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Bernie Sanders kicks off 2016 run with some harsh words about rich people

Can Bernie Sanders beat Hillary Clinton? That's up to you.


Patrick Howell O'Neill


Posted on May 26, 2015   Updated on May 28, 2021, 6:20 pm CDT

As Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) kicks off his 2016 presidential campaign in Vermont, the senator is questioning the morality of the United States economy.

“Ninety-nine percent of all new income generated today goes to the top 1 percent,” he told CNBC. “The top one-tenth of 1 percent owns as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent. Does anybody think this is the kind of economy we should have. Do we think it’s moral?”

In a country where the word “socialist” is used as a political insult, senator is running for the White House as exactly that—the candidate who wants to tap into “discontent” and “anger” at “the corporate establishment, the political establishment, the media establishment.”

Sanders sarcastically refers to Republican President Dwight Eisenhower as a “radical socialist” because of the 90 percent top tax rate during his tenure.

Sanders’ focus on the economy matches, in large part, the American people’s concerns. The economy was ranked as a top priority by 75 percent of Americans in a Jan. 2015 Pew poll, albeit the focus on economic issues is relatively shrinking as the economy improves following the 2008 collapse.

On Sanders’ website, two big economic issues make up a full two-thirds of his cornerstone issues: Income inequality and getting big money out of politics.

But can a socialist progressive beat the behemoth that is Hillary Clinton

“A couple months ago, I was in California, a beautiful sunny day,” he told CNBC. “We had 500 people coming out at a union hall. I went to Austin, Texas—we had about 600 people coming out. I was in Las Vegas—we had 300 people coming out. Went to Chicago—we had 400 people. So I am sensing that based on that trip and trips that I made to Iowa, New Hampshire, that there is more disconnect and more anger at the establishment—the corporate establishment, the political establishment, the media establishment.”

From Sanders’ point of view, the attendance and energy he sees at events shows he’s got a chance. From the media point of view, however, Sanders is sometimes relegated to an afterthought or forgotten altogether.

Online and in more progressive circles, however, Sanders’ candidacy is being taken much more seriously. In response to comparisons between Ron Paul and Sanders, the Washington Post‘s Robert Costa said the energy of Sanders’s followers amounts to “a movement” that puts pressure on Clinton, especially in primary states like Iowa.

“He doesn’t need to win in Iowa, but if he can show in Iowa, then he goes into his neighboring state of New Hampshire and he could become a problem [for Clinton],” Costa argued. 

Sanders’ first major campaign rally takes place tonight, May 26, in Vermont at 5pm ET. You can watch it live here.

H/T CNBC | Photo via Bernie Sanders

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*First Published: May 26, 2015, 11:52 am CDT