Levi Sanders, the only biological son of Vermont senator and 2016 presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, is running for Congress in New Hampshire, and he’s speaking his mind about problems in the Democratic Party.
Among the biggest issues is Democrats don’t make voters feel good enough about themselves, he said, unlike the “incredible job” Donald Trump and the Republican Party is doing, the Independent reports.
“The Democratic Party has done a very poor job of bolstering people’s confidence and self-esteem, and that has significant consequences when it comes to reaching out to low-income and working-class people,” Sanders said, pointing to Hillary Clinton’s penchant for talking down to voters.
“When Hillary Clinton used the word ‘deplorable’ that had a significant effect on so many people. They basically said ‘We understand that Donald Trump is not a nice guy, but he is one of us.’ He said ‘Yes, I know I’m a billionaire, but I’m like your weird uncle. I’m not politically correct and I’m not judging you’ and that’s the key.”
The 48-year-old legal services analyst is running on a political platform that mirrors his famous father’s, trumpeting solutions like universal healthcare, “free” government funded college, and a higher minimum wage. He doesn’t live in New Hampshire’s 1st Congressional District, where he’s seeking office.
Sanders told the Independent that while he’s supported his father through numerous campaigns and their political views align, he was inspired to run for Congress by the “people getting beaten up by the system.”
“It’s not about the fact that I am Bernie Sanders’ son – sure, obviously, that is more interesting – but the real issue is every day I get to see the economic pain that people are under,” he said.
“The thing which has inspired me was working in legal services for almost 18 years and being a union member for 23 years. The work I do means every day I see people getting beaten up by the system,” he said. “I talk to single moms and they are at their wits’ end, they are not even making $15 an hour, which is so crucial at the most basic level to make ends meet.”
Sanders said he believes Donald Trump’s presidency is a “disaster,” but admits the president has done some things right.
“Trump has done an incredible job in saying, ‘Listen, you don’t really need to make more money. I’m not going to raise your minimum wage but I’m going to make you feel good about yourself – the Democratic Party has taken away your self-esteem and your self-worth’,” he said. “If you take someone’s self-esteem away you are done, but you can take away someone’s money.”
The aspiring politician harped on issues that made his father a household name – pay inequality, wealth polarization, “free” college – as well as how the system is allegedly rigged against the poor.
“It is painful to watch all these wonderful folks doing the best that they can and then what happens psychologically is the system beats them up but then they beat themselves up. It’s a vicious cycle,” Sanders told the Independent. “One in three African American males can expect to go to prison at some point or other in their life.
“The system is rigged against low-income, working-class people, and we have to radically overturn that.
“One of the real problems is people have given up on the political system; a high proportion of low-income people don’t vote. We need to get people engaged and excited in the political process and how voting impacts their lives.”
Levi Sanders is one of two relatives of Bernie Sanders running for political office this year. The senator’s stepdaughter, Carina Driscoll, lost her bid for mayor of Burlington, Vermont in March, The Washington Times reports.
Bernie Sanders, the longest serving independent in congressional history, got his start as mayor of Burlington from 1981 to 1989.
Levi Sanders is among nine Democrats, four Republicans, a Libertarian and an Independent vying for New Hampshire’s 1st District, one of the most competitive in the country.