Photos capture how Bernie Sanders went from being a working-class kid in Brooklyn to a top 2020 Democratic presidential candidate

Photos capture how Bernie Sanders went from being a working-class kid in Brooklyn to a top 2020 Democratic presidential candidate

October 27, 2019 0 By emoryenoch8291

Bernie Sanders

Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks at a campaign rally in Dover, New Hampshire, on September 1, 2019.
Brian Snyder/Reuters


  • For nearly four decades, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders waged a lonely war against the people and institutions he views as responsible for rigging the system against the middle class.
  • Claiming the mantle of democratic socialism, Sanders railed against a consistent set of targets: Wall Street, multinational corporations, and the political elite — and portrayed them as ganging up to rob the American Dream for themselves.
  • As mayor of Burlington, Vermont, then a House Representative and later a US senator from the state, he’s repeatedly assailed the establishment, calling for sweeping reforms to remake the nation’s economy in a more Scandinavian image.
  • Long at the fringe of American politics, Sanders’s populist message pummeling the wealthy caught fire among progressives during his insurgent Democratic primary run against Hillary Clinton in 2016.
  • And he is again striking the same chord of anti-establishment fury that’s made many of his positions — such as higher taxes on the rich, single-payer healthcare, and a $15 federal minimum wage — the standard for many Democrats in the primary. 
  • Here’s how Sanders went from being a working-class kid in Brooklyn to top 2020 Democratic presidential candidate — and the poster-image of democratic socialism.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

For nearly four decades, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders waged a lonely war against the people and institutions he views as responsible for rigging the system against the middle class.

Claiming the mantle of democratic socialism, Sanders railed against a consistent set of targets: Wall Street, multinational corporations, and the political elite — and portrayed them as ganging up to rob the American Dream for themselves.

As mayor of Burlington, Vermont, then a House Representative and later a US senator from the state, he’s repeatedly assailed the establishment, calling for sweeping reforms to remake the nation’s economy in a more Scandinavian image.

Long at the fringe of American politics, Sanders’s populist message pummeling the wealthy caught fire among progressives during his insurgent Democratic primary run against Hillary Clinton in 2016.

And he is again striking the same chord of anti-establishment fury that’s made many of his positions — such as higher taxes on the rich, single-payer healthcare, and a $15 federal minimum wage — the standard for many Democrats in the primary. 

Read more: Why Bernie Sanders’ supporters are the most interesting people in the 2020 election

The Vermont senator has long been guarded about his personal life, instead opting to sell his vision of wholesale revolution on the campaign trail. But he’s shared more details about his early life in Brooklyn in an effort to connect with voters amidst a crowded primary where he is not the only progressive firebrand running for president.

Here’s how Sanders went from being a working-class kid in Brooklyn to top 2020 Democratic presidential candidate — and the poster-image of democratic socialism.

Sanders was born on September 8, 1941 in a working-class neighborhood in Brooklyn. His father was a Jewish paint salesman who immigrated from Poland while his mother was a homemaker raised in New York.

Bernie Sanders as a child

Bernie Sanders as a child.
Courtesy of the Sanders campaign


Source: Time, The New Yorker

Sanders grew up in a small, rent-controlled apartment in Brooklyn. He played in the streets, attended Hebrew school, and liked to frequent Chinese and Jewish delis.

Bernie Sanders child Brooklyn

Bernie Sanders as a child, center, and his brother, Larry, with their maternal grandmother, Bessy Glassberg, outside 1525 E. 26th St., the building where he grew up, in Brooklyn, New York.
Bernie Sanders campaign via AP


Source: Time

Sanders said his family struggled to make ends meet throughout his childhood. “It wasn’t a question of putting food on the table. It was a question of arguing about whether you buy this or whether you buy that. You know, families do this. I remember a great argument about drapes—whether we could afford them,” he said.

Bernie Sanders family photo

Bernie Sanders, left, with his mother Dorothy Sanders and older brother Larry Sanders.
Courtesy of the Sanders campaign


Source: The New Yorker

After his mother died, Sanders studied for a year at Brooklyn College and soon wound up at the University of Chicago. He threw himself into protests for the desegregation of Chicago public schools and led a sit-in on campus aimed at integrating university housing. He was once arrested for his activism.

Bernie Sanders at the University of Chicago

Bernie Sanders at the University of Chicago.
Courtesy of the Sanders campaign


Source: Time, The New Yorker

Through the 1970s, Sanders ran four failed campaigns on Vermont’s anti-war Liberty Union Party, twice for senator and twice for governor. But in 1980, he won the mayoral race in Burlington, Vermont, as an independent by only ten votes.

bernie sanders

Bernie Sanders.
AP Photo/Donna Light


Source: The New Yorker

Sanders transformed Burlington into a bastion of progressivism and left-wing activism. He oversaw a period of economic growth, and also established an arts council, women’s commission, and a youth office.

Bernie Sanders, Mayor of Burlington, Vermont

Bernie Sanders served as mayor of Burlington, Vermont, from 1981 to 1989
AP Photo/Donna Light


Source: The New Yorker

In the winter of 1987, Sanders recorded “We Shall Overcome,” a folk album with a message of peace, justice, and human rights.

Bernie Sanders

Mayor Bernie Sanders of Burlington, Vt., sings into the microphone during a recording session, Nov. 20, 1987.
AP Photo/Toby Talbot


Source: NPR

A year later, Sanders married Jane O’Meara, who was director of Burlington’s youth programs at the time. “He asked me to dance, and we’ve been together ever since,” O’Meara Sanders said. She is now his closest adviser.

Bernie Sanders and Jane Sanders

Bernie Sanders and Jane O’Meara Sanders.
Courtesy of the Sanders campaign


Source: Irish Times

Sanders was first elected to the House in 1990 as a socialist candidate. He ran on a platform of slamming more taxes on the rich and slashing military spending, and won by a hefty 17-point margin.

Bernie Sanders elected to the House of Representatives

Bernard Sanders raises his arms in victory after defeating Republican Rep. Peter Smith in the race for Vermont’s lone House seat, Nov. 6, 1990.
AP Photo/Rob Swanson


Source: The Chigago Tribune, The Washington Post

In 1991, Sanders was one of the founding members and the first chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. It had six members then, but it’s now ballooned to number 96 lawmakers.

Bernie Sanders in Congress

Rep. Bernie Sanders at the start of a meeting between the Congressional Progressive Caucus and President Bill Clinton in August 1993
AP Photo/Marcy Nighswander


Source: The New Yorker

However, Sanders initially struggled landing prestigious committee assignments given his non-partisan affiliation as an independent and outspoken progressive ideals.

Rep. Bernie Sanders

Rep. Bernie Sanders, IND-Vt
Photo by Maureen Keating/ CQ Roll Call via Getty Images


Source: The New Yorker

Sanders didn’t make many friends early on in Congress. He once said he wouldn’t mind if 80 percent of its members lost their reelection bids and described Congress as “impotent.” A Massachusetts Democrat later derided the Vermont congressman, saying, “He screams and hollers, but he is all alone.”

Rep. Bernie Sanders in Congress, 2002

Rep. Bernie Sanders listens to witnesses during an unprecedented British parliamentary hearing on Gulf War Syndrome in London, June 18, 2002.
REUTERS/Chris Helgren


Source: The New York Times Magazine

In the House, Sanders developed a reputation for being an outsider, opting to chart his own path rather than compromise. He opposed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and voted against the Brady Bill five times, a pro-gun control piece of legislation.

Rep. Bernie Sanders in Congress

Rep. Bernie Sanders, I-VT, talks about congressional legislation.
Jeff Wolfram/Roll Call/Getty Images


Source: ProPublica, CBS News

Sanders repeatedly grilled Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan at House Financial Services Committee hearings. After the Fed chair said in 2003 that American workers enjoyed the world’s highest quality of life, Sanders retorted: “Wrong, mister. You go to Scandinavia, and you will find that people have a much higher standard of living, in terms of education, health care, and decent paying jobs.”

Alan Greenspan in 2003

Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan testifies before Congress in February 2003.
Stefan Zaklin/Getty Images


Source: The Boston Globe

Sanders twice pushed to pass legislation to allow the importation of cheaper prescription drugs. It failed both times in the early 2000s. He later said about Congress: “Nobody knows how this place is run. If they did, they’d go nuts.”

Rep. Bernie Sanders

Rep. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., during a House Banking Committee session.
Douglas Graham/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images


Source: The New York Times, ProPublica, Rolling Stone

In 2006, Sanders won his Senate campaign by a whopping 33-point margin and started caucusing with Democrats.

Sen. Bernie Sanders in 2007

Sen. Bernie Sanders is sworn into Congress in January 2007.
AP Photo/Evan Vucci


Source: The New York Times, Politico

During the financial crisis, Sa