Bernie Sanders Isn't Sure Bernie Sanders Can Make a Serious Run for President

The Vermont “independent socialist” discusses his potential run for president–and what's holding him back.

Ranking member Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) speaks during a Senate Budget Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, February 3, 2015 in Washington, DC.

Photographer: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders knows why he might run for president. He just doesn't know how. 

The self-described "independent socialist" caucuses with Senate Democrats but has spent his entire career rejecting both parties. During an appearance Monday at the National Press Club in Washington, Sanders, 73, said he feels compelled to at least think about running for president because "we need candidates who can stand up for the working class of this country." 

As a side note, he added, "It's not because I wake up every morning and say, 'Boy, I really have this burning desire to be president of the United States.'"

But there are other, more practical considerations. Here's what Sanders had to say about his thought process:

"It ain't an easy task. It's easy to give a speech. But when you're taking on the Koch brothers, when you're taking on the billionaires, you're taking on Wall Street, and the insurance companies, and the drug companies, and the military industrial complex. That's not easy stuff. Not easy stuff.

"And I don't want to do this thing unless I can do it well. Can we put together the political movement of millions of people who are prepared to work taking on the billionaire class. And that's what I'm trying to find out. I go around the country, and there's a lot of support for these ideas, more than I think inside-the-Beltway pundits understand. But can you convert that into grassroots organization? How do you raise money?"

His idea: What if he could collect $100 each from 3 million people? But, he acknowledged, that would be about one-third of what billionaire energy executives Charles and David Koch hope to pool from their donor friends to spend on 2016 politics and issues advocacy. 

Money's not the only problem. Would Sanders run for president as a Democrat or an independent? The question vexes him, to the point that, he joked, it's the reason why he's "getting balder and balder, and grayer and grayer." 

Pluses of running as an independent:

"If you go out among the American people and you say, 'Do you have a lot of confidence in the Democratic Party or the Republican Party, what they'll tell you is the Republican Party has moved from a moderate centrist party to a right-wing extremist party–way out of touch. Democratic Party, once the party of the American working class, nobody, or very few people, perceive it to be the case anymore.

"More and more people all over this country are looking for alternatives to the two-party system. So that's one of the reasons one might run as an independent."

The negatives, however, are numerous:

"As you all know, it is awfully hard to run as an independent if you are not a billionaire. I am not a billionaire.

"How do you put together a political infrastructure, outside of the two-party system?

"How do you get invited to debates?

"Is the media going to follow someone who's an independent who's not debating?

"In some cases it is literally impossible to get on the ballot as a third-party candidate."

 

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