workers it means having democratic control over the factories and shops to as great a degree as you can."[53]

Offshore tax havens

Noting that American corporations are collectively holding more than $1 trillion in profits in offshore tax haven countries, Sanders has introduced legislation that would crack down on offshore tax havens by requiring companies to pay the top U.S. corporate tax rate on profits held abroad.[54] On his website, Sanders offers examples of large American companies that paid no federal taxes and even received tax refunds, with many of them receiving large amounts in financial assistance during the recent financial crisis and continuing to receive billions in subsidies.[55] Sanders feels that this is unfair and that it damages the nation's economy, believing the money used for refunds and subsidies should instead be invested in American small businesses and the working people.[56]

Federal Reserve

Sanders is in favor of auditing the Federal Reserve, which would reduce the independence of the Federal Reserve in monetary policy deliberations; Federal Reserve officials say that 'Audit the Fed' legislation would expose the Federal Reserve to undue political pressure from lawmakers disliking its decisions.[57][58][59] Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman said that "such a bill would essentially empower the cranks — the gold-standard-loving, hyperinflation-is-coming types who dominate the modern G.O.P., and have spent the past five or six years trying to bully monetary policy makers into ceasing and desisting from their efforts to prevent economic disaster."[60]

In a December 2015 op-ed, Sanders called for creating board positions on the Federal Reserve for "representatives from all walks of life — including labor, consumers, homeowners, urban residents, farmers and small businesses."[61][62]

Debt relief

In June 2016, after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced an agreement on the Puerto Rico debt relief bill, Sanders said the bill was a "terrible piece of legislation, setting horrific precedent and must not be passed" and stated his opposition to the US treating Puerto Rico "like a colony."[63]

Minimum wage

In May 2017, Sanders and thirty Democratic senators introduced a bill increasing the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 by 2024 while also tying future increases to national median wage growth and gradually reducing the current exception to the minimum wage in regard to tipped workers. Sanders stated, "Just a few short years ago, we were told that raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour was 'radical'. Our job in the wealthiest country in the history of the world is to make sure that every worker has at least a modest and decent standard of living."[64]


Global warming

Campaign video on climate change

Sanders views global warming as a serious problem.[65] Along with Senator Barbara Boxer, Sanders introduced the Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act of 2007 on January 15, 2007.[66] In a July 26, 2012 speech on the Senate floor, Sanders addressed claims made by Senator Jim Inhofe: "The bottom line is when Senator Inhofe says global warming is a hoax, he is just dead wrong, according to the vast majority of climate scientists."[67] He was Climate Hawks Vote's top-rated senator on climate leadership in the 113th Congress.[68]

Believing that "[we need to] transform our energy system away from fossil fuel," Sanders voted against the Keystone Pipeline bill, saying, "Unless we get our act together, the planet that we're going to be leaving to our kids and grandchildren will be significantly less habitable than the planet we have right now ... I think it's a good idea for the president, Congress, and the American people to listen to the overwhelming amount of scientists who tell us loudly and clearly that climate change is one of the great planetary crises that we face."[69]

Sanders also stands with the Great Sioux Nation as opposed to constructing the Dakota Access Pipeline, stating:

Like the Keystone XL pipeline, which I opposed since day one, the Dakota Access fracked oil pipeline, will transport some of the dirtiest fuel on the planet. Regardless of the court's decision, the Dakota Access pipeline must be stopped. As a nation, our job is to break our addiction to fossil fuels, not increase our dependence on oil. I join with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the many tribal nations fighting this dangerous pipeline.[70]

In April 2015, Sanders was one of five senators to sign a letter to American governors saying the climate change views of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell were not in line with that of Kentuckians and urging them to comply with the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan.[71]

In April 2017, along with Stanford University professor Mark Jacobson, Sanders wrote an op-ed for The Guardian on the need for the US to "aggressively transition our energy system away from fossil fuels and toward clean, renewable energy solutions", citing climate change as already having caused "severe weather events like prolonged droughts, record-high temperatures, and rising sea levels because of melting Arctic sea ice." Sanders and Jacobson also warned that "people who had least to do with causing the problem will be impacted the most, including low income families and communities of color across America."[72]

Nuclear energy

Following the 2011 Japanese nuclear accidents, Sanders called for a moratorium on licensing new nuclear plants and re-licensing of existing ones, in an effort to slow down what has been touted as a nuclear renaissance in the United States.[73] Sanders wrote to President Obama, asking him to appoint a special commission to review the safety of U.S. nuclear plants. Sanders also wants to repeal the Price–Anderson Act, which leaves the taxpayers to pay most of the costs of a major nuclear accident. He says, "in a free-enterprise system, the nuclear industry should be required to insure itself against accidents."[73]

Sanders has gone on record against the government financial backing of the nuclear industry, which he calls "nuclear welfare".[74] Additionally, he expresses concern over the logistics and fiscal challenges of nuclear waste.[74] He has spoken in favor of sustainable alternatives and cites Vermont as a state leading such endeavors, saying in regard to opposition of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's 2011 extension (just one week after the Japanese accidents) of the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant's operating license, "In my state there is a strong feeling that we want to go forward with energy efficiency and sustainable energy. I believe that we have that right. I believe that every other state in the country has that right. If we want to move to sustainable energy and not maintain an aging, trouble-plagued nuclear power plant, I think we should be allowed to do that."[75]


At a September 2016 rally near the White House, Sanders called on President Obama to ensure the Dakota Access Pipeline "gets a full environmental and cultural impact analysis" and stated his position that the pipeline would not continue in the event of such an analysis taking place, citing findings by Oil Change International that the Dakota Access Pipeline would have the same impact on the planet as adding 21 million more cars on the road along with constructing 30 more coal plants.[76]

In October 2016, Sanders led four senators in a letter to President Obama requesting the administration halt work on the Dakota Access Pipeline until the permitting process of the Army Corps "be transparent and include public notice and participation, formal and meaningful tribal consultation, and adequate environmental review" and stating their support for the "tribes along the pipeline route in their fight against the Dakota Access pipeline project."[77]

In December 2016, following the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers's block on the Dakota Access Pipeline, Sanders released a statement praising President Obama for listening to Native Americans as well as others opposed to the pipeline's construction and said the United States should neither "endanger the water supply of millions of people" nor "become more dependent on fossil fuel and accelerate the planetary crisis of climate change." He called for a transformation of the American energy system that would see a departure from the usage of fossil fuels.[78]

Transparency and corruption

Campaign finance

Sanders supports the DISCLOSE Act, which would make campaign finances more transparent and ban U.S. corporations controlled by foreign interests from making political expenditures.[79] He has been outspoken in calling for an overturn of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, in which the Supreme Court overturned McCain-Feingold restrictions on political spending by corporations and unions as a violation of the First Amendment.[80] Saying that he believes that the Citizens United decision is "one of the Supreme Court's worst decisions ever" and that it has allowed big money to "deflect attention from the real issues" facing voters,[81] he has proposed a constitutional amendment to undo the ruling.[82] He warns: "We now have a political situation where billionaires are literally able to buy elections and candidates."[83]

In October 2016, while stumping for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, Sanders advocated for Trump supporters to vote for Clinton due to her promise to propose a constitutional amendment in the first 100 days of her presidency to overturn Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission as well as her intent to nominate a Supreme Court justice to fill the vacancy by the late Antonin Scalia that would support overturning Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission: "This issue of Citizens United is a profound issue impacting the entire country. I say to Mr. Trump's supporters: most of you understand that system is rigged in favor of wealthy and power."[84]

Instant runoff voting

In 2007, Sanders testified to the Vermont Senate Government Operations Committee that he "strongly supports instant-runoff voting" because it "allows people to vote for what they really want without worrying about the possibility of them getting what they really don't want."[85] The committee and legislature ultimately passed legislation that would have enacted instant runoff voting for U.S. Representatives and U.S. Senators, but the governor vetoed it.[86]

Media reform

Sanders has been a leader in calling for media reform and opposes increased concentration of ownership of media outlets,[87] as well as being a contributing author for OpEdNews.[88] He appeared in Orwell Rolls in His Grave and Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism, two documentaries on the subject.[89]

Internet privacy

In April 2017, after President Trump signed a law undoing a Federal Communications Commission rule requiring internet service providers to obtain permission from customers prior to selling their data to advertisers, Sanders was one of eleven senators to sponsor legislation undoing the repeal and reinstating the regulations.[90]

Net neutrality

Sanders opposes the repeal of net neutrality in the United States, as voted by FCC commissioners in a 3-2 vote on December 14, 2017 — his statement on the issue from his U.S. Senate website on the same day as the vote, partly reads: "The FCC's vote to end net neutrality is an egregious attack on our democracy. With this decision the internet and its free exchange of information as we have come to know it will cease to exist ... At a time when our democratic institutions are already in peril, we must do everything we can to stop this decision from taking effect."[91]

Foreign policy

Bernie Sanders at a May 2016 rally in Vallejo, California.


In February 2011, Sanders traveled to Afghanistan and Pakistan with fellow senators Bob Corker, Chris Coons, and Joe Manchin, opining afterward that Afghanistan was "one of the most backward countries in the entire world" given its massive poverty, lack of literacy, and corruption. He stated his belief that the US could afford to reduce its funding for the American and Afghanistan armed forces, Afghanistan police, and Afghanistan's economic development.[92]


Early in his career, Sanders had praised the Cuban government for their reforms, including widespread education and health care in Cuba.[93] On April 14, 2015, after the White House announced that President Obama had intended to remove Cuba from the United States' list of nations sponsoring terrorism, Sanders issued a statement saying, "While we have our strong differences with Cuba, it is not a terrorist state. I applaud President Obama for moving aggressively to develop normal diplomatic relations. Fifty years of Cold War is enough. It is time for Cuba and the United States to turn the page and normalize relations."[94]


Sanders supports the agreement with Iran reached by President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry. While calling it less than a perfect agreement, he believes that the US needs to negotiate with Iran rather than enter in another war in the Middle East.[95]

In 2017, Congress took up a bill designed to impose sanctions on Russia, for its alleged interference in the 2016 election, and on Iran. Sanders announced that he supported the sanctions on Russia, but he voted against the bill because of the Iran provisions. He stated:

I have voted for sanctions on Iran in the past, and I believe sanctions were an important tool for bringing Iran to the negotiating table. But I believe that these new sanctions could endanger the very important nuclear agreement that was signed between the United States, its partners and Iran in 2015. That is not a risk worth taking. ...[96]

In October 2017, Sanders said that "the worst possible thing" the United States could do was undermine the Iran nuclear deal if it was "genuinely concerned with Iran's behavior in the region" and that the president's comments against the deal had isolated the US from foreign allies that had retained their commitment to the agreement.[97]

In May 2018, Sanders was one of twelve senators to sign a letter to President Trump urging him to remain in the Iran nuclear deal on the grounds that "Iran could either remain in the agreement and seek to isolate the United States from our closest partners, or resume its nuclear activities" if the US pulled out and that both possibilities "would be detrimental to our national security interests."[98]


Sanders strongly opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq and voted against the 2002 resolution authorizing the use of force against that country. In a 2002 speech, he said, "I am opposed to giving the President a blank check to launch a unilateral invasion and occupation of Iraq" and "I will vote against this resolution. One, I have not heard any estimates of how many young American men and women might die in such a war or how many tens of thousands of women and children in Iraq might also be killed. As a caring Nation, we should do everything we can to prevent the horrible suffering that a war will cause. War must be the last recourse in international relations, not the first. Second, I am deeply concerned about the precedent that a unilateral invasion of Iraq could establish in terms of international law and the role of the United Nations."[99]

Islamic State of Iraq and Syria

Sanders has called the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) "a barbaric organization" and "a growing threat," but does not believe that the U.S. should lead the fight against it. Sanders believes that "the United States should be supportive, along with other countries, but we cannot and we should not be involved in perpetual warfare in the Middle East – the Muslim countries themselves have got to lead the effort."[100]

On November 15, 2015, in response to ISIS' attacks in Paris, Sanders cautioned against "Islamophobia" saying, "During these difficult times as Americans, we will not succumb to racism. We will not allow ourselves to be divided and succumb to Islamophobia. And while hundreds of thousands have lost everything, have nothing left but the shirts on their backs, we will not turn our backs on the refugees!"[101]

Sanders criticized Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, and UAE, saying that those "countries of enormous wealth and resources – have contributed far too little in the fight against ISIS". Sanders said Saudi Arabia, instead of fighting ISIS, has focused more on Houthi rebels in Yemen, and Kuwait has been a well-known source of financing for ISIS, and Qatar is spending $200 billion on the 2022 World Cup, yet very little to fight against ISIS. "Wealthy and powerful Muslim nations in the region can no longer sit on the sidelines and expect the United States to do their work for them."[102]

In April 2018, in a statement, Sanders said President Trump had "no legal authority for broadening the war in Syria" and recommended Trump approach Congress if he believed "expanding the war in Syria will bring stability to the region and protect American interests".[103]

Israeli–Palestinian conflict

Sanders supports a two-state solution, saying that "the Palestinian people, in my view, deserve a state of their own, they deserve an economy of their own, they deserve economic support from the people of this country. And Israel needs to be able to live in security without terrorist attacks."[104] Sanders has said Israel must have a right to live in peace and security.[105]

In 2008, Sanders was a co-sponsor of a Senate Resolution, "recognizing the 60th anniversary of the founding of the modern State of Israel and reaffirming the bonds of close friendship and cooperation between the United States and Israel." The resolution reaffirmed Israel's right to defend itself against terror. It also congratulated Israel on building a strong nation and wished for a successful Israeli future.[106]

According to Sanders' senate webpage, David Palumbo-Liu wrongly noted in Salon that Sen. Sanders "voted" for a resolution supporting Operation Protective Edge which had actually passed without a vote.[107] A statement published on his Senate website reads in part: "Sanders believes the Israeli attacks that killed hundreds of innocent people – including many women and children – in bombings of civilian neighborhoods and UN controlled schools, hospitals, and refugee camps were disproportionate, and the widespread killing of civilians is completely unacceptable. Israel's actions took an enormous human toll, and appeared to strengthen support for Hamas and may well be sowing the seeds for even more hatred, war and destruction in future years."[104]

Rania Khalek, writing in The Electronic Intifada, a pro-Palestinian publication, has argued there is "little reason to believe a Sanders administration would be all that different on Palestine than the current one".[108] To The Intercept's Zaid Jilani, however, Sanders "stood out in contrast to the remarks from the other four major party candidates" in the 2016 presidential election, criticizing Israel's policy of settlement expansion after violent episodes and defended self-determination, civil rights, and economic well-being for Palestinians. After AIPAC's refusal to accept Sanders's telepresence at their 2016 debate, former U.S. ambassador Marc Ginsberg explained the event saying that Bernie Sanders "has never really extolled his Jewishness, much less any support for Israel".[109] Sanders was criticized for hiring IfNotNow founder Simone Zimmerman as his Jewish Outreach Coordinator, and she was fired from the campaign after critical social media posts about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the conflict surfaced.[110][111]

While being interviewed in April 2016 by the New York Daily News, Sanders said that Israel killed over 10,000 innocent civilians in Gaza,[112] an unnecessarily high death toll.[113] The Anti-Defamation League subsequently called on Sanders to withdraw remarks he made about the casualties, which the ADL said exaggerated the death toll of the 2014 Israel–Gaza conflict, citing a number far in excess of Palestinian or Israel sources' estimates.[114] Sanders later clarified that he was quickly corrected in that the death toll was closer to 2,000 civilians.[115]

In November 2017, Sanders was one of ten Democratic senators to sign a letter urging Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu to halt the planned demolitions of Palestinian villages Khan al-Ahmar and Sussiya on the grounds that such action would further diminish efforts to seek a two-state solution and "endanger Israel's future as a Jewish democracy."[116]

In April 2018, shortly after the commencing of the 2018 Gaza border protests, Sanders stated, "From what my understanding is, you have tens and tens of thousands of people who are engaged in a nonviolent protest. I believe now 15 or 20 people, Palestinians, have been killed and many, many others have been wounded. So I think it's a difficult situation, but my assessment is that Israel overreacted on that." He furthered that Gaza remained "a humanitarian disaster" and called on the United States to play "a more positive role in ending the Gaza blockade and helping Palestinians and Israelis build a future that works for all."[117]

During an October 2018 speech, Sanders said it was "hard to imagine that Israel's Netanyahu government would have taken a number of steps— including passing the recent 'Nation State law,' which essentially codifies the second-class status of Israel's non-Jewish citizens, aggressively undermining the longstanding goal of a two-state solution, and ignoring the economic catastrophe in Gaza — if Netanyahu wasn't confident that Trump would support him."[118]

BDS and defense of Israeli right to exist

Bernie Sanders supports a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, opposes attempts at a one-state solution, opposes the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel (BDS), and maintains that the United Nations has a bias against Israel.[119][120] He has also maintained that antisemitism plays a role in the BDS movement.[121]

Following Sanders' signing of a US congressional letter denouncing a bias at the UN against Israel and calling upon UN General Secretary Antonia Guterres, urging him to remedy the problem, he defended his signature on an interview hosted by the Qatari news agency Al Jazeera, saying:[119]

there are many problems with Israel ... On the other hand, to see Israel attacked over and over again for human rights violations which may be true, when you have countries like Saudi Arabia or Syria, Saudi Arabia – I'm not quite sure if a woman can even drive a car today. So I think the thrust of that letter is not to say that Israel does not have human rights issues — it does — but to say how come it's only Israel when you have other countries where women are treated as third-class citizens, where in Egypt, I don't know how many thousands of people now lingering in jail, so that's the point of that, not to defend Israel but to say why only Israel."

Asked if he "respected" BDS as a protest tactic, Sanders has said "No, I don't", adding that it was counterproductive if the goal is trying to bring about peace talks.[119] In 2016, Sanders averred that there was "absolutely" antisemitism in the BDS movement, elaborating:[121]

Israel has done some very bad things, so has every other country on earth," Sanders said. "I think the people who want to attack Israel for their policies, I think that is fair game. But not to appreciate that there is some level of anti-Semitism around the world involved in that I think would be a mistake ... I spent many months on a kibbutz on Israel, so I know something about Israel. Israel has got to be defended, has a right to exist, but you cannot ignore the needs of the Palestinian people.

Sanders supports a two state solution, and regarding the possibility of a one state solution, he has stated:[119]

I think if that happens, then that [a one state solution] would be the end of the State of Israel and I support Israel's right to exist ... I think if there is the political will to make it [peace and a two state solution] happen and if there is good faith on both sides I do think it's possible, and I think there has not been good faith, certainly on this Israeli government and I have my doubts about parts of the Palestinian leadership as well.

In a December 2018 letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Sanders and Dianne Feinstein advocated against a provision of a spending package barring companies from endorsing anti-Israel boycotts promoted by governmental groups, writing that while they did not support "the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, we remain resolved to our constitutional oath to defend the right of every American to express their views peacefully without fear of or actual punishment by the government."[122]

Henry Kissinger

During the February 11th democratic debate, Sanders took issue with Hillary Clinton's admiration of former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, noting that he was "one of the most destructive" in US modern history, stating:

I am proud to say that Henry Kissinger is not my friend. I will not take advice from Henry Kissinger. In fact, Kissinger's actions in Cambodia, when the United States bombed that country, overthrew Prince Sihanouk, created the instability for Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge to come in who then butchered some 3 million innocent people – one of the worst genocides in the history of the world.[123]

Nicaraguan Revolution

During the Nicaraguan Revolution, Sanders opposed the U.S. funding the Contras and praised the leadership and popularity of the Sandinistas. Sanders expressed that the popularity of Sandinistas in their country was more than of the U.S. president and that the Nicaraguan people do not want invasion.[124][93]


Since the deterioration of Venezuelan living standards under the direction of the self-described socialist government in the country, concerns and comparisons to Venezuela were raised over Sanders' desires to implement socialist policies in the United States.[125][126][127] Sanders responded by attempting to distance himself from Venezuela's Bolivarian Government, replying to such worries by stating, "When I talk about Democratic socialist, I'm not looking at Venezuela. I'm not looking at Cuba. I'm looking at countries like Denmark and Sweden".[128] Sanders also furthered himself from the Venezuelan government by calling the leader of Venezuela's Bolivarian Revolution, former President Hugo Chávez, a "dead communist dictator".[129]

Clinton Foundation

When asked by CNN's Jake Tapper in June 2016 if it was fair to criticize the American charity, the Clinton Foundation, for taking money from foreign governments which do not represent our values, Sanders responded, saying, "Yes it is. It is. If you ask me about the Clinton Foundation, do I have a problem when a sitting secretary of state and a foundation run by her husband collects many millions of dollars from foreign governments, governments which are dictatorships -- you don't have a lot of civil liberties or democratic rights in Saudi Arabia. You don't have a lot of respect there for opposition points of view for gay rights, for women's rights. Yes, do I have a problem with that? Yes, I do."[130][131] In September 2016, Sanders told NBC's Chuck Todd that if Clinton becomes president of the United States, she should cease all contact with the Foundation, but stopped short of agreeing it should be closed, noting, "I don't know enough. They do a lot of good things with A.I.D.S. and so forth. I can't, you know, definitively answer that."[132][133]

Insights regarding Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party

In August 2016, Sanders praised Jeremy Corbyn in his candidacy in the Labour Party leadership election. Corbyn said that he had received a message from Sanders saying that Sanders was dismissed as unelectable but that the real reason many dismissed him was that he was electable and a threat to the American political establishment.[134]

In June 2017, he again saw parallels between his efforts and those of Corbyn in the 2017 UK general election. During a speech promoting his book at the Brighton Festival,[135] Sanders said: "What Corbyn has tried to do with the Labour Party is not dissimilar to what some of us are trying to do with the Democratic Party, and that is to make it a party that is much more open and inviting for working people and young people and not have a liberal elite making the decisions from the top down. I think what Corbyn is doing is trying to revitalise democracy, bring a lot of new people into the political process and I think that's an excellent idea ..."[136] He added: "...he has taken on the establishment of the Labour Party, he has gone to the grassroots and he has tried to transform that party ..."[135]

After the 2017 general election, Sanders wrote in The New York Times that "the British elections should be a lesson for the Democratic Party" and urged the Democrats to stop holding on to an "overly cautious, centrist ideology", arguing that "momentum shifted to Labour after it released a very progressive manifesto that generated much enthusiasm among young people and workers".[137][138]


In February 2017, Sanders was one of twenty-six senators to sign a letter to the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) requesting the commission detail cybersecurity challenges to state and local officials amid their attempts to safeguard future elections and also secure the 2016 election from Russian hackers.[139]

In July 2018, following Special Counsel Robert Mueller's indictment of twelve Russian intelligence officers in the 2016 hacking of the DNC, Sanders said the indictments "strongly suggests that the interference was directed from the highest levels of the Russian government." Sanders advocated for Mueller to be allowed "to continue his investigation free of pressure" and called for President Trump to relay to Russian President Vladimir Putin that the United States would not tolerate Russian interference in either American elections of those of the country's allies.[140]

In December 2018, after United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the Trump administration was suspending its obligations in the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in 60 days in the event that Russia continued to violate the treaty, Sanders was one of twenty-six senators to sign a letter expressing concern over the administration "now abandoning generations of bipartisan U.S. leadership around the paired goals of reducing the global role and number of nuclear weapons and ensuring strategic stability with America's nuclear-armed adversaries" and calling on President Trump to continue arms negotiations.[141]

North Korea

In April 2017, after President Trump acknowledged the possibility of a "major, major conflict" between North Korea and the US, Sanders said such a conflict equated to a nuclear war and advocated for the US to lean on China, citing China's receiving of exports from North Korea and thereby being in "a position to tighten the screws on North Korea and tell them they cannot continue their missile program or their nuclear program."[142]

In October 2017, Sanders and six Democrats were led by Chris Murphy in introducing legislation prohibiting "funds from being used for kinetic military operations without congressional approval unless the United States faces an imminent threat or such action is necessary to defend citizens or our allies" in light of rhetorical escalation between the US and North Korea as well as "contradictory behavior from Trump and officials in his administration".[143]

In February 2018, Sanders was one of eighteen senators to sign a letter to President Trump arguing that striking North Korea with "a preventative or preemptive U.S. military strike would lack either a constitutional basis or legal authority" without congressional approval.[144]

In April 2018, when asked by a reporter about the US pursuing diplomatic relations with North Korea, Sanders said, "I think the idea of sitting down and having direct negotiations with North Korea is a step forward, and I hope it works out well."[145] After President Trump met with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un during the 2018 North Korea-United States summit, Sanders called the summit "very light on substance" but also representing "a positive step in de-escalating tensions between our countries, addressing the threat of North Korea’s nuclear weapons, and moving toward a more peaceful future."[146]


In a January 2018 statement, Sanders said he was "not sure why President Trump wants to shut down the government over a multi-billion dollar wall that no one wants, is not needed and will not be paid for by Mexico" and that Americans instead overwhelmingly favored providing "legal protection to 800,000 Dreamers and a path toward citizenship for them."[147]

United Nations

In June 2018, following the United Nations releasing a report on poverty in the United States and condemning "President Trump's administration for pursuing high tax breaks for the rich and removing basic protections for the poor", Sanders was one of twenty lawmakers to sign a letter to United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley calling for the Trump administration to develop a plan to address poverty. Haley responded to Sanders in a letter, writing that it was "patently ridiculous for the United Nations to examine poverty in America" and charged the report with misstating "the progress the United States has made in addressing poverty and purposely used misleading facts and figures in its biased reporting." Sanders disputed Haley in a subsequent letter, defending the appropriateness of the U.N.'s report and noting that poverty was occurring "in the richest country in the history of the world and at a time when wealth and income inequality is worse than at any time since the 1920s."[148]

Saudi Arabia

In October 2018, Sanders said that if Saudis murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the US should "not only stop military sales, not only put sanctions on Saudi Arabia, but most importantly, get out of this terrible, terrible war in Yemen led by the Saudis." He maintained that the US could not "have an ally who murders in cold blood, in their own consulate, a critic, a dissident".[149] Later that month, Sanders was one of eight senators to sign a letter to Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats requesting a classified briefing on what the American intelligence community knew about threats to Khashoggi so that the senators may fulfill their "oversight obligation" as members of Congress.[150]

In November 2018, Sanders confirmed his intent to force a vote on ending American support for the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen in an email to supporters, writing that despite President Trump's "venal support for the Saudi regime, I am confident that we now stand an excellent chance to win this vote which I plan on bringing back to the Senate floor this week."[151] On November 28, as the Senate weighed the resolution to end American military support for the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen's civil war, Sanders said, "In my mind it is imperative today that the United States Senate tell Saudi Arabia and tell the world that we are not going to be continuing to be part of that humanitarian disaster. We have to make the decision as to what happens in the war in Yemen and our role in that, and that's what the vote today is about." The resolution passed in a vote of 63 to 37.[152]

National security


Sanders and Salman Rushdie in 2004 protesting section 215 of the USA Patriot Act.

Sanders has long been critical of U.S. government surveillance policies. He voted against the USA PATRIOT Act and all of its renewals and has characterized the National Security Agency as "out of control." He has frequently criticized warrantless wiretapping and the collection of the phone, email, library, and internet browsing records of American citizens without due process:[153]

In my view, the NSA is out of control and operating in an unconstitutional manner. I worry very much about kids growing up in a society where they think 'I'm not going to talk about this issue, read this book, or explore this idea because someone may think I'm a terrorist.' That is not the kind of free society I want for our children.[154]

During the first Democratic presidential debate in October 2015 the candidates were asked for their opinion of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. When asked the question "hero or traitor?" Sanders replied, "I think Snowden played a very important role in educating the American people to the degree in which our civil liberties and our constitutional rights are being undermined. He did—he did break the law, and I think there should be a penalty to that. But I think what he did in educating us should be taken into consideration." Journalist Norman Solomon praised Sanders's reply saying, "I think Bernie Sanders handled it the best in terms of scoping out and describing the terrain. And for the most part, I think Edward Snowden would probably agree with what he said."[155]


Sanders won the 2014 Col. Arthur T. Marix Congressional Leadership Award from the Military Officers Association of America for his leadership in support of veterans.[156] Sanders introduced the Veterans' Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2013 (S. 893; 113th Congress) into the Senate on May 8, 2013.[157] The bill would increase the disability compensation rate for American veterans and their families.[158] Sanders co-wrote, with Senator John McCain, the Veterans' Access to Care through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act of 2014, a bill intended to reform the United States Department of Veterans Affairs in response to the Veterans Health Administration scandal of 2014.[159]

In December 2018, Sanders was one of twenty-one senators to sign a letter to United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie calling it "appalling that the VA is not conducting oversight of its own outreach efforts" in spite of suicide prevention being the VA's highest clinical priority and requesting Wilkie "consult with experts with proven track records of successful public and mental health outreach campaigns with a particular emphasis on how those individuals measure success."[160]


Early childhood

Drawing figures from a recent report ranking the U.S. 33rd out of 36 nations in reading literacy, 27th in mathematical literacy, 22nd in science literacy, and 18th overall in secondary education, Sanders has said, "In a society with our resources, it is unconscionable to that we do not properly invest in our children from the very first stages of their lives". He has introduced legislation to provide child care and early education to all children six weeks old through kindergarten. Sanders believes that "the 'Foundations for Success Act' would provide preschool children with a full range of services, leading to success in school and critical support for hard-pressed families nationwide."[161][162][163]

On Common Core State Standards, Sanders used to support it, but his current public position on Common Core at the time of the campaign was unknown. However, he had voted against an amendment that would have harmed Common Core. However, he had spoken on a program related to Common Core: Race to the Top.[164][165]

The position of Sanders on school choice was unknown.[165]

Student loans

Sanders has long been an advocate of making college more affordable. He has spoken out against the high interest rates on federal student loans, noting that in the next ten years, the federal government will profit by as much as $127 billion from them. He has also criticized President Obama for signing legislation that temporarily froze student loan interest rates in exchange for allowing the rates to reach historic highs over the next two years. Sanders believes closing corporate tax loopholes is the solution, and has developed a plan bringing matching grants from the federal and state governments to cut tuition at public universities by more than half. He has criticized both Republicans and Democrats for failing to institute reforms that will stop predatory lending practices in the student loan market.[166]

Tuition-free public universities

Sanders favors public funding for college students. He believes "we live in a highly competitive global economy and, if our economy is to be strong, we need the best-educated work force in the world." He further maintains that many other developed nations in Western Europe have long taken this approach to higher education. Sanders expects to strongly oppose the Republican Party, but says it is ultimately "the American people" who will determine its failure or success.[167][168]

On May 19, 2015, Sanders introduced the College for All Act (S.1373), which would use a Robin Hood tax of 50 cents on every "$100 of stock trades on stock sales" to fund tuition at four-year public colleges and universities for students who meet admission standards.[169][170][171] In addition, the Robin Hood tax would include a 0.5% speculation fee to be charged on investment houses, hedge funds, and other stock trades, while a 0.1% fee would be charged on bonds, and a 0.005% fee on derivatives.[172]

Health care

Sanders is a staunch supporter of a universal health care system, and he has said, "If you are serious about real healthcare reform, the only way to go is single-payer."[173] He advocates lowering the cost of drugs that are expensive because they remain under patent for years; some drugs costing thousands of dollars per year in the U.S. are available for hundreds, or less, in countries where they can be obtained as generics.[174]

As chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging, Sanders has introduced a legislation intended to reauthorize and strengthen the Older Americans Act, which supports Meals on Wheels and other programs for seniors. He believes that supporting seniors "is not only the right thing to do, it is the financially smart thing to do", because it decreases expensive hospitalizations and allows seniors to remain in their homes.[175]

Social issues

Bernie Sanders at a March 2016 rally in Phoenix, Arizona.


NARAL Pro-Choice America has given Sanders a 100% rating on his abortion rights voting record.[176]

D.C. statehood

Sanders has stated that he believes it is "morally wrong" for Washington, D.C. residents to be denied federal representation.[177] In 2015, he joined 17 other senators in co-sponsoring legislation in support of D.C. statehood under the name "New Columbia".[178]

Sanders has been a prominent supporter of laws requiring companies to provide their workers parental leave, sick leave, and vacation time, arguing that such laws have been adopted by almost every developed country, and that there are significant disparities among workers having access to paid sick and paid vacation time.[161][162]

Sanders's Guaranteed Paid Vacation Act (S.1564) would mandate companies to provide 10 days of paid vacation for employees who have worked for them for at least one year. He is cosponsoring a Senate bill that would give mothers and fathers 12 weeks of paid family leave to care for a baby. It would also allow workers to take the same amount of paid time off if they are diagnosed with cancer or have other serious medical conditions or to take care of family members who are seriously ill. Sanders has also cosponsored a bill that would guarantee workers at least seven paid sick days per year for short-term illness, routine medical care, or to care for a sick family member.[161][162]

Gun laws

Sanders supports banning assault weapons,[179]universal federal background checks,[180] and closing the gun show loophole.[181]

While in the House of Representatives representing a "state with virtually no gun laws", Sanders voted against the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act that required federal background checks on firearm purchasers in the US; he later voted for the post-Newtown Manchin-Toomey universal federal background check bill as a US Senator in 2013. In the Senate, he voted for the 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act.[182] When asked, Sanders stated his view that mandatory waiting periods were best left to states.[183]

With regard to proposed legislation enabling gun violence victims to sue gun manufacturers, Sanders said, "If somebody has a gun and it falls into the hands of a murderer and the murderer kills somebody with a gun, do you hold the gun manufacturer responsible? Not any more than you would hold a hammer company responsible if somebody beats somebody over the head with a hammer." Sanders has said, "we have millions of people who are gun owners in this country -- 99.9% of those people obey the law. I want to see real, serious debate and action on guns, but it is not going to take place if we simply have extreme positions on both sides. I think I can bring us to the middle."[179]

In March 2018, Sanders was one of ten senators to sign a letter to Chairman of the United States Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Lamar Alexander and ranking Democrat Patty Murray requesting they schedule a hearing on the causes and remedies of mass shootings in the wake of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting.[184]

In a May 2018 interview, Sanders said President Trump and Republicans "don't have the guts to stand up to" the NRA and that the Senate had not done enough toward gun control legislation. He added that "common sense" gun control was supported by Americans overwhelmingly.[185]

Criminal justice reform

Sanders has called for reforms to sentencing guidelines, drug policy, and the use of force policies within police departments. Noting that there are more people incarcerated in the U.S. than any country in the world at an annual cost to taxpayers of $70 billion, Sanders argues that the money would be better spent on education and jobs. He has spoken out against police brutality and the uneven rates of arresting African Americans and other minorities, saying, "From Ferguson[,] [Missouri] to Baltimore[,] [Maryland] and across this nation, too many African Americans and other minorities find themselves subjected to a system that treats citizens who have not committed crimes as if they were criminals and that is unacceptable."[186] Following the release of footage depicting the arrest of African American Sandra Bland for a minor traffic violation, Sanders strongly condemned the "totally outrageous police behavior" shown in the video, stating that "This video highlights once again why we need real police reform. People should not die for a minor traffic infraction. This type of police abuse has become an all-too-common occurrence for people of color and it must stop."[187]

Sanders has also spoken out against the privatization of prisons throughout the US, stating:

It is morally repugnant and a national tragedy that we have privatized prisons all over America. In my view, corporations should not be allowed to make a profit by building more jails and keeping more Americans behind bars. We have got to end the private-for-profit prison racket in America![188]

On September 17, 2015, Sanders introduced the "Justice Is Not for Sale" Act,[189] which prohibits the US government at federal, state and local levels from contracting with private firms to provide and/or operate detention facilities within two years. He noted that "We cannot fix our criminal justice system if corporations are allowed to profit from mass incarceration."[190][191]

Sanders voted in favor of the 1994 Crime Bill, which played a role in increasing the American prison population and causing racial disparities in the criminal justice system. Sanders said, at the time, he was voting for the crime bill because it included the Violence Against Women Act. He has indicated he has a problem with what is referred to as "Mass Incarceration".[192][193][194]

Death penalty

Sanders has strongly opposed the death penalty throughout his political career.[195] In October 2015, he said, "I would rather have our country stand side-by-side with European democracies rather than with countries like China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and others who maintain the death penalty."[196] After the Washington Supreme Court found the death penalty unconstitutional, Sanders praised the decision and stated: "We can't properly reform our broken criminal justice system without ending the death penalty."[197]

LGBT rights

In a letter that he published in the early 1970s, when he was running for Governor of Vermont, Sanders called for abolishing all laws against homosexuality.[198]

In the 1980s, Sanders supported the designation of the Burlington "Lesbian and Gay Pride Day" as the mayor of the city and signed a resolution recommending all government levels to support gay rights.[199]

In the House, Sanders voted against the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, which was signed by President Bill Clinton that same year.[200] Sanders opposed "Don't ask, don't tell", the US policy on LGBT service members in the military, which was implemented in 1994 and ended in 2011.[200]

Sanders first spoke out in favor of same-sex marriage in 2009.[200] Vermont was the first state to legalize same-sex unions in 2000. In a 2006 interview, Sanders noted that Vermont had "led the way" in creating the civil unions law, but said it was "a very divisive debate". Asked whether Vermont should legalize full marriage rights for same-sex couples, he said: "Not right now, not after what we went through."[201] At the same time, Sanders expressed opposition to the proposed Federal Marriage Amendment, which would have prohibited same-sex marriage in the US.[201] Sanders voted against the amendment later that year.[202] In 2009, Vermont also was the first state to legalize same-sex marriage by statute.

When the Supreme Court took up the issue in 2015, Sanders issued a statement reaffirming his support, saying gay Americans in every state should be allowed to marry: "Of course all citizens deserve equal rights. It's time for the Supreme Court to catch up to the American people and legalize gay marriage."[203]


Sanders believes a path to citizenship should be created for new immigrants.[204] He voted for the comprehensive immigration reform bill in 2013,[205] saying, "It does not make a lot of sense to me to bring hundreds of thousands of [foreign] workers into this country to work for minimum wage and compete with American kids." Sanders opposes guest worker programs[206] and is also skeptical about skilled immigrant (H-1B) visas, saying, "Last year, the top 10 employers of H-1B guest workers were all offshore outsourcing companies. These firms are responsible for shipping large numbers of American information technology jobs to India and other countries."[204][207] In an interview with Vox, he stated his opposition to an open borders immigration policy, describing it as:

... a right-wing proposal, which says essentially there is no United States ... you're doing away with the concept of a nation-state. What right-wing people in this country would love is an open-border policy. Bring in all kinds of people, work for $2 or $3 an hour, that would be great for them. I don't believe in that. I think we have to raise wages in this country, I think we have to do everything we can to create millions of jobs.[208][209]

In 2006, Sanders voted for the Community Protection Act, which would have permitted "indefinite detention of specified dangerous aliens under orders of removal who cannot be removed, subject to review every six months." The bill was not passed in the Senate.[210][211][212] That same year, he voted for an amendment to a Homeland Security appropriations bill prohibiting the federal government from contacting the Mexican government about American civilian groups, such as the Minutemen, that patrolled the US-Mexico border to stop undocumented immigrants from crossing,[213] which a campaign representative described as one of many "nuisance amendments" and "a meaningless thing" in the view of the Customs and Border Patrol.[210]

In February 2018, Sanders voted for bipartisan immigration legislation, admitting that it was "not the bill I would have written." He furthered, "What we should be doing is passing a clean DREAM Act with a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers and their parents. We also need to move forward and pass comprehensive immigration reform that will allow people to come out of the shadows and will unite families – not divide them."[214]

In a May 2018 interview, Sanders said the Trump administration's immigration policy was "heartless" and that while Americans believed the US "should move forward to comprehensive immigration reform", President Trump was "moving in exactly the wrong direction and we see the cruelty of his immigration policies when you talk about the United States government separating children from their parents."[215]

In August 2018, Sanders was one of seventeen senators to sign a letter spearheaded by Kamala Harris to United States Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen demanding that the Trump administration take immediate action in attempting to reunite 539 migrant children with their families, citing each passing day of inaction as intensifying "trauma that this administration has needlessly caused for children and their families seeking humanitarian protection."[216]

In July 2018, Sanders was one of eleven senators to sign a letter requesting the agencies responsible for reuniting families provide weekly updates until every separated child was returned to their parents in the form of a list of separated children, a list of their parents and other adult members of their families in addition to a list connecting the lists of children and parents and a briefing for the lawmakers on the strategies used to reunite families.[217] Later that month, Sanders was one of twenty-two senators to sponsor the Stop Shackling and Detaining Pregnant Women Act, which if enacted would prohibit immigration officers from detaining pregnant women in a majority of circumstances and improve conditions of care for individuals in custody.[218]

In November 2018, Sanders was one of eleven senators to sign a letter to United States Secretary of Defense James Mattis concerning "the overt politicization of the military" with the Trump administration's deployment of 5,800 troops to the U.S.-Mexico border and requesting a briefing and written justification from the U.S. Northern Command for troop deployment while urging Mattis to "curb the unprecedented escalation of DOD involvement in immigration enforcement."[219]

Racial justice

Sanders was a civil rights organizer at the University of Chicago in the 1960s, and he has been given a 100% rating by the NAACP for his civil rights voting record. In 1988, Sanders worked for Jesse Jackson's presidential campaign saying, "Jesse Jackson uniquely and alone has shown the courage to tackle the most important and basic issues facing working class Americans, poor people, elderly people, environmentalists, peace activists, women, and America's minorities."[220]

As part of his 2016 presidential platform, Sanders calls for an end to "the four central types of violence waged against black and brown Americans: physical, political, legal and economic."[221][222] Speaking on these issues, Sanders says:

It is an obscenity that we stigmatize so many young Americans with a criminal record for smoking marijuana, but not one major Wall Street executive has been prosecuted for causing the near collapse of our entire economy. This must change. We must address the lingering unjust stereotypes that lead to the labeling of black youths as "thugs." We know the truth that, like every community in this country, the vast majority of people of color are trying to work hard, play by the rules and raise their children. It's time to stop demonizing minority communities.

During a Democratic debate, Sanders was asked "do black lives matter or do all lives matter" to which he responded "Black lives matter" and went on to condemn racist policing and incarceration.[223]

Church and state

Sanders is rated by Americans United for Separation of Church and State as strongly in favor of the separation of church and state.[224]

Genetically-engineered food

In 2012, along with Senator Barbara Boxer, Sanders introduced an amendment which would have given states the right to require labels on food products which are genetically engineered. The bill has been passed by the House Agriculture Committee by a vote of 9-1, but not the full House.[225]

Cannabis legalization

On October 28, 2015, Sanders expressed his support for the decriminalization and eventual legalization of cannabis by way of its removal as a Schedule I drug at the federal level, completely removing it from the list of dangerous substances outlawed by the federal government clearing the way for it to be fully legalized at the state level unimpeded by the federal government. Sanders is also in favor of the sale and tax of marijuana at the state level in a similar manner to alcohol and tobacco.[226][227]

Disaster relief

In October 2017, following Hurricane Maria and Hurricane Irma, Sanders signed a letter to Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke urging her "to provide all necessary resources to confirm that storm-related deaths are being counted correctly" given that President Trump seemed "to be using the number of fatalities to determine the quality of the disaster response".[228]

In August 2018, Sanders was one of eight senators to sign a letter to the Federal Emergency Management Agency charging the agency with not assisting displaced homeowners in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria under the Individuals and Households (IHP) program by "alarming rates."[229]


On November 20, 2018, Sanders and Representative Ro Khanna unveiled a bill intended to abolish the monopoly from a company, regardless of any patents, and authorize other companies to compose cheaper generic versions of a drug in the event of the price for that drug being higher than the median price in Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, France and Japan. Sanders said in a statement that the United States was the only country in the world that allowed "pharmaceutical companies to charge any price they want for any reason they want" and that the "greed of the prescription drug industry is literally killing Americans".[230]

Criticism of the Trump administration


On February 5, 2017, Sanders said Trump was a "fraud" for appointing multiple billionaires to his cabinet after committing during his campaign to tackle Wall Street, and predicted Trump would "sell out" the middle and working class.[231] In Los Angeles on February 19, Sanders called Trump "a pathological liar" and promised to defeat "Trump and Trumpism and the Republican right-wing ideology."[232]

In February 2018, two days after Rob Porter stepped down as White House Staff Secretary, Sanders was one of twelve senators to sign a letter requesting the White House provide details on the allegations of domestic abuse against Porter.[233]

In June 2018, during an appearance on CNN, Sanders stated that President Trump was going to war against the working class through his "budget, trillion-dollar cut in Medicaid proposal, $500 billion in Medicare, massive cuts in education, nutrition programs" and that he was not addressing the issues of "low wages, people can't afford health care, can't afford prescription drugs, can't afford to send their kids to college."[234]

In July 2018, Sanders was one of four senators to sign a letter to the head of the antitrust division of the Justice Department Makan Delrahim requesting a review of whether Comcast would be able to use 21st Century Fox's entertainment offerings to suppress competitors amid Comcat's bid to buy parts of 21st Century Fox, citing the need "to protect consumers from the harmful effects of the proposed merger".[235]

In July 2018, Sanders was one of nine senators to vote against the nomination of Robert Wilkie as United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs in the first non-unanimous vote in the office's history as a cabinet position.[236]

Energy and climate

On March 30, 2017, two days after Trump signed an "Energy Independence" executive order, Sanders called Trump's choice to prioritize job creation over climate change "nonsensical, and stupid, and dangerous", and noted that scientists report that human activity is causing "devastating problems" while Trump and his allies believe climate change is a "hoax".[237]

In May 2018, Sanders and Elizabeth Warren wrote a letter to President Trump calling on the president to select an individual who takes climate change seriously as his next Homeland Security adviser, warning that without "a dedicated federal effort to reduce the quantity of greenhouse gasses that human activity releases into the atmosphere, climate change will continue to worsen and cause increasingly severe weather events, including hurricanes" and that climate change had previously and would continue to "have a tangible and harmful impact on our national security and disaster readiness."[238]

In October 2018, after Director of the National Economic Council Larry Kudlow disputed a report by the United Nations warning the world to slash emissions by 45 percent before 2030 in order to avert the atmosphere possibly warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, Sanders stated that they had "12 years to substantially cut the amount of carbon in our atmosphere, or this planet, our country, the rest of the world, is going to suffer irreversible damage." Sanders added that the Trump administration "virtually does not even recognize the reality of climate change" and was "making a bad situation worse" by working with the Fossil Fuel industry.[239]

In November 2018, after the federal government released a report that found climate change had led to temperature increases and sea levels rising and warned that the effects of climate change would "lead to more intense wildfires, floods and other disasters if left unchecked", Sanders called for Congress to "take Trump on, take the fossil fuel industry on and transform our system to sustainable energy" which he asserted would result in the US leading the world in saving the planet and producing "millions of decent paying jobs." Sanders added that he was amazed the US had "an administration right now that still considers climate change to be a hoax" and that the issue was not up for debate given climate change's verification by the science community.[240]

War and peace

In an April 7, 2017 statement, Sanders expressed disapproval of Trump's ordered airstrike on Syria from the previous day: "If there's anything we should've learned from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, in which the lives of thousands of brave American men and women and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi and Afghan civilians have been lost and trillions of dollars spent, it's that it's easier to get into a war than out of one."[241]

Interest group ratings

Bernie Sanders' ratings from advocacy organizations[242]
GroupAdvocacy issue(s)RatingYear
ACLUCivil and Political Rights100%2014
AFL-CIOLabor Unions100%2013
ARASenior Citizens100%2014
DPADrug Policy83%2006
HRCLGBTQ Rights100%2014
LULACImmigration Reform, Liberal100%2013–14[244]
LWVCivic Engagement89%2007
MPPMarijuana Legalization66%2016
NAACPMinorities and Affirmative Action100%2014
NARALAbortion, Pro-Choice100%2014
NFUFarmer's Union90%2012
NRAGun Ownership, Conservative14%2012
NRLCAbortion, Pro-Life0%2015[245]
NTUTax Policy, Conservative5%2013[246]
NumbersUSAImmigration Reform, Conservative44%2015–16[247]
PA WestForeign Affairs75%2014
PPFAReproductive Health100%2014
SEIUService Union100%2012
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