Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT.) officially kicked off his 2020 bid for president before a jubilant crowd in his hometown of Brooklyn, a stone’s throw away from the rent-controlled apartment where he grew up, according to The New York Times. Sanders used the choice of venue to draw a sharp contrast between his own humble background and that of President Donald Trump, who grew up the privileged son of a real estate magnate in neighboring Queens.
Sanders made his case that he is the candidate best positioned to defeat Trump in 2020, touching on his familiar themes of economic justice, Medicare for all, a $15 minimum wage, and a national mobilization to address climate change with more urgency than has thus far been seen. But Sanders also took the opportunity to open up more about his personal life, something he has not been known to do much of on the campaign trail.
“My experience as a child, living in a family that struggled economically, powerfully influenced my life and my values. I know where I came from,” Sanders said as the crowd roared its approval. “And that is something I will never forget.”
Sanders went on to tell the story of his father, a Jewish immigrant who came to the U.S. at age 17 after his family was decimated in his native Poland. “Wiped out by Hitler and Nazi barbarism,” as Sanders told it.
“I am not going to tell you that I grew up in a home of desperate poverty,” he said. “That would not be true. But what I will tell you is that coming from a lower-middle-class family, I will never forget how money — or, really, lack of money — was always a point of stress in our family.”
But even as he put his personal life on display more than he probably ever has before in terms of campaigning, Sanders kept circling back to how his own story of economic struggle and hardship growing up contrasts with that of Trump, the man he called “the most dangerous president in modern American history.”
Sanders mocked Trump’s privileged upbringing, noting that he “didn’t get a $200,000 allowance every year from the age of 3,” as one of Donald’s father Fred Trump’s tax avoidance schemes did give Donald, making Trump a millionaire by the time he was 8-years-old. In contrast, Sanders estimated his own childhood take-home pay to be more like 25 cents a week.
Sanders also noted that he didn’t come from a family of privilege that “prepared me to entertain people on television by telling workers, ‘You’re fired.'”
“I came from a family who knew all too well the frightening power employers can have over every day workers,” he said.
Thus far Sanders’ message seems to be resonating with voters; in the first week since he announced his bid for the presidency, his campaign has taken in more than $10 million, and a New Hampshire poll puts him solidly out in front of the crowded Democratic field. As the rally wound down, Sanders’ representatives announced that he would be visiting Iowa next week, followed by stops in other states that nominate their presidential candidates early like New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada.