Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) launched his 2016 presidential campaign on Thursday with little fanfare.
The outspoken liberal stalwart — viewed by some as a gadfly in Washington — stood near the Capitol Building and informed the reporters present he would only be making a “brief comment.”
“Let me just say this. This country today, in my view, has more serious crises than in anytime since the Great Depression,” Sanders said. “How does it happen that the top 1% owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90%? And my conclusion is that that type of economics is not only immoral, it’s not only wrong, it is unsustainable.”
Sanders, a self-described socialist who caucuses with the Senate Democrats, proceeded to tick off statistics indicating the US economy is leaving middle-class families behind.
“The major issue is how do we create an economy that works for all of our people, rather than just a some number of billionaires?” he asked.
The second major issue, Sanders added, was reversing the Supreme Court’s “disastrous” Citizens United ruling that lets so-called super PACs raise and spend unlimited amounts of money.
On these two issues, at least, Sanders’ message isn’t that different from the only other announced Democrat Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Clinton, the undisputed Democratic front-runner, has repeatedly called for campaign finance reform on the trail, and her announcement video declared, “The deck is still stacked in favour of those at the top.” She has even reportedly called for the “toppling” of the wealthiest 1% in the US economy.
Indeed, Clinton welcomed Sanders into the race on Thursday by saying they both agree about middle class issues:
I agree with Bernie. Focus must be on helping America’s middle class. GOP would hold them back. I welcome him to the race. — H
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) April 30, 2015
However, Sanders does appear set to draw some direct contrasts with Clinton. When asked to cite differences with her, Sanders is quick to point to his opposition the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. Clinton voted to authorise the invasion, which she later admitted to a mistake. That vote is widely viewed as one of the main reasons liberals backed then-Sen. Barack Obama over Clinton in the 2008 Democratic presidential primary.
“We don’t know what Hillary’s stances are on all the issues. But this is what I can tell you,” Sanders said at his announcement press conference. “I voted against the war in Iraq. And not only did I vote against it, I helped lead the effort. And many of the things that I said back then turned out to be true, [including] the massive destabilization in the region.”
Sanders has also been willing to call attention to Clinton’s refusal to take a position on some of the key issues of the day.
Clinton once showered praise on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a 12-country free trade deal currently being negotiated, but is now conspicuously non-committal. Additionally, Clinton has not taken a position on the Keystone XL pipeline, frustrating environmental activists who oppose it. Sanders said he proudly stands with liberals on both issues.
“I am helping right now to lead the effort against the Trans-Pacific Partnership because I believe it continues the trend of horrendous trade policies which have cost us millions of decent-paying jobs. I helped lead the effort against the Keystone pipeline because I don’t think we should be transporting some of the dirtiest fuel in the world,” Sanders said. “So those are some of my views. And we’ll see where Secretary Clinton turns out.”
Don’t expect Sanders to run any ads, however. The senator informed the media he absolutely loathes the idea of blitzing political opponents’ on television.
“I’ve never run a negative ad in my life,” Sanders said to conclude his 2016 announcement. “I’ve been in many campaigns, and [if] you ask the people of Vermont, they will tell you, ‘Bernie Sanders has never run a negative ad.’ I hate and detest these 30-second, ugly negative ads.”
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