Sen. Bernie Sanders kicked off his bid for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination Tuesday by firmly positioning himself to the left of front-runner Hillary Clinton.
“Today, with your support and the support of millions of people throughout this country, we begin a political revolution to transform our country economically, politically, socially and environmentally,” the U.S. senator from Vermont told supporters in Burlington.
He vowed a vigorous, grassroots effort.
“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. We’re going to take this campaign directly to the people – in town meetings, door to door conversations, on street corners and in social media...”
Sanders began his presidential effort last month. His political roots are in Burlington, where he was elected mayor in 1981 by 10 votes. He was re-elected in 2012 to a second Senate term as an independent, though he caucuses with the Democrats.
Associated Press in Burlington reported that Sanders, 73, spoke in the city's Waterfront Park, built on industrial land reclaimed during Sanders' stint as mayor, offered a quintessential Vermont backdrop: a sun-splashed Lake Champlain, where boaters took in the scene from sailboats and motorboats.
His address offered proposals familiar to his supporters. He wants to expand Social Security benefits, create a single-payer health system, make tuition free at public colleges and universities.
“It is insane and counter-productive to the best interests of our country, that hundreds of thousands of bright young people cannot afford to go to college, and that millions of others leave school with a mountain of debt that burdens them for decades. That must end,” Sanders said.
He took on the big financial institutions.
“It is time to break up the largest financial institutions in the country,” Sanders said. “Wall Street cannot continue to be an island unto itself, gambling trillions in risky financial instruments while expecting the public to bail it out. If a bank is too big to fail it is too big to exist.”
And he insisted he’d do all he could to narrow income inequality. “This grotesque level of inequality is immoral. It is bad economics. It is unsustainable,” Sanders said. “This type of rigged economy is not what America is supposed to be about. This has got to change and, as your president, together we will change it.”