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Longshot Bernie Sanders Challenges Hillary Clinton


U.S. Sen. Bernard Sanders (I-VT) speaks on his agenda for America during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., April 30, 2015.

U.S. Sen. Bernard Sanders (I-VT) speaks on his agenda for America during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., April 30, 2015.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is the latest entrant into the 2016 U.S. presidential race. Sanders is the longest serving independent in congressional history and a self-described democratic socialist.

Sanders announced Thursday at the U.S. Capitol that he will challenge Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries and that his campaign will emphasize the issue of income inequality. “Ninety-nine percent of all new income generated in this country is going to the top one-percent. How does it happen that the top one-percent owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent? And my conclusion is that that type of economics is not only immoral, it’s not only wrong, it is unsustainable.”

Sanders has long been one of the leading progressive voices in the Senate. Though technically an independent, he has always caucused with Democrats. Sanders favors higher taxes on corporations and the wealthy, supports an increase in the minimum wage and stronger rights for organized labor.

A Voice Against Money in Politics

At his modest campaign launch outside the Capitol building, Sanders also condemned Supreme Court decisions in recent years that he says have allowed wealthy donors to have a huge impact on the U.S. political process. “We now have a political situation where billionaires are literally able to buy elections and candidates. Let’s not kid ourselves! That is the reality right now.”

On foreign policy, Sanders opposed the war in Iraq, in contrast to Clinton who voted for the war when she was in the Senate. Sanders currently supports air strikes against the so-called Islamic State and opposes a trade deal supported by the Obama administration, the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Sanders is 73 and won election to the Senate in 2006 after serving 16 years in the House.

In It to Win It

Public opinion polls show he is a huge underdog against Clinton, who launched her campaign a few weeks ago.

But analyst John Fortier of the Bipartisan Policy Center says liberal Democrats may be looking for an alternative to Clinton during next year’s presidential primaries and caucuses. “I think the challenge for her is that someone will come from her left and say that she is too hawkish on foreign policy and maybe she doesn’t say enough about economic inequality. Someone will get some support, but putting it all together to beat her is tough.”

Sanders told reporters Thursday he is in the race to win it, not merely to raise issues near and dear to progressive hearts just to keep Hillary Clinton on the defensive.

A few other Democrats are also considering a challenge to Clinton including former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley and former Virginia Senator Jim Webb. Former Rhode Island governor Lincoln Chafee, an ex-Republican, has also indicated an interest in running in the Democratic primaries.

Republicans currently have three official candidates at the moment-Senators Ted Cruz of Texas, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Marco Rubio of Florida. But several more are expected to make their intentions known soon including three next week-former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, pediatric-neurosurgeon Ben Carson and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee.

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    Jim Malone

    Jim Malone has served as VOA’s National correspondent covering U.S. elections and politics since 1995. Prior to that he was a VOA congressional correspondent and served as VOA’s East Africa Correspondent from 1986 to 1990. Jim began his VOA career with the English to Africa Service in 1983.

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