Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) said he’s prepared to run for president in 2016 because he doesn’t see anyone willing to stand up for progressive values.
“This country faces more serious problems than at any time since the Great Depression, and there is a horrendous lack of serious political discourse or ideas out there that can address these crises,” Sanders told The Nation. “That somebody has got to represent the working-class and the middle-class of this country in standing up to the big-money interests who have so much power over the economic and political life of this country.”
Sanders said he would offer a more progressive choice than presumed Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton.
“[She] is a very, very intelligent person, no question about it, but I don’t know what her political future is, whether she’s going to run,” Sanders told TIME. “I don’t know what she’s going to say, but if you talk about the need for a political revolution in America, it’s fair to say that Secretary Clinton probably will not be one of the more active people.”
While he’s not actively organizing and raising money for a White House bid, Sanders said he has been traveling around the country and asking Americans about their concerns.
“I think it’s premature to be talking about a campaign when we still have a 2014 congressional race in front of us,” Sanders told The Nation.
Although he generally caucuses with Democrats, the senator said he would have to run an unconventional campaign because he is listed as an independent – although he suggested that could be an advantage.
“I think there is profound disgust among the American people for the conventional political process and the never-ending campaigns,” Sanders said. “If I run, my job is to help bring together the kind of coalition that can win—that can transform politics. We’ve got to bring together trade unionists and working families, our minority communities, environmentalists, young people, the women’s community, the gay community, seniors, veterans, the people who in fact are the vast majority of the American population. We’ve got to create a progressive agenda and rally people around that agenda.”
He hasn’t decided if he would run as an independent or third-party candidate, although he understands that doing so could draw votes away from a Democratic candidate and help get a “right-wing Republican” elected.
“The bolder, more radical approach is obviously running outside of the two-party system,” Sanders said. “Do people believe at this particular point that there is the capability of starting a third-party movement? Or is that an idea that is simply not realistic at this particular moment in history? “
Sanders said most voters support progressive policies, even if they don’t know it.
“In terms of fundamental economic issues: job creation, a high minimum wage, progressive taxation, affordable college education — the vast majority of people are on our side,” he said. “One of the goals that I would have, politically, as a candidate for president of the United States is to reach out to the working-class element of the Tea Party and explain to them exactly who is funding their organization – and explain to them that, on virtually every issue, the Koch Brothers and the other funders of the Tea Party are way out of step with what ordinary people want and need.”