The past three first ladies; Michelle Obama, Laura Bush, and Hillary Clinton all share a common insincere, yet polished, demeanor inherent with an affluent lifestyle. Senator Bernie Sanders' wife, Jane O'Meara Sanders provides an authentic alternative to the status quo of affluence inherent in Washington D.C.
She grew up in Brooklyn just blocks away from Bernie Sanders childhood home, worked her way through school while raising a family, until her penchant for political involvement caused her to stumble upon Bernie Sanders, who was then running against six time incumbent mayor of Burlington, Vermont, Gordon Paquette. Jane worked for his election before they formally met at his victory party, and became a couple shortly thereafter.
Formerly a community youth organizer for the City of Burlington and President of a Burlington based College, she has served several roles in Bernie Sanders' staff since he became a U.S. Congressman in 1991. "I think if I wasn't married to him I would be volunteering for him," she told CNN in an October 2015 interview. "Honestly, there's no one I respect and admire more and that's a great place to be as a wife."
In contrast to Bernie Sanders' opponent, Hillary Clinton, her marriage to Bill Clinton has a litany of Bill's alleged improprieties looming over it. Their relationship appears emblematic of Hillary Clinton herself; staged, pretentious and predicated on political expediency. They relate only to the country club crowds of which their combined net worth of over $100 million makes them a part of.
Jane O'Meara Sanders, like her husband Bernie Sanders, is relatable to the average American, both Republicans and Democrats. "I'd be more likely to build the bridges to the people we don't see eye to eye with," she told the Burlington Free Press in August 2015. "I'm not a policy wonk. I'm a researcher. I'm a thinker. I think with empathy ... It's more looking out at the people. And that includes the Republicans, you know that people that might be opposed to us. Trying to understand why is it that they want what they want. And then how do we find common ground."
Hillary and Bill Clinton are both hated by Republicans, but despite what many Democrats would initially react as that being a positive attribute for a Democratic nominee, the similar hatred President Obama has inspired from Republicans has resulted in a Republican majority in the House and Senate, virtually gridlocking any progressive policy reforms and jeopardizing existing ones. During the first Democratic debate, Hillary Clinton claimed she is most proud of the fact she has made "enemies" out of Republicans. Vice President Joe Biden responded to the remark in an interview with CNN, "I really respect the members up there and I still have a lot of Republican friends. I don't think my chief enemy is the Republican Party. This is a matter of making things work."
"Making things work" is the unofficial mantra of both Bernie Sanders and his wife, Jane O'Meara Sanders. When Bernie was first elected to Congress, Jane moved with him a few months into his first term while working on completing her Ph.D in Sociology as her kids finished high school. "I stepped into a completely different world in Washington," she told the Burlington Free Press in a separate interview, "where people wear Chanel suits. I fit in better with the congressmen than their spouses."
Jane has been involved with Bernie's political career since he was first elected mayor of Burlington. Bill and Hillary Clinton met at Yale Law School. The difference between the two couples is how they have used their careers in public policy. The Sanders' have stuck to the issues. Bernie Sanders has one of the most, if not the most consistent political record of any currently serving Congressman or Senator. The Clintons have used their careers in public service to make millions of dollars, receive millions of dollars from corporations, even those that contradict the political stances they publicly tout to their voter bases. Hillary Clinton has also flip flopped her stances on issues based on where the public consensus rested.
Bernie Sanders draws a line in the sand between himself and Hillary Clinton when he talks about the transformation of the United States government from a democracy into an oligarchy. His refusal to accept money from Super-Pacs while being the most vocal supporter in favor of campaign finance reform has been one of the most distinguishing features of his campaign from Hillary Clintons. Sanders has also focused on issues important to all Americans. His audacity to discuss many issues such as Climate Change, wealth inequality, and racism, have brought these topics into the public spotlight and the presidential campaign, whereas in past elections they have been scantly addressed. Jane O'Meara Sanders is an extension of Bernie's penchant for focusing on the important issues, despite whatever the implications for discussing them may bring. With their corporate ties, and public images to take into account, that is one luxury the Clintons never had.
The New York Times reported Jane O'Meara Sanders will be venturing out on the campaign trail by herself in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina this month. Bill Clinton has already begun campaigning for Hillary Clinton on his own, as he did for her in 2008, but became more a subject of criticism than assistance. The results from Bill's involvement in the 2016 campaign does not seem to fare any better for Hillary Clinton. Jane O'Meara Sanders is already having a positive impact on the Sanders' campaign. The Des Moine Register, Iowa's largest newspaper, recently reported she brings a "more personal approach" to Sanders' campaign. "The thing is he can win," Jane O'Meara Sanders told supporters at an event in Iowa City. "He can win if he has support from people like you that actually go out and vote for what you want and what you believe in, as opposed to settling for what you think that you can get."