Although presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders didn’t win the Democratic nomination, he left quite a mark on American politics when he ran in the 2016 presidential race. It’s not like Mr. Sanders is out of a job though – he’s been serving as a United States senator since 2007. Politics isn’t a new field for the man who was seen as the most authentic voice of the people – at least for one very vocal group of people.
There are plenty of things you probably don’t know about Bernie Sanders. Some interesting bits about Bernie aren’t all that surprising. For example, he loves music! But who doesn’t? Did you know that he recorded his own album though? Yeah. This is just one of the surprising facts about Bernie you’ll learn here. And a few more that are, well, a tad scandalous.
You’ll just have to click ‘Start Slideshow‘ to find out the most fascinating facts about a politician who won millions of America’s hearts!
Yes, Bernie Loves Music
It goes without saying that most people love music, but Bernie’s love of music goes beyond the usual. Before he secured the mayoral seat in Burlington, Vermont, the city was plagued with 1950s-era sound ordinances. Seriously, it was reminiscent of Footloose. The town’s residents weren’t allowed to use amps to play music in parks or public buildings.
Even if a promoter could reserve the city auditorium for a show, he or she had to get approval of the artist’s music from the city council. This isn’t a script for a movie – the promoter really had to play a sample of music for the council. And then Bernie Sanders came along.
Bernie helped make a jazz festival possible in Burlington. Keep reading for more!
Without Bernie’s decisions to lift odd bans on playing music, the city may never have become a place where people could enjoy music publicly. Now you can attend free concerts in city parks, and the Burlington Discover Jazz Festival every June. Music for everyone!
Not only did Bernie set music free, he recorded a folk music album. We Shall Overcome includes the classic “This Land is Your Land,” plus some spoken word and folk originals. It included several Vermont musicians, and the original release sold about 1,000 copies. When Bernie ran for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States, it was rereleased and sold many more.
So, about that mayor title – Bernie barely won that seat. Click “Next” to read the incredible story!
Bernie Proved Every Vote Counts
Bernie Sanders wasn’t new to politics in the 1980s. He spent much of his time in the ’60s and ’70s at protests, running for the senate and governor for Vermont for the Liberty Union party, but he didn’t get more than 6.1 percent of the vote during that decade and his four runs. His losing streak was about to change, though – but not by much.
In 1980, Bernie took a look at his numbers running on the Liberty Union ticket. It’s fair to say that no one really had much interest in the party, but Bernie did surprisingly well in Burlington. As a vocal advocate and activist for the poor, the young, the old, and those in the minority margins, he did very well. So, Bernie decided to try for mayor of Burlington.
If you don’t believe every vote counts, keep reading and you will!
Bernie switched up his party title and ran for mayor of Burlington as an independent against Democrat Gordon Paquette. Because Bernie was all about campaigning, the people of Burlington knew exactly who he was. And those who liked him got out to vote. Although Bernie was a bit of a no one in politics, at least as far as titles go, he managed to get 43.43 percent of the vote. His biggest competitor: 43.32 percent.
Bernie won the mayoral seat by 10 votes. He served as mayor for eight years. Following his stint as mayor, Bernie decided to set his sights higher and started campaigning as an independent congressman. He served in the House of Representatives for 16 years, winning reelections by huge margins for most of those runs. In fact, he’s the longest serving independent in congressional history.
As important as America is to Bernie, his family is an even bigger deal. Click “Next” for a glimpse!
Bernie and His Son
Although Bernie Sanders is an intensely private person, he involves his family in everything he does – he just doesn’t talk about the private parts of his life much. He’s always been an “about the issues” kind of politician. But his son Levi was there when Bernie raised his hand to volunteer to run for office the first time in his career – Levi was only 2 years old, bouncing on his dad’s knee.
Growing up, Levi didn’t call his father “Dad” or “Daddy” – just “Bernard,” and sometimes “Bernster.” Levi is Bernie’s only biological son, but Bernie considers his three stepchildren his own, as well. Throughout Levi’s life, though, Bernie was a strong political and father figure. Bernie shared custody with Levi’s mother, and Levi had a strong upbringing by both parents who remained amicable.
Levi has always been there, even if he’s in the background. Read on for more!
As persistent as Bernie was with his campaigning, he was, perhaps, more so with his son. Family friend Nancy Barnett recalled a time when Bernie, known as a track star when he was in school, ran around the high school track with Levi, lap after lap, until Levi was exhausted. “You started your race – now you’ve got to finish your race,” he reportedly told his son.
As Levi grew older, he remained a part of his father’s politics and was always invited to join in the conversation. He attended rallies, meetings, and held a microphone for his father to speak into for a cable show. Even though Levi has his own family with his wife and adopted children, he’s still a major part of Bernie’s life and campaigns.
Raising a son wasn’t easy on a freelance writer’s wages. Click “Next” to read about Bernie’s hardships!
Bernie Didn’t Have a Steady Paycheck
Bernie Sanders realized quickly that there’s very little money in political activism. He spent the better part of his 20s and 30s broke. Not having enough money wasn’t anything new to Bernie. He grew up poor, but realized that others had it tougher than he did. He received a bit of an inheritance when his father died and bought some land in Vermont, but he and his first wife lived in a maple sugar shack that had a dirt floor.
He moved around here and there, living in New York and Vermont. Bernie raised his son part-time in a small duplex that didn’t have much in it – neither furniture nor food. There were always plenty of books from the library, though. “The electricity was turned off a lot,” his friend Barnett said. “I remember him running an extension cord down to the basement. He couldn’t pay his bills.”
In fact, Bernie didn’t have a regular paycheck until he was 40. Keep reading for more!
“He was always poor.” “Virtually unemployed.” “Just one step above hand to mouth.” All of these quotes are from Bernie’s friends and a campaign manager for the politician. Bernie once worked as a carpenter for a short time, but he wasn’t very good. Mostly, he made enough money from freelance writing to support himself and his son. There was a time, though, that he received unemployment for a few months.
It wasn’t until Bernie Sanders was elected as mayor of Burlington that he started earning regular paychecks – his salary was $33,800 a year and it was more than he’d ever made. Bernie was about 40 years old at this point. Now the U.S. senator is worth about $800,000, which is far more than he was worth 30 years ago, but still puts him at the low end of net worth compared to most senators.
To say Bernie was a troublemaker is a bit of an understatement, but does he have an arrest record? Click “Next” to find out!
Bernie Has an Arrest Record
Although Bernie Sanders’ message has been unwavering over the years – “The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer, and the vast majority in the middle are having a harder and harder time” – it hasn’t always been about economics. In the 1960s, Bernie was a vocal, but peaceful, activist for civil rights.
During Bernie’s presidential campaign, photos surfaced showing a young man speaking to a group of students at an organized sit-in. Bernie confirmed the 1962 photo indeed included him in it. In 1963, Bernie was arrested during a protest of Chicago’s segregated schools, and photos of that were also found. At the time, Bernie was found guilty of resisting arrest and he paid a $25 fine.
Was that the end of his rabblerousing? Read on for more!
He also went to Washington D.C. to see Martin Luther King, Jr. speak at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. However, in spite of the photos floating around on the internet, he did not march with MLK in Selma, as much as his fans and followers want to believe it.
Civil rights were extremely important to Bernie, so much so that his grades suffered for it. Yet he persisted. Although Bernie wasn’t a famous figure in the 1960s for his protests or organizing of events, he continued to stand up for what he believed was right. He was ahead of many other politicians when he insisted all laws discriminating against those for sexual orientation be abolished – that was more than 40 years ago.
Although Bernie has always been private, there are some details. Click “Next” to see more!
He Was Married Twice, But …
Neither of the women Bernie Sanders married is the mother of his son Levi. He married a woman named Deborah Shiling in 1964, but the marriage only lasted two years. The two remain on friendly terms, and Deborah has received many calls from press in the past, likely hoping for a bit of dirt on Bernie, but she’s not an angry ex-wife – not in the least.
In 1988, Bernie married Jane O’Meara Driscoll, and she brought along the three children of hers from a previous marriage. Bernie welcomed them all into his home and his life, and considers them all his own, and forever family.
So, who is the mother of Levi, if not them? Keep reading for the answer!
Levi’s mother is Susan Campbell Mott, Bernie’s girlfriend in the late 1960s. Levi was born in 1969 out of wedlock, but that didn’t seem to bother his mother or father much, if at all. Bernie and Susan co-parented Levi, and as far as anyone knows, there was very little drama. A family friend was quoted saying that Susan was a very quiet, private person, and she was often around.
Bernie and Jane have been married for nearly three decades, and they’re still going strong. They actually met in 1981 on the night that he took the mayoral seat in Burlington. Their honeymoon wasn’t the most romantic – the two marched in a parade, then went to Russia, which was a delegation trip, so essentially work-related.
Bernie seems like everyone’s favorite uncle. Click “Next” to find out if Uncle Bernie would light one up with you!
Bernie Admitted to Smoking Weed
As a presidential candidate in the 2016 race, Bernie Sanders was asked about his own drug use and it sounded familiar – a bit like former President Bill Clinton’s response: “When I was in England, I experimented with marijuana a time or two, and didn’t like it,” Clinton said. “I didn’t inhale, and I didn’t try it again.”
Whether you remember it or you saw a clip later, Clinton was one of the first presidential candidates to almost admit to smoking weed. But he didn’t inhale. Since then, former President Obama has been open about his drug use: He tried weed and cocaine when he was younger. So, it probably made it easier for Bernie to admit his own use.
Bernie inhaled, and had no problem admitting it! Keep reading for more!
Bernie wasn’t a fan of the Mary Jane either – he said it just made him cough. But he also understood why others smoke it. “And if you want to make the argument that maybe marijuana is less harmful to health than tobacco, I think you’d probably be making a correct argument. Some may disagree, but I think it’s probably true,” he said.
The Vermont senator pointed out that there are too many people in jail for nonviolent crimes, and that we should rethink the war on drugs. Vermont decriminalized marijuana, but Bernie said he was watching Colorado closely to see how it works for them.
How does a little guy like Bernie get so far on so little? Click “Next” to see the power of the people!
Bernie Sanders Supporters Gave $27 Each – on Average
It was commonly referenced throughout Bernie Sanders’ campaign for his presidential run that on average, his supporters donated $27. The total raised for his campaign: $228 million (not counting outside groups). In fact, the outside groups that donated to Bernie only totaled slightly less than $1 million.
The reason those numbers are so important is because it demonstrates who Bernie is serving: the little people. He and his campaign committee encouraged supporters to make small donations, and that every tiny bit counted. The individual contributions made up more than 99 percent of his total funds raised.
He was a contender, folks. Read on to find out how he stacked up against others!
Hillary Clinton, Bernie’s biggest competitor for the Democrat nomination, raised more than double that, but it’s important to note that more than $200 million came from outside groups. Only 70 percent of the contributions came from individuals. But she managed to secure the nom nod.
Although Bernie raised plenty of cash for a solid grass-roots campaign, he lost the Democratic nomination. It was later revealed that the Democrat party didn’t want him as their nominee – and they actively worked against him. “Wondering if there’s a good Bernie narrative for a story, which is that Bernie never ever had his act together, that his campaign was a mess,” an email written by Mark Paustenbach, a DNC communications official to Luis Miranda, the DNC communications director.
The Holocaust hits close to home for Bernie. Click “Next” to see why.
Bernie’s Father’s Family Was Killed by Hitler
Although some stories claimed that Bernie Sanders’ parents were Holocaust survivors, that just isn’t true. Bernie’s father, Eli, immigrated to the United States in 1921, when he was only 17. He became a paint salesman and married Dorothy Glassberg. They were both of Polish descent. Eli’s family was mostly killed in the Holocaust.
Bernie’s parents raised him and his older brother Larry Sanders (not the basketball star), but it was often a struggle. They grew up in a rent-controlled apartment in New York City, and although Dorothy always wanted a house, it wasn’t in the cards for the family.
How important is Bernie’s Jewish heritage to him – or to anyone? Keep reading for more!
It turns out that Bernie’s heritage really isn’t a big deal to anyone. Never mind that Bernie is one of the most successful Jewish presidential candidates ever – no one really pays much attention to his religious background. Bernie acknowledges the importance of his heritage, his religion, and that being Jewish is a big part of him – “an essential part of who I am as a human being.”
If it seems surprising that Bernie is Jewish, that’s because he doesn’t talk about it much at all. Instead he focuses on the issues, and puts forth a more secular image of himself. Bernie’s brother Larry has, perhaps, said more about their religious upbringing than Bernie has. “They were very pleased to be Jews,” Larry said of their parents, “but didn’t have a strong belief in God.”
It’s important to keep a sense of humor in politics, and Bernie did just that. Click “Next” to read his best quips!
Feel the Bern!
Bernie Sanders has been called one of the most humorless presidential candidates the United States has ever seen, but that’s hard to swallow. He made a cameo on Saturday Night Live alongside Larry David (who has portrayed Bernie in other sketches) making the case for democratic socialism, emphasizing it’s a huge difference from socialism. And making fun of himself and the way he pronounces “huge” – more like “yooge.”
Bernie already captured a lot of young voters’ hearts, but he did the rounds on the late night talk shows, showing he absolutely has a sense of humor. On Jimmy Kimmel Live, Bernie offered up his opinion on Larry David’s impersonation of him on SNL by doing his own impersonation of Larry David. Asked again about an SNL skit and how many pairs of underpants he owns, and Bernie responded, “No, no, no, this is a serious question … and yes, last week I bought my second pair of underwear.” He followed it up quickly with a note that it was a joke and he has an ample supply of underwear.
Bernie can laugh at himself as well as anyone. Read more of his best!
When asked if he could say something in Polish, Bernie responded, “Unless ‘no’ is a Polish word, no I can’t.” He was also asked what state he thinks likes him the least, and self-aware Bernie answered, “Washington, D.C.” At the beginning of an interview in a barbershop, Bernie starts, “When I was growing up, 400 years ago … ”
Bernie is well aware of his appearance, which is often mocked by the media, or at least pointed out – his unruly white, fuzzy hair, and his crumpled clothes. So, when he announced his bid for president, he said, “The pundits said: ‘You comb your hair very nicely. You have a GQ look to you.’ What can I say? I’m stuck with this.”