Bernie Sanders May Run for President in 2016; Outcome Same Either Way

Self-described socialist Bernie Sanders is contemplating an independent run for the presidency.

Meet the Press - Season 67

Self-described socialist Bernie Sanders is contemplating a run for the presidency.

Bangor Daily News (“Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders may run for president in 2016“):

Bernie Sanders, one of the Senate’s leading liberals, said Sunday he is thinking about running for president in 2016 as either a Democrat or an independent in a move that could complicate Hillary Clinton’s path to the White House.

Sanders, an independent from Vermont, could pose a challenge from the left to Clinton, widely seen as the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination. She has not officially said she is a candidate, but has acted very much like one.

“I think anybody who speaks to the needs of the working class and the middle class of this country and shows the courage to take on the billionaire class, I think that candidate will do pretty well,” Sanders told the NBC program “Meet the Press,” giving a possible preview of his message in the 2016 campaign.

Sanders is serving his second six-year term in the Senate. He has cultivated a following among some American liberals, especially on economic issues like the growing income disparity between rich and poor and corporate greed. He is a self-described socialist who caucuses with Democrats in the Senate.

“I am thinking about running for president,” Sanders said, adding he must decide whether to run as an independent or wade into the fight for the Democratic nomination.

Sanders is testing the waters in Iowa, a state that holds an important early contest in the nomination process.

“One of the reasons I’m going to Iowa is to get a sense of how people feel about it,” he said of his candidacy. “Look, the truth is (there is) profound anger at both political parties, more and more people are becoming independent. The negative is, how do you set up a 50-state infrastructure as an independent?”

Sanders said he has “a lot of respect” for Clinton, but said, “The issue is not Hillary.”

With Clinton mindful of the need to appeal to moderates in any general election battle against a Republican in 2016, a Sanders candidacy could force her to the left in the Democratic primaries to head off his challenge.

Conversely, if he runs in the general election as an independent, he could siphon away from her votes from liberals that she could need to beat any Republican nominee.

Sanders is an interesting character and might well appeal to a swath of Democratic primary voters. He is, however, a niche candidate a best, with far, far less name recognition and following than Ralph Nader had in 2000. He’d be a mere nuisance to Clinton and unlikely to have any impact at all as an independent. Oh: he’ll be 75 by Election Day.

TIME (“Iowa’s Leftwing Anti-Hillary Voters Look to Bernie Sanders“) has a more realistic look at Sanders:

It is perhaps telling that the host of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders’ event Sunday night in Des Moines, Dave Swinton, has just rushed back from the Harkin Steak Fry in Indianola, where Hillary Clinton made an appearance the same day, flipping red meat and hinting at a run.

The 50-year-old senior pastor plans on caucusing for Clinton if she runs in 2016, and his wife, Shari, couldn’t resist the opportunity to take the whole family out to the event just 30 miles south. Swinton left most of his family behind while former President Bill Clinton was speaking so he could make it back in time to set up for the Sanders event scheduled in the basement of his Des Moines church, Grace United Methodist.Swinton is curious to hear Sen. Sanders, an Independent, speak. A progressive group Swinton often works with has rented out his church’s basement for the event.

“Hillary seems to be the strongest candidate, and I have a lot of confidence in her leadership,” he says, taking a break from setting up chairs. “I thought her speech today hit all the right notes.”

Swinton’s political leanings show the uphill battle in store for a politician like Sanders in trying to gain traction in the 2016 Democratic primaries, should he decide to challenge the 800-pound shadow gorilla in the race, the former Secretary of State.

At the 37th annual Harkin Steak Fry—where Hillary Clinton received the tacit endorsement of Iowa’s powerful Democratic senator and Steak Fry host Tom Harkin— earlier Sunday afternoon, a crowd of more than 10,000 roared in approval when she hinted that she may just run again.

“Hi, Iowa,” Clinton yelled. “I’m baaaack!”

By contrast, Sanders’ event was a relatively low-key affair attended by more than 450 people-still a decent crowd, considering the next caucuses are more than 16 months away. Most who showed were left-leaning populists who supported John Edwards in 2008 and consider themselves solidly in the anti-Clinton camp.

“I like the issues Bernie’s hitting, his anger, because I’m angry,” says Mark Brooks, 62, an Air Force veteran who believes Clinton is too “corporate” to be a good president. “This isn’t the country I defended,” he adds.

Sanders’ message resounded with Brooks. Sanders noted, “We have more people living in poverty than any other time in the history of the United States of America,” touching on 2008-era Edwards’ populist message on poverty.

“It’s a crying shame!” a man yelled in the audience.

“It is a crying shame,” Sanders replied.

Calling for a new jobs program, investment in education and the public funding of elections, Sanders highlights that economic disparity in America has never been greater.

In his speech, Sanders rattles off figures that point to the unfairness that many of his supporters are most concerned about: that top 25 U.S. hedge fund managers made $24 billion last year, or the equivalent of the annual salaries of 450,000 public school teachers. That Walmart is now the largest employer in America while the Walton family, which owns Walmart, possesses as much wealth as the bottom 40% of all earners in America.

“It’s called indentured servitude!” another man yelled—at the top of Sanders’ speech, the politician encouraged “small-d” democratic participation, or what other candidates might consider heckling.

“Sometimes, it is,” Sanders answered gravely.

Right now, Sanders, who would have to switch parties to run for the Democratic nomination, is Clinton’s only major competition on the progressive left. But that doesn’t mean liberals aren’t hungering for some more competition. Stephen Blobaum, 51, a Des Moines salesman, also caucused for Edwards in 2008. He and his father, Reed Blobaum, 79, came to see Sanders speak and support his fire, but both are holding out hope that Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren will make a run.

“She’s my girlfriend,” Reed Blobaum says with a cheeky smile. “‘We admire what Bernie’s doing, but she’s an accomplisher. She gets things done. And Hillary needs to get done.”

There’s undoubtedly a segment of the Democratic nominating electorate who would prefer someone other than Hillary Clinton. Contrary to Republican propaganda, she’s hardly a flaming left winger. Nor, her hefty appearance fees notwithstanding, is she exactly a rousing speaker. She’ll have been on the national scene a quarter century by the time the race gets underway in earnest and people are looking for someone new and exciting.

She seemed “inevitable” in 2008 and lost to a relative unknown. It could happen again. But if a strong challenge comes it’ll be from either Joe Biden, perhaps the only eligible Democrat who beats her on gravitas as well as personal charm and commitment to progressive ideals, or a state governor that’s not even on the radar screen now. It won’t be someone who won’t even call himself a Democrat.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Eric Florack says:

    While he might get upwards of 1% of the vote… might…. his timing, given the failures under the socialist currently in the job, seems to indicate poor timing at least.

    Except for some small percentage of the country, as you indicate, James, leftists, particularly hard leftists like Sanders, simply cannot run on their ideas openly, as Sanders does, and win. Particularly true this is, when the country is currently hurting both domestically and internationally, as a result of those ideas and ideals being put into practice.

    No chance at all. It will, however draw off the wild fringe vote very nicely, so I guess it’ll serve national interest if he does run.

  2. Tyrell says:


  3. Todd says:

    As someone who can’t imagine voting for any of the likely Republican nominees, I have to admit that my feelings about Hillary Clinton aren’t much more positive. I would really like to see a viable alternative emerge … Sanders probably doesn’t fit that bill … although I will say that on Veteran’s issues, I have seen some of my Conservative friends share his quotes … lol, pretty sure they don’t realize that he’s a real self described socialist. 🙂

  4. steve says:

    Not a chance in the primaries. Doubt he can affect the general the same way Nader did.


  5. C. Clavin says:

    @Eric Florack:

    under the socialist currently in the job

    It’s funny…under this socialist President Government has gotten smaller…the number of Government employees per capita under Obama is about 111. Under Saint Reagan? 82. Private sector job creation under Obama is at 10 million…54 straight months of Private Sector job growth while Government jobs have been reduced on net by 2 million. Corporate profits are at their highest level in 85 years. Obama’s signature achievement in office was to send millions of new customers to Private Insurance Companies.
    It seems the facts never, ever, comport with your ideology. Doesn’t that tell you something?
    In any case I know you are a man of deep principle and so in accordance with your (failed) ideology I am sure that you will be immediately waiving your SS and Medicare benefits, as well as your Federal housing subsidy…and you will also notify your local fire and police departments not to protect your home.
    We all look forward to seeing confirmation of your commitment to your ideals.

  6. JohnMcC says:

    @Todd: Indeed. And I think a large percentage of engaged Dems feel the same way.

  7. gVOR08 says:

    As far as I am aware, Bernie Sanders has never given any hint of being delusional. So he is not running thinking he can get the nomination. Presumably he’s doing this to boost awareness that there is are a world of concerns that are not being addressed by our current politics. WAPO went into this a bit,

    “..his campaign is clearly an attempt to draw attention to the issues he cares about — wealth inequality, the Citizens United decision…
    On Obama, Sanders said that “the level of obstructionism” the president has faced “is unprecedented in American history” but that Obama has handled the opposition badly. “We need millions of people to come to Washington and demand” that we raise the minimum wage, Sanders said. “I believe he has been right on some of his ideas,” the senator added, but “he has not tapped the anger and the frustration that the American people feel on many, many issues.” The goal of a Sanders for President campaign, clearly, would be to do that.
    “I think Citizens United will go down in history as one of the worst Supreme Court decisions ever. I think it is opening up the road to oligarchy in the United States of America,” Sanders said of the role of money in politics. He called out the billionaire Koch brothers specifically. “Nobody in America wants them besides the billionaire class,” Sanders said. “Anybody who speaks to the needs of the working class and the middle class of this country and shows the courage to take on the billionaire class — I think that candidate will do pretty well.””

    You’re right that he has no chance of winning, and that’s a shame. If the Tea Party weren’t so naive (amongst other things), they’d realize Sanders speaks to their real problems more than any Republican.

  8. Stan says:

    Bill Clinton was too middle of the road for my taste, and the same goes for Hillary Clinton. I voted for Bill in both his presidential runs for want of anything better, and I’ll do the same for Hillary if she gets the nomination. But I’d like somebody to nudge her to the left. The main aim of the Republican party is to cut social services in order to lower taxes on the rich.
    That’s always been their message, and now they’ve added militarism and discreet appeals to racism. There has to be a strong voice opposing them, and right now Hillary isn’t that voice. So I welcome Sanders’ candidacy, and I’d be happy if other progressives, Mayor de Blasio, for example, would throw in their hats.

  9. C. Clavin says:

    Being a native Vermonter, Bernie Sanders has been on my radar for decades. I first met him in the early seventies when he was running for the US Senate as part of the Liberty Union Party. 1972 maybe? I was in High School.

    As Mayor of Burlington he initiated reforms that have completely changed that city for the better.

    Of course he will never be President…but say what you will…the man is right more often than he is wrong.

  10. C. Clavin says:

    @C. Clavin:

    the number of Government employees per capita under Obama is about 111. Under Saint Reagan? 82.

    That should be 1 Govt employee per 111 citizens, and 1 per 82 under Reagan.

  11. Rick Almeida says:


    I would really like to see a viable alternative emerge …

    I’m hoping Jim Webb will run.

  12. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Eric Florack:

    given the failures under the socialist currently in the job,

    If Obama is a socialist in your eyes, pray tell what is St Ronaldus of Reagan?

    @C. Clavin: Heh, I got a good laugh out of that anyway.

  13. OzarkHillbilly says:


    The main aim of the Republican party is to cut social services in order to lower taxes on the rich.

    I have to disagree Stan. Bush II showed them they don’t have to cut social services to cut taxes for the rich. Republicans want to cut social services because they are just a bunch of d!cks.

  14. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Rick Almeida: With all due respect, please, no.

  15. Stan says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: I take your point. Bush II did cut taxes on the rich and didn’t cut social services because deficits don’t matter. I occasionally watched CNBC during this period, and I have to tell you that their outrage about Bush’s deficits was highly restrained.

  16. C. Clavin says:


    their outrage about Bush’s deficits was highly restrained.

    Right…and then they blamed Obama for them.

  17. OzarkHillbilly says:


    their outrage about Bush’s deficits was highly restrained.

    That’s only because he kept his 2 wars off the books and therefor lied to them too.

  18. Eric Florack says:

    @C. Clavin: LAUGHABLE.
    You really expect anyone to take your word, here?

    . Spending as a share of the economy has gone up. The number of federal employees has risen. More Americans are relying on federal assistance.

    By what measure do ypu make your claim?

  19. Eric Florack says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: what is Regan?
    Someone who had to deal with a Democrat congress that wouldn’t keep its word when they promised him they’d cut spending. Next question.

  20. Stan says:

    @Eric Florack: As I remember it, Reagan’s fight for spending cuts was feeble in the extreme. I don’t think he ever expected to get them, and I doubt that he would have maintained his chummy relationship with Tip O’Neill if he felt that O’Neill had betrayed him. And he could have rescinded his tax cuts if he truly felt that budget deficits were important. Hence Cheney’s comment — “Reagan showed us that deficits don’t matter.”

  21. C. Clavin says:

    @Eric Florack:
    Federal spending as a percent of GDP…down from where Republicans left it.
    Government employees per capita.
    Here’s the breakdown of where Federal Assistance actually goes. Why do you want to deny the old and the sick? You are apparently a cold, heartless bigot.
    Now that we have perused the facts…Let’s see the documentation of you bowing out of SS and Medicare and police and fire protection…because those are all socialist programs you want no part of.

  22. Franklin says:

    I hate to make light of his chances, but he’d probably have better luck if he changed his glasses and grew a goatee, as another famous Sanders did. Running as “The Colonel” would be an added bonus.

  23. Stan says:

    @Eric Florack: Clavin’s answered your complaint about government spending. But even if government spending had gone up during the Obama presidency, I’d disagree with you. To my mind governmental austerity during a recession is pure lunacy. When carried out in Germany under Heinrich Bruning right after the Wall Street crash it brought on wide spread hardship that eventually led to Hitler’s dictatorship. There are other examples, e.g. FDR’s budget cuts in 1937 that caused the justly named Roosevelt Recession and the EU’s misguided austerity program after 2008. The time to cut government spending is when the economy is doing well, not when it’s doing poorly. Keynes said that, and he was right.

    I imagine you’ll disagree with me, but I think depressed demand is the reason the US economy isn’t doing better, and the reason that demand is depressed is the loss of well paying jobs due to automation and outsourcing. To my mind we should spend more on education and infrastructure to recover our manufacturing edge, not try to compete with China by subjecting American workers to Chinese wages and Chinese working conditions. So, putting it mildly, I think you’re wrong.

  24. Tillman says:

    Bernie, we need you to be the curmudgeonly leftist calling out the posers in your own (caucused-with) party. Don’t change to a Democrat just to nudge Democrats. Keep being quotable; the Facebook feed is never without a Sanders meme from a surprisingly large array of people on the political spectrum.

  25. anjin-san says:

    Bill Clinton’s recent description of the Republican Party describes the bithead phenomena perfectly:

    “They’re trying to get you to check your brain at the door, start foaming at the mouth. The last thing they want you to do is think.”

  26. C. Clavin says:

    @C. Clavin:
    A couple things important to keep in mind:
    ~ The greatest portion of today’s deficit is driven by Republican policies…unpaid for tax cuts and unpaid for wars. People like Florack love to blame Obama…but the facts don’t support their claims…much less their dogma.
    ~ This is hardly what public/private employment under a Socialist Government would look like.

  27. C. Clavin says:


    In a political science class I took in High School they taught us that the most important role for third parties was to educate.
    Keep educating, Bernie.

  28. gVOR08 says:

    @Stan: You keep saying “in my mind” and “I think”. Until the Chicago School and Republicans went nucking frutz every mainstream economist in the country agreed that government spending SHOULD go up in a recession, even Uncle Milty Friedman. This goes way beyond your opinion. We did raise spending in every recession from WW2 up until Obama. That should tell people something.

    Before you ask, automatic spending went up, the stim was an increase, since then, not much. The Fed is forced to rely on monetary stimulus while begging congress for fiscal stimulus.

  29. Stan says:

    @gVOR08: I don’t think you’re right about what economists think about spending. Many of them feel that the best response to a recession is to reduce interest rates. That’s impossible now because interest rates are near zero and because the politicians are afraid of how the public and the financial community would respond to negative interest rates.

    Regarding quantitative easing, the main program now being used to stimulate the economy, I don’t understand it. I think it’s designed to increase the amount of money in circulation, but I’m not sure.

    Please note the “I don’t think”, the ” I think”, the “I don’t understand”, and the ” I’m not sure” in the last few paragraphs. I plead guilty to wimphishness when discussing stuff I don’t understand.

  30. gVOR08 says:

    @Stan: Didn’t mean to come off as critical. I’m trying to underline your point, not disagree.

  31. Tyrell says:

    The problem is the system is now set up so that independents will not have a chance. Just look at the so called “debates”: programmed, planned, scripted, choreographed, and rehearsed. There are many questions that will not be allowed. The entire campaign is planned out, with the news mefia controlling the coverage: place, time, camera angles, what is said, editing, crowd reactions. All of this is part of a master plan that is designed to produce the “candidate” for an election that is decided way ahead of time.

  32. Moosebreath says:


    “Regarding quantitative easing, the main program now being used to stimulate the economy, I don’t understand it. I think it’s designed to increase the amount of money in circulation, but I’m not sure.”

    The interest rates which are near zero is the Federal discount rate (i.e., the rate that the Fed lends to large banks) and the target for the Federal Funds rate (i.e., the interest rate banks pay to each other to keep money overnight to satisfy their reserve balances). However, other interest rates such as the Prime Rate are not near zero.

    Quantitative easing is also intended to provide an extra (and very large) buyer for corporate notes, which have not been near zero. This reduces the interest rate at which those firms borrow, enabling them to expand their businesses more than they otherwise would and thus stimulate the economy:

    “A central bank enacts quantitative easing by purchasing—without reference to the interest rate—a set quantity of bonds or other financial assets on financial markets from private financial institutions. The goal of this policy is to increase the money supply rather than to decrease the interest rate, which cannot be decreased further. However, if the central bank also purchases financial instruments that are riskier than government bonds, it can also lower the yield of those assets.”

  33. jukeboxgrad says:


    Spending as a share of the economy has gone up

    Spending is currently 20.4% of GDP. Average for the 20 years of Reagan-Bush-Bush: 20.8%. Reagan’s lowest number: 20.5%. Reagan’s average: 21.6%. The 40-year average is 20.5%. Spending as a % of GDP is barely higher than FY08 (20.2%), and it’s also not much higher than what Bush spent in FY06 (19.4%) when the GOP controlled both Houses of Congress and the unemployment rate was two points lower than it is right now. It’s also much lower than Bush’s last fiscal year (spending in FY09 was 24.4%).

    Conservative hypocrisy is adorable.

  34. Stan says:

    @Moosebreath: Thanks for the concise explantion. So far I’ve learned about the health insurance plans used in other countries from Ezra Klein and why we spend so much on medical care from Uwe Reinhardt (Google “It’s the Prices, Stupid”). I seem to get most of my information from the internet.

  35. Tyrell says:

    @Stan: Too middle of the road ? Bill Clinton moved to the middle after the disastrous midterm elections of ’94. Hillary needs to maintain a firm foreign policy and economic policy that helps the middle class working people who are the ones paying the bills for the government. She also is going to have to tell what she knowed about the Bengazi disaster. Small businesses are saddled with regulations, fees, and taxes (most of which are state or local). This mayor of New York is already having people wishing for Bloomberg, but as long as he leaves soft drinks alone and stays out of peoples’ kitchens he’s ok with me Most of the people are in the center or center right. That is where Hillary or any other national Democrat candidate had better stay; no repeats of the McGovern disaster. The southern Democrats remain conservative. The last thing the country needs is more socialist programs.

  36. grumpy realist says:

    @Stan: Someone compared the interest rate shibboleth to “pushing on a wet noodle.”

    Demand is what we need to create. Which isn’t going to happen as long as the middle and lower classes are frugal (because they don’t have any money) and the rich don’t care except for things like 400 ft yachts. How many yachts would the Wal-Mart heirs have to buy to equal the demand of the lower 40% of the US?

    This is why demand is higher in countries with more distributive tax policies. And strong unions.