Pretty much just that. I never knew why. Some people have said "because of the two-party system" but I don't really know what it means by the system, because there are definitely more than two parties, and people know of them. That doesn't really seem to excuse not identifying as a Social Democrat.

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    You might consider looking elsewhere on the site for a question that explains why the US two-party-system makes it virtually impossible for anyone outside the two main parties to be elected to a major office. Jan 23, 2020 at 17:31
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    It's not "everyone" who calls Bernie Sanders a Socialist. It's mainly his enemies, because in the US Socialist is taken to mean "evil Commie-loving hater of America", rather than what it means everywhere else in the world which is "slightly to the left of centre" Jan 23, 2020 at 17:35
  • huh. that's kinda interesting @DJClayworth Jan 23, 2020 at 17:39
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    @DJClayworth That is a partially accurate description of the connotations of Socialist in the US. Largely, socialists and communists are viewed as different entities on similar branches of populism with centralized authority. Further, there political spectrum of the US is not parallel with that of the rest of the world, though to claim the later is universally applicable is also false. Jan 23, 2020 at 17:59
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    @DJClayworth Actually, when people call Bernie a socialist, they are mostly trying to AVOID calling him an "evil Commie-loving hater of America."
    – puppetsock
    Jan 23, 2020 at 18:19

3 Answers 3


Bernie Sanders is actually just loosely associated with the Democratic Party. He officially holds his seat as a Senator as an independent.

However, during the current and previous Presidential pre-elections, he sought the nomination of the Democratic party. He can do that without actually being a member of the party. Everyone who is eligible to be elected President can apply.

The reason why he choose to do that with the Democrats and not as an independent candidate or as a candidate of a minor party which more aligns with his political ideas is because there was no Presidential election in recent history where a candidate who wasn't nominated by the two main parties got even close to winning just a single state. A presidential candidate who isn't nominated by either the Republican Party or the Democratic Party has no realistic chance to get elected. So if he seriously wants to get elected President, he needs to get the nomination of either the Republican party or the Democratic party. It appears that of those two options, the Democrats are still his preferred choice.

And then there is another problem: vote splitting.

If he would actually run for a different party and try to turn the two-party race for Presidency into a three-party race, he would likely hurt his political ideas because he would split the progressive vote.

Sanders is so far away from conservativism, that he has no chance to realistically steal votes from the Republican candidate. The voters he could realistically convince to vote for him are those people who would otherwise vote whoever the Democratic Party nominates. So there is a good chance that Sanders and the Democratic candidate have more electoral votes than the Republican candidate combined, but less votes individually. So the Republican candidate would win, even though the majority of the country would prefer someone else. Sanders likely believes that if he can not be President, he would rather prefer a Democrat in the white house than a Republican.

  • so that's what they mean by "two party system" the media doesn't report on them, so people don't care, so it's smarter to run as a republican or democrat? Jan 23, 2020 at 16:17
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    @michaelgriffin That's the momentum of the US political landscape. There are Democrats, Republicans, and those few who don't matter. Why this is the case is an interesting question, but it's a different question which should be asked separately. By the way, I just edited the answer to add another reason why it would be a bad idea for Sanders to run as an independent. This reason is one of the reason why the US election system results in two parties.
    – Philipp
    Jan 23, 2020 at 16:20
  • Re "Sanders likely believes...", the flip side of that is that if the Democrats do nominate Sanders, they risk driving a lot of voters (who are not major fans of "progressives") to the Republicans, or to third-party candidates.
    – jamesqf
    Jan 23, 2020 at 19:04

Why Bernie identifies as a Democrat is due to the structural dominance of the two major parties in US politics. There have been individuals that have run for office as candidates of other parties (such as the Liberatrian Party and the Green Party), but most observers don't give them much chance at being elected to the Office of the President. Politicians from third parties have had some success at being elected to Congress, but notably not so much in the modern era. Because of this, Bernie most likely came to the conclusion that if he wants a chance to actually win, he should affiliate with one of the two major parties. Between them the Democrats align more closely to his own views and positions.

The rest of your question isn't quite right, not everyone calls him a socialist. Those who do are generally trying to define him as one in the hopes that those who are afraid of that label would react negatively. You are right that he considers himself to be a "democratic socialist", but their organization and membership are low and they are not well known outside of their own circles, so running for President underneath their banner probably would not help him actually win.


He's asking registered Democrats to vote for him in the Democrat Primary(ies), with the view to the broad Democrat party apparatus backing him in the election.

I.e. he wants to be the Democrat candidate, not the Social Democrat candidate, not the Socialist candidate, not an Independent candidate.

  • oh. OH that's what they mean by system, they mean that people never consider things other than republican or democrat. Jan 23, 2020 at 16:15
  • It's not just that people never consider other things, it's that the electoral system makes it insanely difficult for someone not in one of the two big parties to get elected to any substantial office.Here is one question that explains some of the effects politics.stackexchange.com/questions/41744/… Jan 23, 2020 at 19:05

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