Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders will “make a decision within the first few months of 2015” on whether to bid for the presidency of the United States. It is not certain that he will run. And, if the independent senator from Vermont does decide to run, he says he has yet to determine precisely how he might do so: as a challenger to presumed front-runner Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination or as an insurgent independent taking on both major parties. Sanders has in recent months spent a good deal of time in the first caucus state of Iowa and the first primary state of New Hampshire, and he acknowledges that this has stoked speculation that he is likely to go the Democratic route. He also declares, “I will not play the role of a spoiler”—tipping a fall 2016 race to a right-wing Republican. Yet, the senator expresses deep frustration with the failure of the Democratic Party to adopt positions that are sufficiently progressive and populist to build a movement to change the debate and the direction of the country.
Sanders explained in an interview with The Nation that he is convinced, after visiting not just Iowa and New Hampshire but Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Carolina, Mississippi, California and other states, that “there is a real hunger in grassroots America for a fight against the greed of the billionaire class, which is wrecking havoc on our economic and political system.”
At the same time, like many progressives, he is unsettled by the inability of Democratic leaders and the party establishment to channel that anger into political action—as Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman once did.
“This country faces more serious problems today than at any time since the Great Depression,” says the senator. “We have already, in the midterms, gone through an election where there was no substantive debate about the most important issues, which is why you have, I think, the lowest voter turnout since 1942. The idea that we could go through a presidential election, where you have all these right-wing Republicans on one side talking about their issues and then, within the progressive community, not to discuss issues like the collapse of the middle class, the growth in poverty, the fact that we’re the only country in the industrialized world without a national healthcare program…not to discuss climate change when the scientific community tells of that we have a short window in which to address it; not to discuss these and other issues would, I think, be horrendous for this country. Absolutely horrendous.”
Always uncomfortable with political discussions that get bogged down by process and personalities, Sanders does not spend time bashing Clinton or other prospective contenders. He rejects the narrow constraints of horserace politics and asks the essential question: “Do we have a desperate need for a candidate, or candidates, to be representing the middle class and the working class of this country, standing up to the billionaire class, raising issues that are never talked about here in Congress, or in the media? The answer is absolutely, absolutely yes. But the other side of the equation is, if you do have that candidate—myself or anybody else—doing that, you have to figure out and be certain that you can run a strong and effective campaign.”
Such a campaign cannot be built around traditional fundraising or name recognition calculations, says the senator, who argues that, “We are in a new order right now, new territory, in terms of Citizens United [and money in politics]. It is my full expectation that, within a few months, the barrage we saw during the  campaign will return. No one should think that these ads are going to be on three months before an election anymore. I suspect they will be on eleven months or a year before [the 2016 election]. That’s the new politics. And these people [billionaire donors who fund the ads] have—and I use the word advisedly—unlimited sums of money. They will do everything they can [to determine what] the issues are; they will make horrendous attacks against anybody who stands up to them.”