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FOCUS: Bernie Sanders to Draw on Personal History in 2020 Campaign Launch
Written by <a href="index.php?option=com_comprofiler&task=userProfile&user=31070"><span class="small">Lauren Gambino, Guardian UK</span></a>   
Saturday, 02 March 2019 12:13

Gambino writes: "Four years ago, Bernie Sanders formally announced his candidacy on the shores of Lake Champlain in Vermont, with a 35-minute, lectern-pounding preview of nearly every stump speech he would deliver."

Bernie Sanders. (photo: Antonella Crescimbeni)
Bernie Sanders. (photo: Antonella Crescimbeni)

Bernie Sanders to Draw on Personal History in 2020 Campaign Launch

By Lauren Gambino, Guardian UK

02 March 19

The Vermont senator has never forgotten growing up poor and Jewish in Brooklyn in his 40-year career in politics

our years ago, Bernie Sanders formally announced his candidacy on the shores of Lake Champlain in Vermont, with a 35-minute, lectern-pounding preview of nearly every stump speech he would deliver.

That consistency became a part of his appeal, as progressives discovered that much like his Brooklyn accent, the senator’s policy-dense screeds against economic inequality had not changed after nearly 40 years in politics.

On Saturday, the 77-year-old democratic socialist returned to his native Brooklyn to formally announce a second run, aiming to unseat the Queens-born billionaire who captured the White House in 2016. It was one of several signs that this Sanders campaign will be different – not least because this time, he’s running to win.

In his speech, excerpts of which were released by his campaign, he contrasted his upbringing and life story with that of Donald Trump.

“I did not have a mom and dad who gave me millions of dollars to build luxury skyscrapers and casinos and country clubs,” Sanders said. “But I had something more valuable: I had the role model of a father who had unbelievable courage in journeying across an ocean, with no money in his pocket and not knowing a word of English.

“I did not come from a family that had the power to go on television to entertain people by telling workers: ‘You’re fired.’ I came from a family who knew all too well the frightening power employers can have over everyday workers.

“I did not come from a family that could afford to send my brother and me to an elite boarding school. In fact, I was educated in public schools here in Brooklyn and began the first year of my college life right here on this campus at Brooklyn College. I should also mention that my brother graduated from Brooklyn College.”

Sanders attended Brooklyn College for a year before transferring to the University of Chicago, where he joined civil rights protests. He was scheduled to fly to Illinois to speak again at the Navy Yard in Chicago on Sunday night. In between, he was to address a unity breakfast in Selma, Alabama, to commemorate the 1965 Bloody Sunday march.

“We’re going to win this election because we will put together the strongest grassroots coalition in the history of American politics,” he said in Brooklyn. “Donald Trump wants to divide us up by the color of our skin, where we born, our gender, our religion and our sexual orientation. We are going to do exactly the opposite.

“We are going to bring our people together – black, white, Latino, Native American, Asian American, gay and straight, young and old, men and women. We are going to bring our people together for an unprecedented grassroots effort, which, I am happy to tell you, already has one million people signed up to work.”

Despite the snow, hundreds of supporters wearing vintage Bernie 2016 T-shirts – and some in newly purchased “still feeling the Bern” attire – attended the outdoor rally. Several said they were pleased to see so many high-profile Democrats and 2020 contenders adopt Sanders’ policies. But for them, he remained the true progressive.

“I always say – if you want to know where someone really stands, look at their record over the last 10 years not just when they run for president,” said George Shannon, a retired police officer from the Bronx. “Bernie is the only one who has been doing this for 40 years.”

Though Sanders and his allies successfully pushed for reforms to the party’s primary process, several supporters remained wary of interference by the so-called establishment. Toni Klein feared the party would “tip the scales”, as she believes they did in 2016. She voted for a third-party candidate in the general election, though noted that in a Democratic state, that would not have affected the electoral calculus.

Eludina Reyes, a teacher from Manhattan, said Sanders had a better chance this time because he energizes young people. Many of her students who will be able to vote in 2020 like his ideas, she said.

After 2016, Sanders’ name recognition is indeed sky-high. But his personal story remains relatively unknown. He is now attempting to reintroduce himself to the country, in an effort to show that he has evolved as a candidate.

“Bernie Sanders hates to talk about Bernie Sanders,” Nina Turner, the former Ohio state senator who is now a campaign co-chair, said in an earlier interview with the Guardian. She and other advisers believe Sanders’ personal story will help him connect with voters, especially people of color he struggled to win over before.

“He has to revisit his 20-year-old self, the Bernie Sanders who was fighting at the University of Chicago, who was standing up against segregation – the Bernie Sanders who was there when Martin Luther King delivered his I Have a Dream speech,” Turner said.

Sanders was born in Brooklyn in 1941 and raised in a three-and-a-half room, rent-controlled apartment in a heavily Jewish neighborhood of Flatbush. An image seared in his memory, he has said, is the sight of Holocaust survivors, identifiable by the serial numbers tattooed on their arms, shopping along Kings Highway.

In his remarks on Saturday, he said voters “deserve to know where I come from”.

“My father was a paint salesman who worked hard his entire life, but never made much money. My mother raised my brother and me …

“Coming from a lower-middle-class family I will never forget how money – or really lack of money – was always a point of stress in our home. My mother’s dream was that someday we would move out of that rent-controlled apartment to a home of our own. That dream was never fulfilled. She died young while we were still living in that apartment.

“I also learned a great deal about immigration as a child because my father came to this country from Poland at the age of 17, without a nickel in his pocket. He came to escape the crushing poverty that existed in his community, and to escape widespread antisemitism. Needless to say I would not be with you today if he had not made that trip from Poland because virtually his entire family there was wiped out by the Nazis.”

Sanders attended James Madison high school, whose alumni include the supreme court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, and five Nobel Prize winners. He was captain of the track team and ran cross-country, though to his ever-lasting dismay he did not make the school’s championship basketball team. It was also there that he made his first foray into politics, running for student body president and losing, a distant third.

This time round, Sanders’ Washington-based campaign operation is more professional, more deliberate and more diverse. Acknowledging recently that his 2016 campaign had been “too white” and “too male”, Sanders has filled five senior positions with women and people of color. The team will be led by Faiz Shakir, the first Muslim campaign manager of a major US presidential candidate.

He has also sought to address a wave of allegations about sexual harassment and pay inequity on his first campaign, saying he will institute mandatory training and a fixed pay scale.

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