Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) on Sunday said that national Democrats are "wrong" to warn against nominating candidates who they consider too progressive.
On NBC's "Meet the Press," host Chuck Todd referenced last Tuesday's Democratic primary in Nebraska, where progressive House candidate Kara Eastman defeated Brad Ashford, who the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) backed.
"I know technically your organization didn't back Ms. Eastman in Nebraska, but many other progressives did and they're now not writing the race off, but they are now backing off in their hopes [that she'll win the race]," Todd said. "What do you say to national Democrats who say be careful of this nominating folks who are too progressive."
"I think that they are wrong, and I think they are misreading where the American people are at," Sanders said. "You know, Chuck, many of the issues that I campaigned on two years ago—issues like Medicare for All, raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, taking on the pharmaceutical industry, making public colleges and universities tuition free, legalizing marijuana—a few years ago those were seen as radical, fringy ideas."
Sanders, who caucuses with the Democrats in the Senate, claimed that a majority of the American people now support those ideas, including an "overwhelming percentage of Democrats."
"I think what candidates all over the country are now beginning to understand is that it is more important to reach out to the people in your community, working people, the middle class, lower-income people, rather than just worry about what wealthy campaign contributors want you to say," Sanders said.
"I think that's not only good public policy; I think that's good politics, and I think many of those candidates will win, because you are going to see voter turnout go up and a level of excitement that conservative Democrats don't raise," Sanders added.
The DCCC has come under scrutiny from progressives and even more centrist Democrats during the 2018 election cycle for meddling in Democratic primaries across the country and choosing establishment Democrats for their "Red to Blue" program. The organization has also come under fire for pressuring progressive candidates to drop out of highly contested races.
In particular, the DCCC targeted Texas Democratic congressional candidate Laura Moser by publishing opposition research against her on its website. While the DCCC received backlash from members of the media and Democratic activists, including former Obama administration staffers, the group stood by its strategy. That strategy backfired in March when Moser qualified for a May 22 primary runoff.