- Sen. Bernie Sanders on Saturday offered a rare glimpse into his childhood during his 2020 kickoff event in Brooklyn, New York, where he grew up.
- Sanders did not often get personal during his 2016 campaign but seems poised to use his background to bolster his progressive credentials in 2020.
- “My experience as a child living in a family that struggled economically powerfully influenced my life and my values,” Sanders said. “I know where I came from! And that is something I will never forget.”
- As he discussed his humble Brooklyn roots, Sanders contrasted his upbringing with President Donald Trump’s wealthy lifestyle and childhood.
BROOKLYN, NY – Sen. Bernie Sanders scarcely offered personal reflections during his 2016 campaign – it just wasn’t his style. The Vermont senator has always seemed more in his element when discussing policy.
But you wouldn’t have known that at his first big 2020 rally in Brooklyn, New York, on Saturday, which took place not far from where Sanders grew up.
The Vermont senator finally got personal when kicking off the campaign he hopes will supplant President Donald Trump,
Indeed, Sanders provided a rare glimpse into his childhood during his speech, breaking from his tendency during his 2016 campaign of avoiding sentimentality, as he offered insights into how his Brooklyn roots shaped his worldview.
The senator has recounted that his father was a Polish immigrant whose family was largely wiped out during the Holocaust. His mother, a native New Yorker, died relatively young and before she could realise her dream of moving to a “home of our own,” according to Sanders.
“I am not going to tell you that I grew up in a home of desperate poverty,” Sanders said to a crowd of roughly 13,000 people. “That would not be true. But what I will tell you is that 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 family.”
“My experience as a child living in a family that struggled economically powerfully influenced my life and my values,” Sanders said. “I know where I came from! And that is something I will never forget.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders at campaign kick-off in Brooklyn: "My experience as a child living in a family that struggled economically powerfully influenced my life and my values. I know where I came from." pic.twitter.com/YI9AWC3mnm
— The Hill (@thehill) March 3, 2019
In speaking about his upbringing, Sanders contrasted his humble beginnings to Trump’s reportedly affluent youth in Queens.
“Unlike Donald Trump, who shut down the government and left 800,000 federal employees without income to pay the bills, I know what it’s like to be in a family that lives paycheck to paycheck,” Sanders said.
“I did not have a father who gave me millions of dollars to build luxury skyscrapers, casinos, and country clubs,” Sanders went on to say, taking more jabs at Trump. “I did not come from a family that gave me a $US200,000 allowance every year beginning at the age of 3. As I recall, my allowance was 25 cents a week.”
“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, to start a new and better life,” Sanders added.
Sanders also looked to his father’s immigrant past to highlight the massive wall between him and Trump on the issue of immigration.
“I learned a great deal about immigration as a child because my father came from Poland at the age of 17, without a nickel in his pocket. Without knowing one word of English. He came to the US to escape the crushing poverty that existed in his community, and to escape widespread anti-Semitism,” Sanders said. “And it was a good thing that he came to this country because virtually his entire family was wiped out by Hitler and Nazi barbarism.”
Sanders has been unabashed about his disdain for Trump since 2020 campaign announcement, decrying the president as a “a racist, a sexist, a xenophobe, and a fraud.” He’s far more overtly anti-Trump than some of the other 2020 candidates vying for the Democratic nomination,
The other speakers on Saturday, including Sanders’ wife Jafe Sanders, former Ohio state Sen. Nina Turner, and activist and journalist Shaun King, also dove deep into the presidential hopeful’s past as they made the case that he is the man to bring down Trump.
“This is not some exaggerated myth. This is the origin story of a political revolutionary,” King declared of Sanders as he discussed the senator’s efforts to promote civil rights in the 1960s, which at one point led to his arrest during a protest on school segregation.
When Sanders began his 2016 campaign, he was a relatively obscure figure who was widely dismissed as a longshot contender for the presidency. Fast-forward to 2019 and the 77-year-old democratic socialist is already being pegged as the Democratic frontrunner in the early days of the 2020 campaign season.
In 2016, Sanders may not have seen an advantage to leaning on his personal background to further his progressive messaging. But with Trump in the White House, the Vermont senator seems poised to continue juxtaposing his working-class genesis with the president’s inherited wealth as he fights to portray Trump as a false ally of the downtrodden in America.
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