Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders formally kicked off his underdog White House bid on Tuesday, promising to build a grassroots movement of millions ready “to stand up and fight back.”
“Here is my promise to you for this campaign. Not only will I fight to protect the working families of this country, but we’re going to build a movement of millions of Americans who are prepared to stand up and fight back,” Sanders said in the first major speech of his campaign. “We are going to take this campaign directly to the people – in town meetings, door to door conversations, on street corners and in social media.”
The independent senator from Vermont first announced his 2016 campaign on Capitol Hill last month, but chose Burlington, where he was once mayor, to officially begin his run. The festive event held on the shores of Lake Champlain featured live music and free ice cream from Ben & Jerry’s.
The two-term senator is unlikely to mount a serious challenge to Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton, but he may have success in pushing her further to the left on his signature issues of income inequality, campaign finance reform and climate change.
“This campaign is not about Bernie Sanders. It is not about Hillary Clinton. It is not about Jeb Bush or anyone else,” Sanders said. “This campaign is about the needs of the American people, and the ideas and proposals that effectively address those needs. As someone who has never run a negative political ad in his life, my campaign will be not be driven by political gossip or reckless personal attacks.”
The self-described democratic socialist has championed many of the positions liberals are pushing for, like raising the minimum wage, free college tuition and universal access to health care. He also is a staunch opponent of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal that fellow progressives like Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren oppose, but Clinton has not yet taken a firm position on.
Sanders is hoping a well-organized grassroots campaign, prolific social media presence and appeal to the liberal wing of the Democratic party is enough to make a real impact on Democratic presidential primary.
“When people stand together, when people are prepared to fight back, there is nothing that cannot be accomplished,” Sanders said.