In 1990, Bernie Sanders got elected to the House. This stands out for multiple reasons. The one I am focusing on is him being an independent. It is highly unusual for a US politician to be an independent. That is why I'm asking.

It was a three-way race. Despite this, he got a MAJORITY on his first winning election bid. (The Dem got 3%.) How did he get elected as an independent? There are literally no independent House members today. The closest thing to that would be Amash, but he is a Libertarian (who was elected as a Republican) so that doesn't count.

In addition, the people with Ds next to their name got single digits sometimes, meaning less than 1 in 10 voters chose them. And, other than George Washington, there was never a successful independent presidential bid. Ever. So, how did he do that

  • Probably more relevant that Amash was elected as a (R) rather than that he is a Libertarian now. Commented Sep 18, 2020 at 16:52
  • 2
    Technically it was a 4-way race, but he clearly sewed up the Democratic vote with the actual Democrat receiving only 3%. Actually, Sandoval (the winner of the Democratic Primary) got pretty much exactly the same number of votes in the general as in the primary (6315 vs 5979)
    – divibisan
    Commented Sep 18, 2020 at 18:24
  • Wow!! I thought that he got no votes because Wikipedia had no entry. That makes it even more impressive. Commented Sep 18, 2020 at 19:04

1 Answer 1


From the '70s to the late '80s he built his brand, becoming known as a Mayor in Burlington, and by 1990 he was a well-known candidate in Vermont.

There is no mystery in this. He build support over a long period of time. He built name recognition to the point at which he would be considered a serious political force. Then he stood and got the votes.

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