Bernie Sanders is the third-party candidate you've been waiting for
© Greg Nash

Imagine, if you will, a vocal and disenfranchised block of voters disgusted with their party's primary process and the anointed nominee, after watching the man who embodied their hopes and dreams being cast aside.


Imagine their calling for him to run as an independent, to stand for them and against an establishment that has been in the driver's seat far too long and does not represent their interests.

I give you independent third-party candidate Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersFranken targets senators from both parties in new comedy tour Pelosi says House members would not vote on spending bill top line higher than Senate's Groups push lawmakers to use defense bill to end support for Saudis in Yemen civil war MORE of Vermont.

For all the handwringing by Republicans concerned about either their party being hijacked by Donald TrumpDonald TrumpUN meeting with US, France canceled over scheduling issue Trump sues NYT, Mary Trump over story on tax history McConnell, Shelby offer government funding bill without debt ceiling MORE if he's their nominee, or an alternative's defeat being practically assured if Trump bolts and runs as an independent, maybe it's the Democrats who should be worried about Sanders as the rogue candidate.

Crazy? Not so much when you consider the following:

His supporters are passionate. Sanders and Trump have both drawn massive crowds to their campaign rallies. For Trump, that's been as much about curiosity as commitment. Trump has true believers, for sure, and they vote for him. But talk to the attendees at his events and you quickly discover that many show up merely to see the circus.

Sanders's crowds, on the other hand, are zealous. They know policy. They pay attention to what government does, and does not do.

Both the Trump and Sanders crowds feel a connection to their candidate. Both men speak to their frustrations, and their anger over what America is, and what it could be. They want something and someone different. And that someone is not Democratic front-runner Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGOP political operatives indicted over illegal campaign contribution from Russian national in 2016 Clinton lawyer's indictment reveals 'bag of tricks' Attorney charged in Durham investigation pleads not guilty MORE.

And they will vote accordingly.

His candidacy has always been about policy purity. The driving force of Sanders's campaign has been his commitment to a vision of shrinking economic inequities, reducing the influence of money in politics, and castrating corporations, especially banks, which he says are at the heart of America's diminished dream. It's a simple and powerful message. And it's at the core of who Sanders is. In an interview with my colleague Julie Mason, Sanders's wife, Jane, said she was attracted to his policies before she was attracted to him. Like her, his supporters see a genuine allegiance to principle, and that's more powerful than good hair and a snappy suit.

He has no demonstrated loyalty to the Democrats. Sanders "declared" as a Democrat in New Hampshire so he could be on the primary ballot there. He has pledged, as a presidential candidate, do some fundraising for the party. So far, that effort has been minimal, consisting of some emails and a smattering of mailings.

To be sure, he has been a dependable money source for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, most recently in 2014 donating $30,000 from his Progressive Voters of America political action committee. And he has offered his presence at past fundraising events. He also caucuses with Democrats in Washington.

His association, though, appears to be transactional. You need friends in the Senate to wield influence. Campaign contributions and legislative support are the coin of the realm in Washington. Sanders is not afraid to take the off-ramp from the party expressway when it suits him. Hence, his omnipresent (I-Vt.) suffix.

And by the way, if Sanders lives on one side of Apostasy Avenue, the Democratic Party has a neighboring house across the way. Even Trump — who knows a thing or two about conflicts with party bosses — recently tweeted "Bernie Sanders has been treated terribly by the Democrats—both with delegates & otherwise. He should show them, and run as an Independent!"

He could see a path to victory. There's principle, sure. But there's also a practical, if unlikely, scenario for a Sanders win.

First, he has been able to raise money throughout this process. Would the spigot turn off if he was the anti-Clinton candidate? Maybe not. The "democratic wing of the Democratic party," as former Gov. Howard Dean (another Vermonter) called it in 2004, might stick with Sanders. They believe in him. Faith can do wonders.

Second, he has some time. The deadline for procuring sufficient signatures to be on the November ballot has yet to pass in almost all the states.

Third, he could win some states. Vermont's possible. Wisconsin? Washington state? Hawaii?

He could take votes from Trump as well as Clinton. Ross Perot earned nearly 20 million votes in 1992. He did not garner a single electoral vote, but one can see a few are possible for Sanders.

So what happens if a Sanders independent run means no one gets to the required 270 electoral votes to win, and the process is thrown to the House of Representatives, where each state gets a single vote? Who knows what would happen? Maybe some disgruntled Republicans would rather vote for Sanders than Clinton or Trump. You could probably build a coalition for Sanders more easily than either Clinton or The Donald.

Sanders may care enough about his legacy that he decides against running against both Clinton and Trump. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I) considered a run in 2008, but said from the beginning that he would not want to feel that he had been even a tangential obstacle standing in the way of Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaDems punch back over GOP holdup of Biden SBA nominee Biden congratulates Trudeau for winning third term as Canadian prime minister Republicans have moral and financial reasons to oppose raising the debt ceiling MORE becoming the first African-American president.

Perhaps Sanders would feel that same tug of responsibility. The collective anger heaped on Ralph Nader after the 2000 electoral debacle in Florida would pale in comparison to the gnashing of teeth and rending of garments if Sanders was to get in the way of Clinton's march to the White House.


Perhaps the Clinton campaign needs to figure out a way to be as overt as possible in their praise of Sanders and their embrace of his crowd-energizing and youth-enthusing platform. Maybe hell hath no fury like a progressive warrior scorned, and that fury could manifest itself in a run. And a lot of uncharted and charred territory might lie in the wake of an America feeling the Bern.

Farley is managing editor and host of "The Morning Briefing" and "The Midday Briefing" on P.O.T.U.S., Sirius XM's 24-hour politics channel.