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Bernie Sanders: DNC 'absolutely' needs massive overhaul

Image: Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), right, introduces Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) wait to speak at a forum on Feb. 12, 2016 in Minneapolis, Minn.
Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), right, introduces Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) wait to speak at a forum on Feb. 12, 2016 in Minneapolis, Minn.Stephen Maturen / Getty Images

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By Alex Seitz-Wald

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) said Wednesday that the Democratic National Committee "absolutely" needs a major overhaul, responding Wednesday to a NBC News report that new chairman Tom Perez intends to shake up the party's organizational structure and staffing.

The party "programmatically, in terms of how it does business, has failed," Sanders said on MSNBC’s "Morning Joe."

“The Democratic Party today, programmatically, in terms of how it does business, has failed,” Sanders said on MSNBC’s "Morning Joe." “I mean the evidence is obvious. It's not just that we've lost the White House and the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House. We've lost 900 legislative seats in the last 8 or 9 years.”

“So clearly the Democratic Party needs a top-down overhaul. And that top-down overhaul means that instead of becoming dependent and being dependent on big money interests for campaign contributions, it has got to become a grassroots party,” he said, citing a groundswell of grassroots energy opposing the GOP health care plan.

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“Perez has got to capitalize that and that's the kind of party the Democrats have to create,” Sanders added.

Related: Embattled DNC Asks All Staffers For Resignation Letters

Former DNC Chair and Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell echoed Sanders' call in an interview with MSNBC’s Hallie Jackson later Wednesday.

Rendell said the party needed a “culture change” because it had become too focused on Washington, D.C. and “big money donors.” Rendell said many of the DNC’s current staffers have done a good job, but there was need for changes.

Perez has expressed a similar sentiment in his month on the job as chairman, saying that the party needs to align itself with the activists opposing President Donald Trump and make “house calls” to every state and county in the country.

As NBC News reported Tuesday, shortly after his election in late February, every DNC employee was asked to submit a letter of resignation dated April 15. Only some of those resignations will be accepted,

The practice is routine and was expected by staffers no matter who won the chairmanship election. But it will enable Perez to make major changes at a time many Democrats are clamoring for a party overhaul.

Sanders, who supported Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison over Perez in the DNC chair race, told "Morning Joe" that he will remain an Independent and not formally join the Democratic Party.

“I was elected in Vermont as an Independent,” Sanders said, noting that Vermont does not register individual voters by party and that he always runs in Democratic primaries.

“But let me just say this, the Democrats will not succeed unless it attracts many, many millions of Independents,” he added. “The number of people who are now moving in the Independent direction as opposed to Republican or Democratic, it is growing. So if the Democrats are going to be successful, in fact that party is going to have to appeal to a whole lot of Independents.”