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Useful Notes / Bernie Sanders

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"I did not get into politics to figure out how to become president. I got into politics because I give a damn."
Bernie Sanders in this tweet, on December 11, 2015, back when he was still seen as an outsider candidate to most Americans.

Bernard "Bernie" Sanders (born September 8, 1941) is a United States Senator from Vermont. Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York City, he grew up in a Jewish family with his parents and his brother Larry (who moved to Britain as an adult and also became a politician). He became interested in politics at a young age, participating in the Civil Rights Movement with none other than Martin Luther King Jr. himself. Bernie's father emigrated to the United States from what is now Poland just before the rise of Adolf Hitler, and much of his extended family was murdered during The Holocaust. Sanders credits much of his early interest in politics to this: "A guy named Adolf Hitler won an election in 1932. He won an election, and 50 million people died as a result of that election in World War II, including six million Jews. So what I learned as a little kid is that politics is, in fact, very important." Sanders moved to Vermont in 1968, and his first position as an official elected member of government was as mayor of Burlington; he served as such from 1981 to 1989. From there, he served as the representative of Vermont's at-large House district in the U.S. Congress starting from 1991. He was elected to his Senate seat in 2006.


Bernie Sanders gained national attention during the 2016 presidential election cycle, in which he mounted a long-shot bid for the Democratic Party nomination and gave the expected winner, former First Lady, senator, and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, an active contest, to nearly everybody's surprise.note  Although he didn't win,note  his massive grassroots campaign came very close, and his candidacy inspired other significant political figures such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to run for office. Sanders is known for his progressive, left-wing political positions. A self-described democratic socialist, he supports a single-payer health care system in the form of Medicare for All and a massive overhaul of the United States' energy economy through a Green New Deal. He is also notably critical of the United States' habit of engaging in foreign regime change, particularly during The War on Terror, supports a two-state solution to the Arab–Israeli Conflict, and has passionately fought for the rights of the LGBT Community since long before the topic became a mainstream issue. He also advocates for criminal justice reform, automatic voter registration, and is notably the only presidential candidate to call to abolish ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and return to the immigration enforcement system used prior to 2003 (where multiple agencies shared the responsibility).


Sanders's 2016 political campaign gained massive traction among young people, and many of his notable positions, such as a 15-dollar hourly minimum wage, have become part of the Democratic Party's mainstream platform. In 2019, Sanders announced his intention to run for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, with his campaign drawing heavily from his strong base from the 2016 primary cycle. For a time, Bernie was seen as the frontrunner, but ultimately lost out to former Vice President Joe Biden, who became the nominee and, eventually, the President-elect after defeating incumbent Donald Trump.

I am once again asking for your tropes:

  • Affectionate Nickname: Known as "America's Dad, Bernie Sanders" by many progressive leftists, thanks to political commentator Kyle Kulinski coining that nickname. He's also called "America's Grandpa," and, by his Hispanic and Arab supporters, "Tío Bernie" or "Amo Bernie."note 
  • Alter Kocker: Often appears in political cartoons and the like portrayed this way.
  • Bourgeois Bohemian: Bernie is personally relatively wealthy, being worth over $1 million, and as a result he's often accused of being this by his political opponents. However, considering that his opposition is primarily against big corporations, whereas he became wealthy through his senatorial salary and the sales of his books, it falls a little flat.
  • Celebrity Resemblance: On the July 3, 1987 episode of Bernie Speaks with the Community a child tells Sanders that he looks like Doc Brown from Back to the Future.
  • Chekhov's Gunman:
    • Then a freshman senator little-known outside New England, and years before the 2016 presidential election made him one of the most famous politicians in America, Sanders was first introduced to a national audience in the 2009 Michael Moore documentary Capitalism: A Love Story. In it, Sanders explains his socialist philosophy and how it might help America in the wake of the Great Recession.
    • If you want to go further back, you can possibly count his appearance on Today in January 1981. The story revolved around the curiosity of a self-identified socialist getting elected as mayor of a major city during the same election that made Ronald Reagan president.
  • Cool Old Guy: To his supporters. There's a reason he was popular with young people despite being one of the oldest candidates running. Had he actually won the nomination either of the two times he bid for it, he would have become the oldest major-party presidential candidate in American history.
  • Crazy-Prepared: After one too many disingenuous acts of concern trolling (plus a few genuine cases of actual lack of understanding) about how he would pay for all his plans, Bernie was predictably expecting the same question yet again in a CNN town hall, except this time he brought along a receipt for the complete breakdown of his plans' costs and told the audience it would be up on his campaign website as well.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: Sanders makes a brief appearance in the 1988 film Sweet Hearts Dance (which was filmed in Vermont) as a man handing out candy to trick-or-treaters.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: While mayor of Burlington, Sanders starred in a weekly public access TV show called Bernie Speaks with the Community, which aired from 1986 to 1988. Each episode revolved around Sanders' interactions with the community and him discussing the current events surrounding the city. Political news website Politico unearthed and publicized the series in 2019 and all episodes of it have since been uploaded to YouTube. The March 5, 1988 episode in which Sanders visits the Burlington Square Mall and talks to passers-by is particularly popular due to a scene where he talks to a pair of young goths.
  • Faux Horrific: Bernie made an awesomely hilarious mockery of billionaires whining at the very idea of a wealth tax at a Grassroots Fundraiser in Washington, D.C.
  • First-Name Basis: Bernie is generally referred to by his first name rather than his last name in campaign merchandise (and even in the media), unusual for a politician.
  • Friend to All Living Things: After a bird landed on his podium during a speech in Portland, Oregon, during his 2016 campaign, people told jokes that Mother Nature had given Bernie Sanders her support, given his strong environmentalist stance. This incident earned Bernie the nickname "Birdie Sanders."
  • Graceful Loser: Despite ultimately conceding his bid for the Democratic nomination of the 2016 and 2020 election, he was at least a good sport about it and threw his support behind the prospective nominee (Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden) who proved his victor.
  • He Also Did: Sanders released an album of folk songs called We Shall Overcome in 1987.
  • History Repeats: Both times Bernie has run for presidency, in 2016 and 2020, despite his apparent public support as a "revolutionary" against the establishment he's ultimately out-done by the favorite of the Democratic Party (part of that same establishment) to win (Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden respectively) before he pulls out and backs their nomination, telling his supporters to support them in defeating Donald Trump, who had already secured the Republican nomination.
  • Informed Judaism: He's Jewish, but he very rarely speaks about religion, preferring to focus on policy. Asked about it, Sanders said that his family "wasn't very religious" — other than going to synagogue once a year on Yom Kippur, and having a small Passover seder with their neighbors. He did go to Hebrew school (which even his mother felt was a chore) and had a bar mitzvah, and says he is "proud to be Jewish". Still, he isn't focused on it, so much as he is on social justice issues in general (The Other Wiki has a whole section on this in their article about him).
  • Insistent Terminology: Sanders describes himself as a democratic socialist, which has caused a couple of opposing reactions. More hardline socialists sometimes criticize him for this because his actual policies are closer to social democracy (that is, a mixed economy, or capitalism with strong labor unions and extensive public services), but more often, his political opponents use the socialist label as a scare word to attack him.
  • Memetic Hair: The silhouette of Bernie's hair and glasses is frequently depicted on merchandise.
  • Memetic Mutation: "I am once again asking for your financial support."note 
  • Nerd Glasses: Overlaps with Memetic Hair above. Though it better applies with the large, plastic framed glasses he wore in the 1980s.
  • Take a Third Option:
    • Save his bids for the Democratic presidential nomination, Sanders has appealed to this by running officially as an independent since 1980 (he ran on behalf of the Liberty Union Party, a small left-wing party in Vermont, for governor and senator in the 1970s).
    • He was also this on the day of the 2016 presidential election: even though he wasn't running, he got 5.7 percent of the vote on write-ins in Vermont. Also, a Democratic elector in Hawaii voted for him instead of Hillary Clinton, while two others in Maine and Minnesota tried to but had their votes invalidated.
  • Unknown Relative: Sanders was frequently parodied on Saturday Night Live being played by Larry David, star of Curb Your Enthusiasm. Many remarked on their very similar appearance. Only after that had been going on for a while, they appeared in an episode of Finding Your Roots, which revealed that they are distantly related ("something like third or fourth cousins"). Neither Sanders nor David had any prior idea of the connection.
  • Younger Than They Look: Sanders has had grey hair since his thirties. In a manner much like Steve Martin, it has helped to keep his appearance consistent as he aged. Going as far back as 1992, Sanders doesn't look that much different than he does today. Going even further back to his appearance on The Today Show in January 1981, he only looks maybe 15 years younger, rather than 39 years younger. It has helped burnish his public image, as one can go back thirty years and still see Sanders in his familiar Grumpy Old Man persona advocating for the same policies that are key planks of his platform today. Sanders was in his mid-40s when Bernie Speaks with the Community aired, though a viewer could easily mistake him for being in his 60s.
  • Your Approval Fills Me with Shame: Inverted: the hatred he's garnered from wealthy, influential magnates fills him with pride. Bernie released a list of wealthy individuals, mostly CEOs, who hate him with a passion while listing out several of their shady financial practices. He borrows a quote from Franklin D. Roosevelt, "I ask you to judge me by the enemies I have made."

Filmography featuring Bernie Sanders:

Music albums featuring Bernie Sanders:

  • We Shall Overcome (1987) - narrator

Bernie Sanders has been portrayed in:

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  • In Birds of Prey (2020), Harley Quinn claims that one of the reasons why one of her enemies hates her is because she "voted for Bernie".
    Live-Action TV 


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