Sanders should consider 3rd party run

by Jim Longworth

Teddy Roosevelt did it. So did George Wallace, Strom Thurmond, and Ross Perot. So why not Bernie Sanders? I’m talking, of course, about men who have run for President on a third party ticket. True, none of them were successful in their bid, but there were a couple of close calls.

After having served two terms as President and hand picking William Taft as his successor, Teddy Roosevelt later felt betrayed by Taft’s politics and policies, so he challenged his former friend for the Republican nomination in 1912. Then, in a scenario that only Donald Trump could appreciate, Teddy won the majority of primaries, but fell just short of the delegates needed, opening the door for Taft and his party hacks to control the nominating process. Teddy and his delegates stormed out of the convention and TR ran as a third party candidate. In the end, Roosevelt finished second, and succeeded only in siphoning votes from Taft, thus assuring Wilson of the win.

In 1992, billionaire businessman Ross Perot launched a third party campaign for President because he felt neither incumbent George H.W. Bush nor his Democratic challenger Bill Clinton were committed to solving the country’s economic problems, particularly with respect to reducing the deficit. In the early going, Perot found himself in a virtual three-way tie with Bush and Clinton, even leading the pack in some polls. But after dropping out of the race, then re-entering it again, Perot’s numbers fell to about 19 percent. So why then, if he fails to win the Democratic nomination, would Bernie Sanders fare any better as a third party candidate than did Roosevelt or Perot? I’ll give you several good reasons.

First of all, Bernie is better funded than any other third party candidate has ever been, and will continue to be so. When he wins a primary he raises lots of money, but when he loses, he raises even more money. He constantly outpaces other candidates in terms of fundraising ($140 million total as of last week), and there’s no indication that the well will run dry if he launches a third party bid this summer.

Second, Bernie has an unprecedented following among young and first time voters. His message resonates with those supporters, and they, in turn, present him with a unique ability to attract thousands of people at his rallies, while reaching millions through social media. Bernie’s army will also come in handy should he need to collect petitions in order to get on the ballot in all 50 States.

Third, Bernie has time on his side. He can continue to participate in the rest of the primaries without depleting his war chest, while raising his popular vote totals to as many as 13 or 14 million by July. Then if party bosses and Hillary’s super delegates toss him aside at the convention, Sanders can bolt the hall, and formally launch his third party campaign with a well organized, loyal, and hard working operation already in place.

Clearly there are many reasons why Bernie would fare better than other independent Presidential candidates have throughout history, but the question is, why should he even try? The answer is because once Hillary is crowned in Philadelphia, Bernie’s forward thinking policy proposals will never be incorporated into the party platform. Instead, issues like Medicare for all, free tuition, and repeal of NAFTA will be swept aside like so much torn bunting and burst balloons. When that happens, I can’t see Bernie just giving up and going home, as if everything he’s worked for never counted for anything. That’s why I believe he will be compelled to continue his quest.

OK, so let’s say Bernie announces a third party run immediately after the Democratic convention. Does he then have a clear path to the White House? Absolutely. For one thing, Americans no longer fear outsiders, they celebrate them. In fact, a 2011 Gallup poll shows that 58 percent of us support the idea of a third party president. For another thing, Bernie wouldn’t just be a Hillary spoiler in a three-way race. Remember, he already beats Trump and Cruz in head to head match-ups by a wider margin than Hillary, so it’s more than probable that he could muster 34 percent of the vote in a three-way contest, and win the election by a simple majority. Of course, there’s always the possibility that Bernie won’t be the only major party defector this fall. If Republican bosses broker a candidate other than Trump, then the brash billionaire might launch his own independent run for the White House. With Clinton, Sanders, Cruz and Trump comprising a four-way contest, Bernie would again have an easy path to the Oval Office by winning just 26 percent of the vote. I’m not delusional, it could actually happen, and if Bernie makes history, he would fittingly do so the same way that he’s won other elections – as an Independent.

I sincerely hope Bernie will vow to stay in the race not just through July, but onto November. We need his vision, compassion, and conviction, not just as a media prop for the primaries, but as a template for real reform. !

JIM LONGWORTH is the host of “Triad Today,” airing on Saturdays at 7:30 a.m. on ABC45 (cable channel 7) and Sundays at 11 a.m. on WMYV (cable channel 15).