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"You'd get tired just watching him" - Bernie Sanders' brother is convinced 'Bernard' can go all the way

“If he’s nominated I think he’ll win fairly easily,” Larry Sanders told RTÉ.

DEM 2016 Sanders AP / Press Association Images AP / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

Updated 18.09

WRITTEN OFF BY his opponents as a wacky socialist, Bernie Sanders was long seen as the foil who would drag Hillary Clinton farther to the left, rather than a real White House contender.

But with his decisive win in New Hampshire’s Democratic presidential primary, the 74-year-old Sanders – the country’s longest-serving independent member of Congress – gave notice that his “political revolution” is for real.

An outsider like Donald Trump, albeit at the opposite end of the ideological spectrum, the self-styled democratic socialist may be the eldest contender in the White House race but he has done the most to inspire passionate support among young liberals.

“We harnessed the energy and the excitement that the Democratic party will need to succeed in November,” Sanders told adoring fans at his campaign headquarters, looking ahead to the general election.

MSNBC / YouTube

“All the right positions”

Speaking on RTÉ’s Today with Seán O’Rourke earlier Sanders’ older brother Larry outlined why he thinks his sibling is set to take the presidency.

“I assumed he would win (last night), I assumed it would be bigger than the polls said, because he has all the right positions really,” he said.

Being an independent before is helping him because people have been unhappy with how where the country is going for a long while.

Larry, who is retired in England and has stood as a Green Party candidate there, doesn’t see his brother’s age (he’s 74) as a hindrance to him.

“He’s miraculously energetic, you’d get tired just watching him,” he said.

DEM 2016 Sanders Associated Press Associated Press

He believes that if his brother can secure the Democratic nomination he will “win fairly easily”. “The Clintons are a powerful political machine, but I think the evidence is starting to pile up that he will beat them.”

The commonly-held belief is that Clinton will appeal more to minority voters as the primaries move to the south of the US, something Larry Sanders dismissed.

“My gut instinct is that as he gets more attention people will look more closely and I can’t see any reason why people from minorities would be less interested in his views than anybody else,” he said.

People are feeling that the wealth of this country is being redistributed to the rich – they are feeling it but they’re not seeing it being talked about politically. That is why Bernard is so popular.

Larry became obviously emotional when a portion of his younger brother’s 28-minute victory speech from last night was played to him. He declared himself “thoroughly proud” of his little brother, and moved to dismiss comparisons with Donald Trump in that both of the candidates are somewhat political outsiders.

“It’s certainly possible they may go up against each other,” he said. “Personally I think Donald Trump is an obnoxious person, and his fomenting of the hatred of minorities is disgusting.”

People are flocking to him because they feel that they have been betrayed by their leadership – perhaps there is a similarity from that point of view.

Deadly serious 

Outwardly serious – even friends call him grumpy – Bernie Sanders from Vermont has spent a lifetime in public office addressing income inequality and fumes that the top 0.1% of Americans owns as much wealth as the bottom 90%.

Bernie, as he is known to fans, calls inequality the great moral, economic and political issue of the times and demands campaign finance reform that would prevent billionaires from spending unlimited funds in propelling their candidates to the White House.

He has drawn thousands to his rallies, winning endorsements from Oscar winner Susan Sarandon and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, which concocted a new flavor, “Bernie’s Yearning,” mint covered in a thick chocolate, in his honour.

The catchy “Feel the Bern” has become the popular de facto campaign slogan.

Sanders admits to being taken aback by the extent to which his message has resonated in a Democratic race where Clinton is still expected to win the overall Democratic nomination.

He has run a progressive campaign calling for universal health care coverage, a $15 minimum wage, reining in Wall Street, free tuition at public universities, taxing the wealthy and pulling 27 million Americans out of poverty.

The big question, as with Trump, is whether Sanders can continue to transform his popularity among people who generally do not vote into turnout. Last night, he succeeded.

Struggled for money

Born in Brooklyn, New York on 8 September, 1941 and brought up in a hard-working Jewish family that could never afford to move out of their small apartment, he has spoken of knowing firsthand the struggle for money.

His father was a Polish immigrant whose family was wiped out in the Holocaust. He attended a local school and a college, before transferring to the University of Chicago.

As a student, he became involved in the civil rights movement and took part in the March on Washington, where Martin Luther King Jr delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963.

After graduating, Sanders worked on an Israeli kibbutz and moved to Vermont, the state next to New Hampshire, where he worked as a carpenter and filmmaker.

In 1981, he was elected as mayor of Burlington, the state’s largest city, by a mere 10-vote margin and went on to win another three terms.

Under his administration, the city made strides in affordable housing, progressive taxation, environmental protection, child care and women’s rights.

DEM 2016 Sanders Associated Press Associated Press

In 1990, he was elected to the House of Representatives as an independent for Vermont, taking his fight against inequality to Congress.

After 16 years in the House, he was elected to the Senate and is serving his second term after winning re-election in 2012 with 71% of the vote.


In 2014, he worked with Republican Senator John McCain to pass legislation to make it easier for veterans to get medical care, beating the partisan gridlock that has paralysed much of Washington life in recent years.

He registered as a Democrat last year and announced his presidential run.

Sanders has mainly steered clear of waging personal attacks on Clinton, including over the email scandal that dogged her stint as secretary of state, or her husband’s extra-marital liaisons.

“The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails,” he said during a televised debate in October, while acknowledging it was not good politics to let the former first lady off the hook.

But in a debate last week, Clinton accused him of seeking unfairly to discredit her by suggesting she was beholden to powerful donors, calling on him and his campaign team to “end the artful smear.”

Nevertheless, Democrats disillusioned with the Clintons and Americans asking why they work so hard and yet lag so far behind other industrialised nations in having the right to paid leave and health care have flocked to Team Sanders.

“In countries around the world, in Scandinavia and in Germany, the ideas that I am talking about are not radical ideas,” Sanders explained in Iowa, where he lost to Clinton by the thinnest of margins.

“We cannot continue to have a government dominated by the billionaire class and a Congress that continues to work for the interest of the people on top while ignoring working families.”

Sanders lives in Burlington with his second wife Jane. Together, the couple have four children and seven grandchildren.

With reporting from Cianan Brennan

Originally published 8.22am

- © AFP, 2016 

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