Sen. Bernie Sanders says Democratic Party needs to "open up its doors" to Independents

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has some advice for the Democratic Party as it begins to face the 2018 midterm elections: "open up its doors" to party outsiders. 

"The truth is that neither the Democratic Party nor the Republican Party today are held in very high esteem by the American people. That's just a fact," Sanders said on CBS News' "Face the Nation."

"There are more people now who are Independents than Democrats or Republicans," he said. "So to say to Independents, say to young people who are overwhelmingly Independent, say to working people, 'We don't want you to come into the Democratic Party,' is totally absurd. And it's a recipe for failure."

After a rousing win for Democrats in two highly-anticipated gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia, Sanders said he was "most excited" about the grassroots campaign that is helping elect a new round of local and state officials.

"You are seeing grassroots activists, people for the very first time, young people, working people, running for state legislature, running for city council, running for school board and winning those elections. And what I have always believed is that the only way we're going to transform this country, the only way we're going to take on the top 1 percent effectively, is when millions of people get involved in the political process," said Sanders. 

Sanders called last week's election a "referendum on Trump," saying "the American people very clearly said, 'No. We're tired of the divisiveness of Trump. We're tired of his policies designed to give tax breaks to billionaires, to throw 20, 30 million people off of health insurance. That's not what we want from an administration. We want real change in this country.'"

He added, "We saw a whole lot of people who had never before been involved in politics getting involved in politics. That is what we have to do. And when we do that, we will have the kind of energy that we need to soundly defeat the right-wing extremism, which is now what the Republican Party is and Donald Trump, as well."

He says now, however, the Democratic Party needs to make some "fundamental changes" as its enters the 2018 elections. 

"We need to do away with the extraordinary number of superdelegates that now exist in the presidential nominating process. We've got to do away with closed primaries. We've got to reform the caucus system to allow everybody to vote. And you need more transparency at the DNC. A lot of money goes through there. People need to know how. We need a 50-state strategy, so that half the states in this country have a Democratic Party, which today, does not exist," said Sanders. 

Sanders, now an Independent, says he's now working hard to "reform" the Democratic Party. 

"I'm working really hard to see that we raise the voter turnout in this country, that we bring people who have given up on the political process into the Democratic Party. That's where we are right now," he said.

  • Emily Tillett

    Emily Tillett is a politics reporter and video editor for CBS News Digital