Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont is hoping to use the political capital he won during the 2016 Democratic primary to bring major changes to the faltering Democratic Party.
Sanders kicked off his multistate ‶Come Together and Fight Back″ tour with Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez in Portland, Maine, on April 17.
The tour is an effort by the DNC to galvanize progressive supporters against President Donald Trump by leveraging Sanders' popularity to energize the younger, more progressive base of liberal voters, many of whom lacked enthusiasm for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, according to polls one month before the November election and reported on by The Hill.
‶Our job is to radically transform the Democratic Party ... into a 50-state party and a party that does not continue to ignore half of the states in our country,″ Sanders said at Portland's State Theatre, according to the Portland Press-Gazette. ‶Our job is to create a democratic party, a grassroots party where decisions are made up from the bottom on up, not from the top on down.″
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Sanders' speech was similar to his stump speech during the Democratic primary and he once again criticized ‶the greed of the billionaire class ... and corporate America,″ called for universal health care and an end to tuition for undergraduate degrees at public universities. He also demanded an end to Citizens United, the controversial Supreme Court decision that ruled corporations can give unlimited amounts to politicians through Super PACs, which could be limited by an act of Congress.
‶We are the majority,″ Sanders said. ‶It is time we flexed our muscles. It is time we got involved in a way that we have never done before. It is time to make the political revolution.″
Perez, the newly elected chairman whose victory was seen as an affront to many Sanders supporters who backed Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota's chairman candidacy, told the crowd that the DNC will be doing more to ‶earn your trust″ and will focus on rebuilding after the party's unexpected losses in 2016.
‶The mission of the new DNC is not simply to elect the president of the United States,″ Perez said. ‶It is to elect Democrats from the school board to the Senate.″
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Perez has his work cut out for him.
According to a Suffolk University poll from March, Trump is more popular than the Democratic Party. Only 36 percent described the Democratic Party as ‶favorable,″ while 45 percent felt that way about Trump.