The Bernie boom aiming to dump Trump

Youthquake: With a huge majority among young voters, Bernie Saunders is on a roll. © Getty

Is Bernie Sanders the rival to beat Donald Trump? Claiming victory this morning in the Iowa vote, the radical 78-year-old socialist is narrow favourite to be the Democratic candidate.

As a teenager, Bernie Sanders was one of the best schoolboy athletes in New York. He won so many races that, one day, he decided someone else should have a turn. So he slowed down, waited for a friend to catch him up, and pushed him over the finishing line in front of him.

Those who voted for him in the Iowa caucus this week – the traditional start of the race to find candidates to stand for president of the USA – would say that this sums up Sanders’s view of America. He believes that the good things it offers have been enjoyed by a lucky few, and it is time that others were given the chance to share them.

Sanders was born in Brooklyn in 1941. His father was a Jewish immigrant from Poland, where many of his family died in the Holocaust. The family lived in a small flat and were always short of money. “I remember going with my mother when we had to buy a jacket,” he says. “We went to literally 15 different stores to buy the damned cheapest.” Perhaps, as a result, he hates shopping and is famous for wearing scruffy clothes.

Camping with the Boy Scouts gave him such a love of the countryside that he cried when he had to go back to New York. After university in Chicago – where he took part in protests against segregated student housing – he moved to Vermont, where he lived in an old sugar mill with dirt floors and did odd jobs, such as carpentry.

In his early attempts to win political office, he got a dismal share of the vote but became known for his tireless campaigning. He also earned the nickname “total”, because he so often complained that the way things worked was a “total travesty”.

Finally, in 1980, he was elected as mayor of Burlington, becoming known as “the red mayor in the Green Mountains”. He shocked conservatives by making goodwill visits to countries like Russia, but ran the city with great efficiency.

He has represented Vermont in Congress since 1990. On one occasion, he spoke for eight-and-a-half hours against a bill approving tax cuts.

His first attempt to run for president came in 2016, but he lost the Democratic nomination to Hillary Clinton. This time, his chances look far better.

Can Bernie Sanders beat Donald Trump?

Clash of opposites

Some say that Sanders is an ideal candidate because he is different from Trump in every way: he is sincere, principled, believes in telling the truth, and cares about the underprivileged. He may be a left-wing idealist, but he has a record of co-operating with opponents to get things done. He is very popular with younger voters, and can appeal to the poor because he has shared their struggles.

Others argue that a self-declared “democratic socialist” has no chance of being elected in such a capitalist country as America. Though he inspires enormous passion in his supporters, such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, his views are too extreme for the wider public. His age and a recent heart attack are also worry, and 73-year-old Trump’s campaign will attract far richer donors, which is crucial in an American election.

You Decide

  1. Would you vote for Bernie Sanders?
  2. Which is more important in a leader: his ideals or his efficiency?

Activities

  1. Design a poster for Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign.
  2. Imagine that your country has decided to have an election this week. Divide into four teams, each picking one candidate. Make a five-minute representation on why your candidate should be chosen. Then hold a vote on who the president or prime minister should be.

Some People Say...

“By the time a man gets to be presidential material, he’s been bought 10 times over.”

Gore Vidal, (1925-2012), American novelist

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
According to the early results, which Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Troy Price last night said represented 62 percent of the state’s precincts, Bernie Sanders won the popular vote, with 28,220 to Democratic rival Pete Buttigieg’s 27,090. Historically, Iowa has a relatively good record for picking who ends up as the Democratic party’s candidate. In the past five contested primaries, the winner of the Iowa caucuses has gone on to be the Democratic nominee.
What do we not know?
Whether Bernie Saunders will eventually get the Democratic nomination to be the main rival to Donald Trump in the US presidential election this November. His biggest rival, former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg, made the very unusual decision not to stand in the first, smaller, primaries such as Iowa and only to enter the race in March. But Saunders remains the favourite so far and the strong favourite among voters under 30.

Word Watch

Iowa
A state in the Midwest of the USA known mainly for its agriculture. Campaigning for the US presidential nomination traditionally starts here.
Caucus
A meeting of members of a political party to choose a candidate or policy.
Segregated
Officially separated from others. In Chicago in the early 1960s, for example, black students were not allowed to share accommodation with white students.
Vermont
A state in the north-east of the USA famous for its beautiful countryside.
Burlington
The largest city in Vermont.
Congress
The body which governs the US, equivalent to Britain’s Parliament.
Hillary Clinton
The wife of the former US President Bill Clinton, she made two unsuccessful attempts to run for president herself. In 2008, she lost the Democratic nomination to Barack Obama, who made her secretary of state, in charge of foreign affairs. In 2016, she won the nomination but lost the election to Donald Trump.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
A left-wing US politician who in 2018, at the age of 29, became the youngest woman to be elected to Congress.

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