WASHINGTON - He admires 2020 candidate Bernie Sanders for his leftist views, but avowed socialist Jerome Segal launched his own U.S. presidential bid Wednesday, calling for comprehensive societal transformation including an "enormous redistribution of wealth."
In a country that has largely embraced two-party politics for more than 200 years, the head of the new Bread and Roses Party acknowledged he has virtually no chance of victory.
But Segal, who floats the idea of a maximum income of 20 times what workers at the bottom make, seeks a "flatter social pyramid" and envisions a transition to a less competitive, more meaningful life. He said he would be successful if he got socialist talking points into the campaign.
"We offer a reformulation of the American dream, to have a modest but secure income sufficient for meeting core needs, with expanding leisure to do those things that matter most," Segal, 75, told reporters.
The Democratic Party has tilted leftward since Republican President Donald Trump's 2017 inauguration.
While some of its leading candidates, namely Sanders of Vermont and Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, offer progressive prescriptions such as universal health care, Trump and his Republicans have sought to brand much of the Democratic field as "socialists."
Segal, a Maryland professor and political activist who ran unsuccessfully for the Senate last year, is one of the first socialists to seek the presidency since Norman Thomas, who ran six times under the Socialist Party banner beginning in 1928.
But Segal said he's selling a "nimble," newer form of socialism that, while offering ideological pillars such as guaranteed employment, could serve as a template for other candidates.
"I think we've got things to offer Bernie ... things to offer Elizabeth Warren, and things to offer [Democratic front-runner] Joe Biden," he said.
Segal insisted he will not be a 2020 spoiler and said he won't interfere with any Democratic challenger to Trump.
"We're not going to run in any state in which people voting for us is likely to help Donald Trump become president," Segal told AFP. "It's too important."
He vowed not to campaign in battlegrounds like Michigan, Wisconsin or Pennsylvania. Democrat Hillary Clinton lost those swing states by 80,000 votes in 2016, while third-party candidates Gary Johnson and Jill Stein notched a combined 556,000 votes there.
Segal also said he would avoid campaigning in Florida, where the 2000 race was decided by 537 votes in favor of Republican George Bush, after liberal third-party candidate Ralph Nader received nearly 100,000 votes in the state.