Democrats must overhaul party, attack big
business, Sanders says
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[February 27, 2017]
By Lucia Mutikani and Doina Chiacu
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Former U.S.
Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders on Sunday urged a major
overhaul of his party, calling for more aggressive efforts to court
working-class voters and fight big businesses from Wall Street to the
Sanders, who spoke a day after Democrats chose Tom Perez, a veteran of
former President Barack Obama's administration, as their new party
chairman, said it was also crucial for progressives to do more to
mobilize grassroots supporters to take on Republican President Donald
"We need a total transformation," the 75-year-old U.S. senator from
Vermont said on CNN's "State of the Union."
"We need to open up the party to working people, to young people and
make it crystal clear that the Democratic Party is going to take on Wall
Street, it's going to take on the greed of the pharmaceutical industry,
it's going to take on corporate America that is shutting down plants in
this country and moving our jobs abroad," he added.
Democrats are struggling to recover from an electoral rout in November
in which they lost not only the White House, but both chambers of the
U.S. Congress. Republicans won the governor's office in 33 states, up
from 31, and increased their dominance in state legislatures.
The unexpectedly strong challenge from Sanders, a Democratic socialist,
to Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary laid bare
the fissures within the party.
Sanders' calls to rein in big businesses echoed a campaign theme that
energized his supporters during the Democratic primary.
Sanders had backed U.S. Representative Keith Ellison, a liberal from
Minnesota, to lead the Democrats but threw his support behind Perez
after Saturday's vote. Perez promptly made Ellison his deputy after the
Trump seized on the result to reprise a favorite phrase from the
presidential campaign, calling the race for Democratic National
Committee chairman "totally rigged."
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Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) speaks at a federal contract workers
rally to celebrate Andrew Puzder's decision to withdraw from
consideration to be secretary of labor, on Capitol Hill in
Washington, U.S., February 16, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
"Bernie's guy, like Bernie himself, never had a chance. Clinton
demanded Perez!" he said in a Twitter post on Sunday.
Perez, who was labor secretary under Obama, promised to rebuild the
Democratic Party and redefine its mission from the grassroots up.
"That's what we have to do as Democrats, help elect people in
statehouses, presidency, local government and everywhere in
between," Perez said on NBC's "Meet the Press."
Democrats did not invest enough in their party infrastructure and
grassroots organizing and ignored large swathes of rural America,
Perez said in a round of television appearances.
Trump swept those areas and the Rust Belt region in the Midwest with
his talk of bringing jobs back to America and renegotiating the
trade deals many blamed for their loss.
Perez cited the angry town halls some Republican lawmakers have
faced recently and said it was important for Democrats to harness
that energy into the ballot booth.
(Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu; Writing by Doina Chiacu;
Editing by Caren Bohan)
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