Following the Democrats' losses in the 2016 election, supporters of Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont have been mounting a grassroots campaign to gain control of the party.
Their efforts extend from a political action committee (PAC) staffed with Sanders' presidential campaign aides, a project focused on primarying moderate Democrats and a potential proxy battle in the race to head the Democratic National Committee (DNC).
In the wake of the 2016 election, Sanders' supporters have quietly won a majority of the California Democratic convention and the party infrastructure in Hawaii, Nebraska, and Washington state, The Wall Street Journal reports, according to The Australian.
The gains of the Sanders base coincides with the launch of Our Revolution, headed by members of the senator's presidential campaign. The PAC holds a database of five million supporters and aims to foster in progressive candidates on the state level nationwide, with a focus on grassroots organizing and eschewing corporate donations.
"It is absolutely imperative that we see a major transformation of the Democratic Party ... to bring new energy, new blood," Sanders said of the movement.
Members of the Democratic establishment worry that Our Revolution will do more harm than good in the party's efforts to retake Congress in 2018 and oust President Donald Trump in 2020. Former Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania warned that the Sanders wing could turn the party too far to the left "if they start going after incumbent moderate Democrats in the primaries like the tea party did."
If mounting primary challenges against moderate Democrats is implicit in Our Revolution's mission, then it is explicit in another project staffed by former members of Sanders' campaign, #WeWillReplaceYou. That group has urged Democratic lawmakers to challenge every aspect of Trump's agenda or face a primary challenge, BuzzFeed News reports.
Sanders has not endorsed the group, and even he would not meet its criteria. The Vermont lawmaker has expressed an interest in working with the Trump administration to crack down on the pharmaceutical industry.
The most immediate test of the Sanders wing's influence on the party will lie in the impending vote on the next Democratic National Committee (DNC) chairman, which will be held in Atlanta on Feb. 25.
Sanders and other influential members of Congress have endorsed Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota to chair the DNC. Ellison's most formidable challenger is former Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez, who has the endorsement of former Vice President Joe Biden.
Heading into the DNC vote, an unofficial count found that Ellison leads the race, holding 105 of the 224 votes to win on the first ballot while Perez has 57, The Hill reports.
With the two leading candidates drawing so much support, along with the inclusion of a handful of other candidates, the DNC race is expected to be decided after multiple ballots.
One anonymous staffer of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign believes that the race between Ellison and Perez could get ugly, with their respective supporters viewing the outcome as a battle for the soul of the party.
"They've done a good job, to their credit, pretending the proxy war doesn't exist and they've been respectful of one another," the staffer said. "But let's call it what it is."