While Obama agreement to extend tax breaks for billionaires while establishing a massive estate-tax exemption for millionaires steered his presidency further and further from the moorings of the New Deal, Sanders—though he serves as an Independent member of the Senate Democratic Caucus rather than an actual member of the president’s party—maintained a fierce and unyielding commitment to the values outlined by Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman and the Democrats who once defined their party as the champion of working Americans.
So stark was the contrast that activists across the country started talking up the notion of a “Sanders for President” run in 2012, either as a dissident Democrat in the primaries or as a left-leaning Independent. Rabbi Michael Lerner put the democratic socialist senator’s name at the top of a list of prospective primary challengers, while a “Draft Bernie Sanders for President” website appeared with a declaration that:
“If you believe America needs a strong independent voice in the presidential race bringing progressive ideas back into the national conversation—ideas that are no longer being discussed because President Barack Obama’s version of “hope and change” has turned out to be mostly politics as usual and capitulation to conservative Republicans—then we encourage you to support the Draft Sanders effort. Senator Sanders is a credible, experienced political leader who has spent his career fighting for progressive values and policies.”
Economist David Korten signed on, with a message to Sanders: “To counter the Republican assault on the middle class, the working poor, and the unemployed, we need a real leader who will back his words with action. We’ve had enough empty rhetoric about hope… We need you.”
Korten tweeted: “Join me in supporting the Draft Bernie Sanders movement.”
And hundreds did, signing online petitions asking the senator to run.
The talk got serious enough that pollsters quietly began to add Sanders’ name to surveys in key primary states.
But Sanders won’t do it.
Asked about the prospect of a presidential run in a several year-end interviews with print and broadcast media outlets, his answer was to take the idea "off the table."
On Vermont’s WCAX-TV, the senator said: "You will be the first to know: ain’t gonna do it.”