Bernie Sanders may no longer be fighting for causes such as open primaries and a fairer election process, choosing instead to focus on progressive economic and domestic issues. However, that does not mean the fight to change the Democratic Party and the Democratic primary process is dead.
During Wednesday night's final DNC chair debate on CNN, there was more than once voice that said there was a real need for the Democratic Party to be more -- well -- democratic.
It is a rare occurrence that the word "duopoly" is heard on a major party debate stage, whether for public office or party leadership. Yet, Samuel Ronan, an Air Force Veteran, used exactly that term to describe the current political system -- an understanding that the political process is controlled by two private political corporations, the Republican and Democratic Parties.
Ronan was hands down the most outspoken about the primary process -- the system itself -- being rigged against not only Bernie Sanders in 2016, but any grassroots candidate or outside voice, calling the whole thing an "insider's game:
"Not only was the primary rigged, it was rigged all across the country because the DNC has never allowed outsiders or brand new people to rise through the ranks. It has always been an insider's game. It has been that way for a very, very long time," he said.
He repeated this idea several times during the debate, including after being asked how the Democratic Party should approach Millennials. (Also see the video above.)
"It all comes together. We do not include people in the process. And that's the issue. We're focusing on attacking Trump, focusing on what the problems are in rural America; we're talking about guns, talking about this and that, but we're not addressing the issue, which is people do not have a voice in government." - Samuel Ronan, candidate for DNC chair
It is hard to imagine that without the candidacy of Bernie Sanders these conversations, the vernacular heard, would have ever occurred, because the Democratic Party wasn't looking at itself in a mirror prior to 2016 and during the election. Many Democrats, including party officials and politicians, are now taking a hard internal look and coming to the conclusion that something needs to change.
And Ronan wasn't alone. Sally Boynton Brown, executive director of the Idaho Democratic Party, advocated for a more open process, citing the greater number of independents in the country than party members. She said Democrats need an "overarching message" to appeal to a broader electorate.
Jehmu Greene, former president of Rock the Vote and former director of Project Vote, along with an extensive resume in activism and media commentary, said the DNC needs to be less focused on "voter suppression" and more focused on "voter expansion." She, along with Ronan and others, also declared that it is time to stop using superdelegates.
Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, commented at one point that the Democratic Party needs to return to being the party of fairness, including in elections. He also remarked that the party should turn its attention to communities in an effort to broaden its appeal.
Though he may appear to not be invested in election reform any longer, Bernie Sanders' 2016 presidential candidacy has had a lasting impact on the Democratic Party. He has changed contests for the party's leadership. His followers continue to make significant gains in state parties across the US, and more Democrats are calling for their party to live up to its name.