Bernie Sanders and the Irony of Independence

Why you should not listen to Bernie now

Joe Brunoli
9 min readAug 24, 2020


There is an argument raging across Bernieworld between those who want to vote for Biden and those who want to vote third party. Both sides claim to have Bernie’s blessing on their decision — and both sides have reason to.

NOTE: This article is just a reality check for my fellow Berners and it is not meant to be a critique of Senator Sanders himself.

In order to understand Bernie’s seemingly contradictory statements on voting — both in 2016 and 2020 — you need to understand Bernie’s personal history and his unique position in the Democratic Party — and how it is that Bernie’s “independence” actually makes him MORE dependent on the good graces of the Democratic Establishment.

It all started in Vermont

Most people know that Bernie Sanders is an “Independent”. When he appears on TV he usually has an “(I)” after his name. But why is he an independent, and why does he continue to be an independent?

The answer has a lot to do with the particulars of Vermont politics.

When Bernie first entered politics, he ran for Mayor of Burlington in 1981 against an entrenched centrist/corporatist Democratic Machine and won by 10 votes. He thereafter served successfully until 1988 when he set his sights on the House of Representatives.

He ran as an Independent and lost.

In 1990 he ran as a Democrat, but without the blessing of the DNC and had to run as a “write-in” candidate in the Democratic Primary — and lost.

Early on, Bernie made a “deal” with the VT Democrats

It was then that Bernie made a deal with the Democratic Party: if they would support him in the General Election running as an Independent, then he would give them his loyalty and his vote in the House. The Democrats agreed, and Bernie won his first House election as an Independent, beating the woman who had won the Democratic Primary. As an article in Counterpunch explains:

“The unauthorized Democratic candidate in 1990, Delores Sandoval, an African American faculty member at the University of Vermont, was amazed that the official party treated her as a nonperson and Bernie kept outflanking her to her right. She opposed the…



Joe Brunoli

Joe is a Yank with dual US-EU citizenship, who has a base in the States but travels Europe extensively, commenting on trends, attitudes, politics and more.