Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders officially kicked off his campaign for president today, promising a “political revolution” to combat income inequality, curb climate change and drastically reform the campaign finance system.
Mr. Sanders, set to speak in Burlington, Vt. a little after 5 p.m., said he would not launch “personal” or “negative” attacks against the unequivocal frontrunner in the Democratic primary, Hillary Clinton.
“Today … we begin a political revolution to transform our country economically, politically, socially and environmentally,” Mr. Sanders will say in prepared remarks provided by his campaign. “Today, we stand here and say loudly and clearly that: ‘Enough is enough.’ This great nation and its government belong to all of the people and not to a handful of billionaires, their Super PACs and their lobbyists.”
Mr. Sanders, a self-identified socialist originally from Brooklyn, is a political independent given little chance of upsetting Ms. Clinton, the former secretary of state. But grassroots liberals are energized by Mr. Sanders’ populism and are flocking to him, especially as it becomes apparent that their lodestar, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, is not running for president.
Mayor Bill de Blasio, a liberal Democrat, is at least one big Bernie fan.
At the age of 73, Mr. Sanders is even older than Ms. Clinton. Age, however, has not tempered him, and his campaign said he plans to travel to Iowa and New Hampshire this week to campaign. (Mr. Sanders is running as a Democrat in the primary.)
“Let me be very clear,” Mr. Sanders continued. “There is something profoundly wrong when the top one-tenth of 1 percent owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent and when 99 percent of all new income goes to the top 1 percent.”
Mr. Sanders said that this “rigged economy” is un-American and he vowed, if elected, to change it. “This grotesque level of inequality is immoral. It is bad economics. It is unsustainable,” he charged.
In his remarks, he said the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court decision has “totally corrupted” the political process by allowing unprecedented amounts of cash to be spent on campaigns by outside political action committees. He claimed that the foundations of American democracy have been “undermined,” allowing a billionaire class to “own” much of the economy.
On climate change, Mr. Sanders will be equally as blunt: “When we talk about our responsibilities as human beings and as parents, there is nothing more important than leaving this country and the entire planet in a way that is habitable for our kids and grandchildren,” he said. “The debate is over … Climate change is real.”
Mr. Sanders will have some more company in the Democratic primary shortly. Ex-Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, will kick off his campaign for president later this week.
View the full release from his campaign below:
BURLINGTON, Vt., – U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders on Tuesday is launching his campaign for the Democratic Party presidential nomination. In a speech this evening, Sanders will lay out the serious challenges facing the country and detail an “Agenda for America” calling for specific proposals to provide bold solutions.
In remarks prepared for delivery at the outdoor event on the shore of Lake Champlain, Sanders said:
“Today, with your support and the support of millions of people throughout this country, we begin a political revolution to transform our country economically, politically, socially and environmentally. Today, we stand here and say loudly and clearly that: ‘Enough is enough. This great nation and its government belong to all of the people and not to a handful of billionaires, their Super PACs and their lobbyists.”
“Let me be very clear,” he added. “There is something profoundly wrong when the top one-tenth of 1 percent owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent and when 99 percent of all new income goes to the top 1 percent. There is something profoundly wrong when, in recent years, we have seen a proliferation of millionaires and billionaires at the same time as millions of Americans work longer hours for lower wages and we have the highest rate of childhood poverty of any major country on earth. There is something profoundly wrong when one family owns more wealth than the bottom 130 million Americans. This grotesque level of inequality is immoral. It is bad economics. It is unsustainable. This type of rigged economy is not what America is supposed to be about. This has got to change and, as your president, together we will change it.”
In his prepared remarks, Sanders discussed a number of issues confronting the country including the 2010 Supreme Court ruling that struck down laws regulating campaign finances. “My fellow Americans: Let me be as blunt as I can and tell you what you already know. As a result of the disastrous Supreme Court decision on Citizens United, the American political system has been totally corrupted and the foundations of American democracy are being undermined. What the Supreme Court essentially said was that it was not good enough for the billionaire class to own much of our economy. They could now own the U.S. government as well. And that is precisely what they are trying to do.”
He also addressed the planetary crisis of climate change. “When we talk about our responsibilities as human beings and as parents, there is nothing more important than leaving this country and the entire planet in a way that is habitable for our kids and grandchildren. The debate is over. The scientific community has spoken in a virtually unanimous voice. Climate change is real. It is caused by human activity and it is already causing devastating problems in the United States and around the world.”
Sanders said his campaign will focus on those and other substantive issues, not personal attacks or negative ads.
In the few weeks since he officially formed a presidential campaign committee on April 30, Sanders has lined up more than 100,000 supporters and volunteers through BernieSanders.com. (An expanded webpage was launched on Tuesday to coincide with the campaign kickoff.) Sanders also has raised millions of dollars, mostly in small contributions of about $40 per person.
After Tuesday’s rally in Burlington, where Sanders served as mayor in the 1980s, he will travel on Wednesday to New Hampshire, home of the first-in-the-nation presidential primary. On Thursday, he heads to Davenport, Iowa, for the first of several stops in the Hawkeye State, which holds the first presidential caucuses. He has begun building staffs in both states to help organize what will become a nationwide grassroots campaign.