The most surprising thing about the independent Vermont senator’s surprisingly successful campaign so far is not that he’s doing it as a self-described democratic socialist. It’s that he’s seeking the nomination of a party he caucuses with in the Senate but is not a part of, isn’t a registered member of and has never been a registered member of—a party he’s spent his 40-year career beating at the polls and battering in the press.
He started as a politician in the 1970s as a perennial protest candidate with the anti-Vietnam War Liberty Union Party, offering voters an alternative to the two major parties, which he considered ineffective and equally beholden to corporate lords.
To become mayor of Burlington in 1981, he ousted a veteran centrist Democrat. To build power, his progressive allies in subsequent elections wrested away city council seats, relegating local Democrats to diminished, third-party status. In a series of statewide races in the late ’80s and into the early ’90s, he outdid even that—getting Democrats to all but wave a white flag when he ran.
He has never before chosen to run in a Democratic primary, but here he is, challenging Hillary Clinton—and doing it as an independent, technically permissible but highly unusual. How he’s trying to do this is how he always has—a calculated alchemy of outsider edge and insider smarts, provocation plus pragmatism, all learned and honed over what’s become a unique career in modern American politics.As Timothy Noah pointed out in Politico a couple of weeks ago, Trump's connection to the GOP is almost as tenuous: