Former White House hopeful Bernie Sanders seeks re-election at 82

Former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, the longest-serving independent senator in American history, said on Monday he will seek a fourth term in an announcement touting his record over 16 years and taking aim at US military funding for Israel.

The 82-year-old son of Jewish immigrants – who describes himself as a “democratic socialist” and votes with the Democrats – framed November’s election as “the most important” in generations.

The announcement cements Sanders, who is in a safe seat in Vermont, as the most high-profile Senate progressive as US President Joe Biden vies for re-election against Republican Donald Trump while navigating a growing protest movement sparked by the Israel-Gaza war.

US President Joe Biden, right, with Senator Bernie Sanders at the White House in Washington on April 22. Photo: EPA-EFE

Sanders has been a reliable Biden ally on most of the president’s domestic agenda.

But he has become a thorn in the administration’s side over the mounting death toll in Israel’s response to the October 7 Hamas attacks.

That assault seven months ago resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an Agence France-Presse tally of Israeli official figures. Israel has responded with a protracted military campaign that has so far killed at least 34,735 Palestinians, according to the Gaza health ministry on Monday. The ministry said in February that 70 per cent of those killed by Israel were women and children.

“Israel had the absolute right to defend itself against this terrorist attack, but it did not and does not have the right to go to war against the entire Palestinian people, which is exactly what it is doing,” Sanders said in his announcement.

“In my view, US taxpayers should not be providing billions more to the extremist Netanyahu government to continue its devastating war against the Palestinian people,” he said.

Sanders, who suffered a heart attack during his 2020 presidential campaign, is the second-oldest senator, behind 90-year-old Republican Chuck Grassley.



What if Trump wins?

What if Trump wins?

He is almost certain to be reelected by his liberal northeastern state, meaning he would be 89 at the end of the coming term.

In his speech, Sanders said that in many ways the 2024 election “is the most consequential election in our lifetimes”.

“Will the United States continue to even function as a democracy, or will we move to an authoritarian form of government?” he said.

He questioned whether the country will reverse what he called “the unprecedented level of income and wealth inequality” and if it can create a government that works for all, and not a political system not dominated by wealthy campaign contributors.

“I have been, and will be if re-elected, in a strong position to provide the kind of help that Vermonters need in these difficult times,” Sanders said in a review of his positions as chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labour, and Pensions Committee and a member of the Senate Democratic leadership team, as well as a senior member of various other committees.

US Senator Bernie Sanders at the US Capitol in Washington on April 23. Photo: Getty Images via AFP

A fringe figure for much of his career, Sanders saw his political stock rise as he campaigned twice to represent the Democrats in presidential elections on a platform of universal healthcare, fairer housing and low-priced universities.

His run in the 2016 primary arguably fatally damaged his rival Hillary Clinton, who went on to lose the election to Trump.

And his 2020 bid was cut short as the centrist Democratic establishment pulled together in a coordinated effort to support Biden.

Additional reporting by Associated Press



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