One of Congress’s few members not belonging to a major party is reportedly mulling over a 2016 campaign for the presidency. Self-described “democratic socialist” Senator Bernie Sanders told his hometown Vermont newspaper this week that he was “very much in the early stages of these deliberations.”
Seeking to inject a “sense of urgency” into Americans and those who govern them over the “obscene level of wealth inequality” he perceives in the country, Sanders told the Rutland Herald that he is considering a run. “[I]f there are not people, and there may well be, who are going to discuss these issues,” he noted, “somebody’s got to do it.”
Sen. Sanders has hinted at the possibility of a presidential campaign in the past, telling Salon last week that, while he does not “wake up every morning with a huge desire to be president of the United States,” he would consider running to bring ideas to the table if the candidates in the race were not sufficiently to his liking. Among potential candidates, he cited Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren as a candidate he would trust to relay the “true progressive” message.
He repeated this line of thinking–that he was not particularly enthusiastic about the idea of running–to the Burlington Free Press, and his potential candidacy has made the rounds online. U.S. News & World Report noticed a sharp spike in social media activity surrounding Sanders thanks to only the one instance of his name being thrown around for the race.
As is his place in the Senate, Sanders’ role in a 2016 race–no matter who runs alongside him–would necessarily be a fringe position. Without the backing of a major party, Sanders enters the race with only the name recognition that comes from being a regular on MSNBC. But assuming a fragmented post-Obama Democratic party struggling to create a climate in which a charismatic candidate can rise from the primary’s ashes, a big-name third party candidate from the left could sway the general election.
For a media weary of jabbering about Chris Christie and Hillary Clinton, Sanders could feel like a healthy reprieve, potentially showering the candidate with news coverage he would otherwise not merit. And as the Democratic Party moves further left in its choices of potential candidates, voters who align with that fringe may prefer voting for the real thing rather than sugarcoated socialism, creating the sort of fragmentation journalists love to predict in the Republican Party.