Supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders are mounting a strong effort to take control of the Democratic Party by winning seats in county and local contests, reminiscent of the tea party revolution that sent many Republicans to Congress in 2010.
"It is absolutely imperative that we see a major transformation of the Democratic Party," Sanders, the Vermont independent who lost the party's presidential nomination to Hillary Clinton, told The Wall Street Journal.
The party has "to do what has to be done in this country, to bring new energy, new blood," he said.
In California, Sanders supporters won more than half the slots available for delegates to the Golden State's Democratic convention — while others have gained control of the party in Washington, Hawaii and Nebraska, the Journal reports.
The trend comes as the Democratic National Committee will select its new chairman in Atlanta on Saturday, raising some concerns among old-line party members that a move further left could alienate more central members of the party.
"Is the Bernie Sanders-Elizabeth Warren wing of the party going to push us too far to the left?" former DNC Chair and Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, asked the Journal. "Only if they start going after incumbent moderate Democrats in primaries like the tea party did."
The tea party sent 87 Republicans to the House of Representatives in the 2010 election. The move pushed the lower chamber strongly conservative, forcing the ouster of Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi and officially beginning the effort to repeal Obamacare.
In 2015, many tea party members played a key role in the resignation of Pelosi's successor, Republican Rep. John Boehner of Ohio. He was succeeded by Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan.
The Democratic effort also includes a super PAC created last week by former Sanders campaign aides, Our Revolution, that hopes to challenge Democratic incumbents versus focusing on defeating President Donald Trump and other Republicans.
The goal is to transform the party's structure throughout, beginning with the state and county committee positions that generally escape attention from DNC officials.
"From where I come from in the Bernie movement, people believe that there are permanent obstacles to change," Larry Cohen, the PAC's chairman, told the Journal.
Further, the group will work to push the party away from corporate donors, to shift resources from television advertising to neighborhood organizing and to strip power from party elders — including the non-elected "superdelegates" critical to Clinton's primary victory last year — before the 2020 election.
"You have meetings where, in the old days, 20 people would show up," Sanders told the Journal. "Now, hundreds of people are showing up, in terms of competing for seats on Democratic state committees.
"That is the goal: to bring more people into the political process."
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