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What if Trump and Sanders BOTH run as Independents?

Updated on April 4, 2016
RJ Schwartz profile image

I'm on the right side of politics and enjoy a good debate on government, the economy, common sense, and the rights of the people.

The 2016 Presidential primary season has been called many things including a circus, a circular firing squad, a pander-fest, and a hate-fest. The candidates regularly attack one another with vitriolic rhetoric and unfounded accusations. Voters are for the first time being exposed to some of the behind-the-scenes actions that regularly take place at Party headquarters. The notion of Superdelegates and their role are being seen as a way for the Parties to block the will of the voters. Polling sources are at odds with one another, the media is often rabid with the way they report on miniscule incidents or slips of the tongue. The civility and professionalism has degraded into an all-out mud-slinging, name-calling, finger pointing, shouting match with no candidate being immune and nothing off-limits. Family member’s behavior now or in the past, financial situations, credit scores, wives and children, and friends of friends are seemingly fair game this election year. Scandals, bad business deals, hidden secrets, and Party connections are being used by voters to send a clear message to Washington that they have reached their limit on “business as usual,” demanding more from their elected leaders.

Igniting the Fires of a Nation

This conflagration that is running across the nation continues to build with the electorate. Both the Republican Party and the Democratic Party establishment candidates are facing serious challenges by candidates they consider outsiders and there has been non-stop media coverage and daily updates on why one candidate will win or lose by the pundit class. Damage control teams from both Parties, still in a state of shock, are trying to plug the dyke before a total rupture but it’s looking bleak as the days wind down before the Conventions. The message being sent is quite obvious; the Parties are not about to let outsiders take over and bring them down. They will pull out their bags of dirty tricks, rule gerrymandering, diversionary tactics, and anything else that will preserve their power and way of life. Outsiders Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump have both been very vocal about the strong possibility that even if they were to win the necessary amount of delegates from the individual state primaries, that their respective Party would steal the nomination from them. The Republican Party already building a coalition to out-trump Trump and the Democrat Superdelegates will make sure Hillary gets the nod. Yet in the maelstrom called American politics, those of us watching from the outside, notice that the will of the voters seems to be minimalized if not erased altogether. The caveat is that both of these outsiders stand for something which deviates from the traditional Party platform and both of them have support of the voters.

The Republicans

The Republican Party has made it quite clear that they are unhappy with Donald Trump and befuddled by his continued success during the primaries. This deepening anxiety has led to secret meetings by the self-labeled GOP elite where they strategized on how to defeat and eliminate Mr. Trump’s chances to secure the necessary 1,237 delegates needed. Trump has already satisfied rule 40b, which calls for any candidate to win at least 8 states during the primary process and leads by a substantial number of delegates, yet the attacks continue. John Kasich, with no possible way to win the nomination has refused to drop out of the race unlike so many other candidates. Ted Cruz, although running a distant second, still has a slim chance of getting the nomination is the only other challenger that could possibly defeat Mr. Trump. The sheer amount of negative attack ads, inflammatory rhetoric, and political theater going on is already giving voters a level of fatigue not usually experienced in the primary races.

The establishment is placing all of their bets on a brokered convention at this point, based on the statistical improbability of Cruz overtaking Trump and the possibility that Trump doesn’t reach the plateau needed to move on in the first vote. Many of the pundits are speaking in what they consider factual statements about Rule 40b; however the RNC is planning to make that rule “go away” so to speak. Rule 40b just like every other rule used at the convention comes from the Rule Committee, who openly changes and adjusts things to make sure it, fits their needs. Ron Paul was blocked from the nomination process in 2012 using a Rule 40b revision tactic (it had been 5 primary victories, but the committee raised it to 8.) Republican National Committee Communications Director Sean Spicer said earlier this week that new convention rules were being crafted and that Rule 40b wouldn’t be a factor this year. This example defines the reasons why Republicans are fleeing the party establishment candidates and supporting Trump. The will of the people should decide the candidate, not a hand-picked group of Party elites.

The Democrats

Hand-picked party elites are also a sore spot on the other side of the political spectrum and pose a real hurdle for Bernie Sanders. Mr. Sanders is an outspoken Democratic Socialist, or at least that is how he describes himself. He isn’t interested in an unrestrained free market, but holds a position that everyone is entitled to a roof over their heads, food to eat, a solid education and good medical care as a moral right. He has been heard calling the Democratic Party ideologically bankrupt and that he doesn’t agree with the party, yet he’s also running for the nomination of that same Party. Yet Bernie Sanders does not belong to the Democrat Party. He caucuses with them in the Senate but has never been a registered member of and has spent the last 40 years denigrating them. He has never before chosen to run in a Democratic primary, but here he is, challenging Hillary Clinton, and doing it as an independent. Now this is technically allowed by the Democratic Party rules but highly unusual. Perhaps the rule-makers in the Democratic Party will fix this in the future, but for now it’s allowed.

So an Independent who identifies as a Democratic Socialist is actually posing a threat to Hillary Clinton, the frontrunner who was expected to easily sail through the primary and get the nomination. Sanders is not going lightly into oblivion, but instead growing in popularity every day. He is funded by mostly small donors who relate to his overall message and it’s giving the establishment headaches. His message is a lot more pure socialism and less democracy and many claim he’s pulling the wool over the eyes of voters using the name democratic socialism. Bernie is for the rights of everyone except the rich, who he regularly demonizes as the root of all problems in America. The difference between being a Democrat versus a Democratic Socialist is tough to figure out and seems to be a moving target. Democrats supposedly are centrist coalition that includes some groups that are left of center; at least that’s what the textbook version is. Today’s Democrats are more often Liberals or Progressives which are much more left leaning. Traditional socialism, on the other hand, is a political-economic system that organizes the economy purely around the needs of the people and not the desire for people to make profits. Bernie Sanders hasn’t gone so far as to say the government should own everything as in a pure socialistic society, but he’s quite close to it.

Two Mavericks

So in brief, we have two candidates that do not measure up to the measuring scale of their respective Parties; Trump with his brash, not political correctness and Sanders with his anti-capitalism approach. Yet both of these individuals are being heralded by many as the leaders needed to make real change in Washington. Trump supporters like the fact that he is tough on illegal immigration, supports a strong American business environment, and refuses to allow America to be used by foreign nations for security or as a dumping ground for goods produced overseas. He has strongly condemned Islamic terrorism and vows to limit immigration of Muslims, he talks straight to the people with no prepared speeches or statements, and he doesn’t follow the status quo. He loves America and wants to put the nation back into the top world leadership spot forever, he’s the quintessential bully, except he’s on the side of the regular working man and woman, keeping the lunch-money grabbing outsiders from hurting this great nation. He’s a one-man machine who has proven he knows how to run a business, make a payroll, and create jobs – all messages which resonate with American voters.

Bernie Sanders supporters come from a different background than Trump supporters, but their admiration for their chosen candidate and his message resonates just as clear. Many of them are very young and find obscene wealth as a horrible thing to be saddled with. They abhor the wealthy donor class that steers the political ship, sucking in money from overseas ventures and wealthy celebrities seeking access to the White House. Many of them truly identify as socialists and see Bernie as the one who will bring change to America along their beliefs. Bernie’s buzz words like college affordability, marriage equality, and LGTBQ rights appeal to millennials who have grown up in a digital on-demand world. He’s focused on climate change as the world’s greatest threat to national security, making college tuition free, and stating that yes, black lives do matter. With Sanders, the youth sees someone who will give them a safety net throughout their 20’s in regards to insuring all of their needs are met while trying to discover themselves or find a meaningful career without taking out thousands in student loans. He’s siphoning the youth vote away from Hillary and she’s not able to change that.

Will either run as an Independent?

So, what if both of these maverick candidates each with their own message, and huge support bases across the country were denied their respective nominations? One possibility is that either one could run as an independent candidate. Historically, any time an outsider from one party or the other followed this route, it meant that their Party would see a split vote and end up losing the election. Ross Perot did it to the Republicans. Perot's campaign took 18.9% of the total vote, drawing support from both sides and finishing second in Maine and Utah. This was noted for being the strongest vote share of a third party candidate since 1912, and although he did not obtain any electoral votes his participation has been widely seen as the reason why incumbent George Bush lost to Bill Clinton. The 19 million voters who chose Perot were looking for something different than the establishment could offer. So far Trump has nearly 8 million votes and Sanders has over 6 million, with Hillary Clinton at nearly 9 million. With many more states still up for grabs, it would seem that collectively these two could easily surpass the Perot numbers.

What if, gasp, they BOTH ran as independents?

The second scenario would be if both Trump and Sanders decided to run as independents or in Sanders case, he may run as a Democratic Socialist. This scenario hasn’t been discussed too much as it’s highly unlikely, but the impact it would have on the two-party system in America would be immediate and permanent. With four legitimate choices on Election Day, no longer would voters be taunted with the tired old statement of a third party vote is a wasted vote. With 125 to 135 million people expected to vote in the 2016 election, the results could likely end up with no clear winner. The Electoral College is made up of 538 total electoral votes, of which 270 are needed to secure victory in the Presidential Election. Four candidates could easily split the nation with no one achieving enough to declare themselves President.

Electoral College Rules

If no candidate receives a majority of Electoral votes, the House of Representatives elects the President from the 3 Presidential candidates who received the most Electoral votes. Each state delegation has one vote. If the House of Representatives fail to elect a President by Inauguration Day, the Vice-President Elect serves as acting President until the deadlock is resolved in the House. So, what we could see in 2016 if this scenario plays out is a Republican controlled House being the final decision-makers in the process. 246 Republicans and 188 Democrats will be put in charge of making the most important decision in the nation; the decisions of the voters will be suppressed by the machines which run both of the Parties. Each state will get a single vote - Gallup's analysis of political party affiliation at the state level in 2015 finds that 20 states are solidly Republican or leaning Republican, compared with 14 solidly Democratic or leaning Democratic states. The other states are considered competitive. This is the first time in Gallup's eight years of tracking partisanship by state that there have been more Republican than Democratic states. Based on this logic, we can assume that the Republican leaning candidate would have the advantage. So, even if both Trump and Sanders entered the race and garnered enough support to deadlock the outcome, they could still be defeated.

Scenarios and Possible Outcomes

Only four outcomes could happen; Hillary, Bernie, and Trump or Hillary, Bernie, and the Republican Establishment Candidate or Bernie, Trump, and the Republican Establishment Candidate and finally Hillary, Trump, and the Republican Establishment Candidate. Each of these triplets would be a story in their own right and the final outcome would certainly be one of the most newsworthy events in American Political history. But moreover than a great media event, it would open the political system to more parties with differing platforms and targeted at different people. No more would we be forced to sit by and endorse one person or another, even if we only agreed with 75% of what they stand for. Maybe there is a candidate who is both anti-abortion and pro-gun ownership and one that is strong on immigration, strong on security, but also wants a big government with lots of social services. With more choices, we’d also expect to see more people taking part in the electoral process. It’s already known that many people are disgusted with both of the major Parties and choose to stay home or cast their vote for one of the fringe Parties instead. There are 235 million voting age American citizens yet we only had 127 million turn out in 2012.

Could it spell the end of a two-party system?

Throughout most of its history, America has been dominated by the two-party system. The United States Constitution has no mention of political parties since there were none at the time it was signed. In fact no nation in the world at that time had voter-based political parties. The need to win popular support in a Republic led to the American invention of voter-based political parties in the 1790s. Maybe 2016 is the year that this time honored tradition comes to an end. Although many other Parties do exist such as the Libertarian Party or Green Party, none have had a charismatic figure such as Mr. Trump or Mr. Sanders to be their champion. The odds for any of this happening are slim as noted earlier, but the idea of it isn’t so far-fetched in our ever changing world.


I like to think this is a political hub that both Democrats and Republicans can weigh in on without verbally assaulting one another. It's a real possible outcome with real possible results. Our Two-Party system isn't making everyone happy, so should we move to something else?

Please don't insult your fellow Hubber on this thread - I had one of my popular hubs taken down because of hate speech in the comments. When it comes down to my income and work being removed because of hateful comments...well let's just hope it doesn't come to that.

Bring facts, bring evidence, bring ideas.....

Leave cheerleading, cheap shots, and he-said, she-said garbage at home....


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