Bernie Sanders Considers 2016 Presidential Bid

By Conor Grant

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has indicated in recent interviews that he is considering a presidential bid in 2016.

“We need candidates who are prepared to represent the working families of this country, who are prepared to stand up to the big money interests, who are prepared to support an aggressive agenda to expand the middle class,” Sanders said in a recent interview with TIME. “I am prepared to be that candidate.”

Bernard “Bernie” Sanders is the current junior United States Senator from Vermont. Before serving as Senator, Sanders served in the United States House of Representatives on behalf of Vermont and also served as mayor of Burlington.

Sanders is a self-described democratic-socialist who is know for his unorthodox political views. Currently, Sanders is one of two independents in Congress, and for many years, Sanders was the only independent member of the United States Congress. Sanders is the longest-serving independent in United States Congressional history.

Even though Vermonters and other supporters of Sanders have already begun to lobby on behalf of the controversial socialist senator, Sanders has explained his presidential aspirations are still completely exploratory.

“We’re giving thought about [running],” Sanders said in a recent interview when he was asked whether or not he would be running the presidential primaries in 2016. “But we’ve got many, many months [before making a final decision].”

In the next few months, Sanders plans to continue to explore the feasibility of running for president. In the past few weeks and months, Sanders has gotten in touch with a number of prominent activists and political commentators to engage in discussions as to the viability of a potential campaign.

At the same time that Sanders is starting the campaign conversation with political commentators and theorists, he has begun to organize the groundwork for a campaign by arranging a number of speaking engagements to outline his position on the issues that he feels are important. A number of recent engagements demonstrate Sanders’ cultivation of an increasingly public personal profile.

Three weekends ago, Sanders travelled to New Hampshire — the first political primary state and a hotbed of political discourse — to discuss the dangers of the potential development of an American oligarchy.

Sanders also travelled recently to Charleston, S.C. to participate in a discussion with a group of students called “FightforCofC” who are protesting recent administrative decisions. In his talk,

Sanders emphasized the importance of grassroots organization and collaboration. Much of the content of Sanders’ recent speaking engagements has centered on his vision of a new American political revolution.

Sanders is critical of American political apathy and says that the point of a political revolution is “creating a situation where we are involving millions of people who are not now involved, and changing the nature of media so they are talking about issues that reflect the needs and pains that so many people are currently feeling.”

While many people take issue with what they perceive as Sanders’ radical socialist stance, others are vocal proponents of his ideas of social reform and expansion of the middle class.

In an article published on April 28, the Washington Post reported that Bernie Sanders generated more Facebook chatter than any other member of Congress.

The report showed that Sanders has a knack for generating political discussion. Whereas popular republican Rep. Paul Ryan has more than 10 times as many ‘likes’ on Facebook as Sanders, Sanders has more than 30 times as many people talking about him on Facebook.

Sanders’ hidden power lies in his ability to spur conversation. While he may or may not be able to garner the requisite support to be a serious late-stage contender in the 2016 election, he could have an enormous impact on the election during the primary phase.

If Sanders, an independent, chooses to run as a democrat, the implications could be enormous for a democratic party that could then fracture along ideological lines.

One of Sanders’ primary motivations for considering a 2016 bid is to challenge the views of likely democratic forerunner Senator Hillary Clinton.
“People are hurting, and it is important for leadership now to explain to them why they are hurting and how we can grow the middle class and reverse the economic decline of so manypeople,” Sanders said in a recent interview. “And I don’t think that is the politics of Senator Clinton or the democratic establishment.”

While Sanders is critical of Clinton’s views, he remains wary of the divisive impact his campaign could have on democratic voters.  While Sanders knows that he could divert a number of votes from Senator Clinton if he chooses to run as a democrat, he also fears that his campaign could have the more destabilizing effect of evenly splitting the democratic party and paving the way for a “right-wing Republican” candidate to swoop in and take an unfair lead — a scenario of which Sanders would very much disprove.

Sanders’ politics are considerably less centrist than the politics of serious presidential contenders of both parties in recent elections, and a Sanders campaign would be an unusual one by the standards of recent presidential elections.

Sanders’ supportive Facebook following, however, is testament to his popularity in Vermont and elsewhere. Sanders’ mass appeal to independent voters gives him considerable leverage moving into the 2016 election cycle — and some commentators are urging people not to ignore his potential influence.

While Sanders may hold much of his political leverage in his ability to affect the outcome of the primaries, it would be imprudent to write him off as a contender in his own right.

After all, Sanders has a history of overcoming steep opposition. When Sanders first ran for state office in Vermont, he captured two percent of the total vote. In his following attempt, he only captured one percent of the vote.

Despite these early obstacles, Sanders has managed to become a highly respected senator for Vermont with a vocal following. In his most recent election, he garnered more than 71 percent of the statewide vote.

For now, Sanders will focus on the 2014 election cycle, where he hopes to assist in campaigning for a number of democratic candidates whom he supports. In the background though, Sanders has already sown the seeds of a potential 2016 bid, and it is likely that he will continue to cultivate them by means of a number of increasingly public speaking engagements in upcoming months.

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