Bernie Sanders may not be known as the best friend of United States military veterans, but there is more to this 74-year-old Democrat, from New York than first meets the eye. Sanders has been in public elected office twice as long as the rest of the major candidates. He was mayor of Burlington from 1981 to 1989 when he left for the House of Representatives from 1990 to 2006. Interestingly, he went from the House of Representatives to a Senate seat from 2006 to present, which makes him one of only a handful of politicians who have served in both the House and the Senate. This will be a boon to his negotiation ability if he is elected to the office of President of the United States in the 2016 elections.
One of the primary reasons Sanders is an excellent candidate for veterans to get behind is due to his realistic stances on the military. For example, he believes that the military should build smart and not necessarily as large as it currently is. Sanders believes that the defense strategy should focus less on international concerns and instead be more concerned on the home front. In some ways, that seems counter-intuitive, thinking service members would be in support for the reduction of forces overseas. Therefore, it would lead to an overall reduction of forces and job security within the armed forces. It should be one of the most stable career paths in American society. However, most service members will agree that spending more time at home will make it easier for family life, as well as encourage more service members to re-enlist.
Additionally, it should be noted that Sanders, working in close collaboration with John McCain, was instrumental in the passing of a bill that intended to speed up access to medical care for military veterans. The emphasis of that bill was to allow veterans who are not located near veterans’ medical facilities, to be able to seek private medical care, which would be subsidized by Veteran Affairs.
When it comes to the impact of veteran voters in the electoral primaries, they are a voice not to be underestimated. The five of the first states to hold primary elections are New Hampshire, which has 112,790 voting veterans, according to the last U.S. Census. Nevada racks in an impressive 226,555 veterans, South Carolina has 391,660, and Alabama with 388,865 voting veterans, respectively. Sanders is only one of a few Democrats that has been awarded the VFW Congressional Award, which he was honored with back in March 2015.
One of the most interesting things about Sanders running for the presidency is the fact the Democratic Party has been narrowed down to only two candidates. He is running head to head with Hillary Clinton, which has Sanders at a theoretical disadvantage due to feminists who wish to see a First Husband (Clinton) in 2016.
Interestingly, 74 percent of the fundraising that Sanders has done for his campaign has come from small donors and he is one of two major candidates, Donald Trump being the other candidate, not supported by a Super PAC. The Republican candidates are still seven strong, which makes it harder for any of them to obtain the majority needed to become the official candidate of their party.
Of all of the candidates running for President of the United States in 2016, Sanders, while not necessarily the obvious choice, may actually be the best political candidate for U.S. military veterans to get behind because he will support their interests.
By Cecilia Johnson
Boston Globe: Bernie Sanders Surge Partly Fueled by Veterans
Salon: Vets for Bernie Why the Most Anti-War Candidate has Many Military Supporters
NY Times: Primary Calendar and Results
presidential-candidates.insidegov: Bernie Sanders
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