Sen. Bernie Sanders is considering joining the race for president in 2016, he confirmed in an interview published Thursday.
Sanders, of Vermont, has served in the Senate since 2007, and previously held a seat in the House of Representatives from 1991-2007. He does not formally belong to any political party but has called himself a democratic socialist. He appears as an Independent on ballots.
In an interview with The Nation,
Sanders said he is exploring a White House run.
"I am prepared to run for president of the United States," he said. "I don’t believe that I am the only person out there who can fight this fight, but I am certainly prepared to look seriously at that race."
Running for president without the backing of one of the two major political parties would be difficult, and Sanders knows it. He would not commit to joining the Democrat party in order to run, saying only that all options are on the table.
Even getting media coverage and invitations to debates would be difficult as an Independent, Sanders said. Still, with the rift between both parties growing wider and wider, and with more and more Americans calling themselves Independents, going that route would not be the worst decision, he thinks.
"The number of people who identify as Democrats or Republicans is at a historically low point," Sanders said. "In that sense, running outside the two-party system can be a positive politically."
But doing that has its risks — especially for a left-leaning Independent. As Sanders points out, any candidate with Democratic views running as an Independent would be taking votes away from the Democratic candidate, which in turn helps the Republican in the race. He called that "the [Ralph] Nader dilemma."
Sanders points out that to be successful as an Independent running for president, you have to, in essence, build a strong third party.
"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," Sanders said. "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."
Nader responded to Sanders’ potential White House bid with a letter to the senator.
In it, Nader appears frustrated with his fruitless attempts to contact Sanders "for years," and said he needs to make some changes if he wants to win the presidency.
"You are a Lone Ranger, unable even to form a core progressive force within the Senate (eg. Senator Sherrod Brown, Senator Elizabeth Warren, etc.)," Nader wrote. "You surely understand that without internal and external networking, there are no strategies to deploy, beyond speechifying, putting forward amendments that go nowhere and an occasional hearing where you incisively question witnesses.
"You’re not a complete loner," Nader wrote at the end of the letter. "But consider the unfilled potential of a Senator with broad ranging corporate reform and enforcement proposals that need an ongoing constituency with chapters and supporters through the country. Day in and day out!"
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