Bernie Sanders tells The Nation and Time that he's definitely pondering a 2016 presidential run, though all he's doing right now is talking to fellow progressives -- he's not laying groundwork otherwise. He says that, if he were to run, he's not sure whether he'd run as a Democrat or an independent; in the latter case, unlike Ralph Nader in 2000, he seems aware of the risks. He says in the Nation interview:
... the dilemma is that, if you run outside of the Democratic Party, ... you would be taking votes away from the Democratic candidate and making it easier for some right-wing Republican to get elected -- the [Ralph] Nader dilemma.On the other hand, he thinks we need more than Hillary Clinton, as he tells Time:
... I think, you know, if you talk about the need for a political revolution in America, I think it's fair to say that Secretary Clinton probably will not be one of the more active people.It would kill me to see Bernie Sanders on a ballot and not vote for him, but that's probably what I'd do if he were a third-party candidate in the general election -- unless Hillary were so far ahead in the polls that she clearly couldn't lose. I'm not even persuaded by the "New York will go Democrat no matter what, so vote third party" -- I don't want to be part of a group that gives the Republican candidate a popular vote win, even if the Democrat wins the Electoral College, because I don't want the idiots in the press to say a new Democratic president "has no mandate." (Not that actually having a mandate helped Barack Obama, but still....)
I agree with Sanders about the need for a "revolution." I just don't agree that this (from the Nation interview) is the way it could happen:
The more radical approach would be to run as an independent, and essentially when you’re doing that you're not just running for president of the United States, you're running to build a new political movement in America -- which presumably would lead to other candidates running outside of the Democratic Party, essentially starting a third party. That idea has been talked about in this country for decades and decades and decades, from Eugene Debs forward -- without much success....I don't understand the belief that the way to start a movement is to run a presidential race. The candidate is just one person -- he or she isn't part of a coalition of any kind. There's no one else running for Congress or running in state and local elections across the country -- there's just this one quixotic individual, doing something that's all but certain to fail. How is that a foundation for anything? What movement did Ross Perot build, or John Anderson in 1980? (Even George Wallace can't be said to have started a movement -- the Southern strategy started with Goldwater and was partly coopted in 1968 by Nixon. It didn't become a third-party movement -- it became, with the most overt racism somewhat muted, the current Republican Party mainstream, and that process didn't begin in earnest until a series of Republican wins starting in 1980.)
If you look back to Nader's candidacy [in 2000], the hope of Nader was not just that he might be elected president but that he would create a strong third party. Nader was a very strong candidate, very smart, very articulate. But the strong third-party did not emerge. The fact is that is very difficult to do.
Instead of one Bernie Sanders in 2016, why aren't there a couple dozen Bernies in seemingly hopeless state and local races this year? I'm not sure if Sanders is right about the potential for winning over the tea party:
One of the goals that I would have, politically, as a candidate for president of the United States is to reach out to the working-class element of the Tea Party and explain to them exactly who is funding their organization -- and explain to them that, on virtually every issue, the Koch brothers and the other funders of the Tea Party are way out of step with what ordinary people want and need.But I wish a few people were trying to beta-test the notion this year in congressional races. Go out there in some district where a Republican expects not to even have to campaign, possibly a district where no Democrat is even bothering to run, and talk about raising the minimum wage and dialing back tax preferences for the wealthy and putting people to work by building infrastructure. Just try it -- there's really no downside risk, no chance of electing Scott Walker as president. Maybe twenty people would run and a few would put scares into their opponents; maybe one or two would make it a race, or even win.
That's how I'd like to see a movement built. Or bypass electoral politics and fight issue campaigns instead -- that's what the civil rights movement did, and that's what the gay rights movement is doing now.