Sanders: I don't consider myself a Democrat

Sanders: I don't consider myself a Democrat

Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersProtecting democracy requires action from all of us Kavanaugh hires attorney amid sexual assault allegations: report Amazon probes allegations of employees leaking data for bribes: report MORE (I-Vt.) said Tuesday night that he still does not consider himself a Democrat despite taking part in a Democratic National Committee (DNC) unity tour with the party's new chairman, Tom Perez.

"No, I'm an Independent," Sanders said when asked by MSNBC's Chris Hayes whether he now identifies as a Democrat.

"If the Democratic Party is going to succeed — and I want to see it succeed — it's gonna have to open its door to independents," he continued. "There are probably more independents in this country than Democrats or Republicans. It's got to open its doors to working people and to young people, create a grassroots party. That's what we need."

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Sanders had been dogged by questions about his party affiliation throughout the presidential primaries. Last April, his campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, told Bloomberg that Sanders would remain a Democrat after the election. 

Sitting alongside Perez during a joint interview, Sanders said that he wants the Democratic Party to focus on key issues for progressives, such as the decline of the middle class, the "need" to take on wealthy interests and unite around "Medicare for all."

When asked whether the party supports the idea of "Medicare for all," Perez argued that the party believes "healthcare is a right, not a privilege."

"I think the unity that we've shown in the recent efforts by [President] Trump to repeal the Affordable Care Act has been an energizing force for Democrats, independents and others who share the values of inclusion and opportunity," he added.

"We have shared values. We all believe America works best when everyone has a chance to succeed, when we have shared prosperity and not just prosperity for a few."

The pair are traveling the country this week on a "Come Together and Fight Back" tour to rally grassroots enthusiasm and focus on bringing the party together after a difficult presidential campaign last year that created divisions between progressives, led by Sanders, and the more moderate wing of the party, led by its eventual nominee, Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump to declassify controversial text messages, documents related to Russia probe Hypocrisy in Kavanaugh case enough to set off alarms in DC Clinton: Hard to ignore 'racial subtext of virtually everything Trump says' MORE.

Some establishment Democrats have criticized Sanders for not joining the party, while he has tried to assert his influence on it. But progressives have argued that the Democratic Party needs independents to expand and should open its arms to those new voters who may not fully identify with the party.