Bernie Sanders urges progressives to gear up for elections at People's Summit

CHICAGO, June 10 (Reuters) - Buoyed by the British Labour Party election gains this week, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders on Saturday urged a summit of progressive activists who propelled his presidential candidacy to ramp up efforts to win elections and help remake a Democratic Party he deemed a failure.

"They won those seats by standing up to the ruling class," he said, referring to the British elections and citing wins by progressive U.S. candidates in several state and local races while writing off losses as evidence liberal progressives could still be competitive even in conservative states.

But Sanders, who lost the Democratic nomination nearly a year ago to Hillary Clinton, showed little interest in a push by "Draft Bernie" activists who want him to start his own "People's Party." Many activists blame establishment Democrats for losing to President Donald Trump by failing to embrace a more populist left-leaning agenda.

Sanders headlined the three-day "People's Summit" in Chicago, attended by celebrity activists including actors Danny Glover and John Cusack, which brought together main progressive groups such as National Nurses United, Democratic Socialists of America and People for Bernie.

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Former Vice President Joe Biden

(Photo by Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)

(Photo by Scott Eisen/Getty Images)

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)

(Photo by Craig F. Walker/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Sen. Kamala Davis (D-Calif.)

(Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.)

(Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.)

(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg

(Photo by David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.)

(Photo by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.)

(Photo by: Lloyd Bishop/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper

(Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo

(Photo credit MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images)

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley

(Photo credit NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)

Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro

(Photo by Pete Marovich/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.)

(Photo by Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.)

(Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.)

(Photo credit ZACH GIBSON/AFP/Getty Images)

Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick

(Photo by Suzanne Kreiter/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio

(Photo by James Keivom/NY Daily News via Getty Images)

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban

(Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Environmental activist Tom Steyer

(Photo by David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez

(Photo by Taylor Hill/FilmMagic)

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton 

(Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe

(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom

(Photo by Yichuan Cao/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg

(Photo credit FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz

(Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)

Former first lady Michelle Obama

(Photo by Gerardo Mora/Getty Images)

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson

(Photo by Donna Ward/Getty Images)

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii)

(Photo credit TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.)

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y)

(Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

California Gov. Jerry Brown

(Photo by Tiffany Rose/Getty Images for Caruso )

Media mogul Oprah Winfrey

(Photo by Moeletsi Mabe/Sunday Times/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

Former Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.)

(Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean

(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

Former Vice President Al Gore

(Photo credit DAVID MCNEW/AFP/Getty Images)

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.)

(Photo by Katherine Frey/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Former Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.)

(Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti

(Photo by Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images,)

Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.)

(Photo by Craig F. Walker/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu

Albin Lohr-Jones/Pool via Bloomberg

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.)

(Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee

(Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)

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Many activists said they hoped to transform the momentum from recent protests such as January's Women's March in Washington into concrete plans to support a growing wave of grassroots candidates to secure electoral power.

"We could have 10,000 people marching, but if we don't have some means of translating that into winning political office and enacting a legislative progressive agenda, at the end of the day, what does it amount to?" said Nick Brana, the former staffer for the Sanders campaign leading the "Draft Bernie" group.

With Trump mired in controversy over incidents such as the firing of former FBI Director James Comey, and Democrats having lost ground in statehouses and in Congress, RoseAnn Demoro, head of the nurses union, said the movement Sanders began was at a "tipping point" of broadening its support.

Leaders with the Democratic Socialists of America said their membership has bloomed from 6,000 before the election to 22,000.

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Others warned that progressives don't have the fundraising firepower they need or that gains were still fledgling.

"We're closer but we're not yet winning," said activist and writer Naomi Klein.

Still, Sanders credited progressives with increasing public acceptance of proposals such as a $15 minimum wage, renegotiating trade policies and offering free college tuition. He got a standing ovation when he said the California Senate recently passed a single-payer health care plan. (Reporting by Chris Kenning; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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Supporters stand in the crowd cheering as they wait for U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders to speak during a rally in Carson, California, U.S., May 17, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
A man covered in face paint waits to see U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders during a campaign event in Vallejo, California, May 18, 2016. REUTERS/Stephen Lam TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Supporters stand in the crowd cheering as they wait for U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders to speak during a rally in Carson, California, U.S., May 17, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
A supporter holds a sign as the crowd waits for U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders to speak during a rally in Carson, California, U.S., May 17, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES.
Women hold up signs and cheer as they wait for U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders to speak during a rally in Carson, California, U.S., May 17, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
UCLA graduate Miguel Rodriguez, 32, (R) and Joannie Small, 4, queue to listen to U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speak at a campaign rally at Casa del Mexicano in Los Angeles, California, U.S. June 4, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
A Bernie Sanders supporter texts before the U S. Democratic presidential candidate's campaign rally at Colton Hall in Monterey, California, U.S., May 31, 2016. REUTERS/Michael Fiala
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A woman holds a sign in support of Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Bernie Sanders during a campaign rally in Santa Cruz, California, U.S., May 31, 2016. REUTERS/Stephen Lam
Supporters cheer for U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders as he speaks at a campaign rally in Santa Barbara, California, U.S. May 28, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
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Supporters cheer for U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders as he speaks at a campaign rally in Santa Barbara, California, U.S. May 28, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
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U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders greets supporters after a campaign rally in Santa Maria, California, U.S. May 28, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
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Tyler Morris holds up look-a-like puppet of Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is held up during campaign event in San Pedro, California, U.S. May 27, 2016. REUTERS/Kevork Djansezian
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Bradley Giles of Cathedral City waits to enter to hear U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speak at a campaign rally in Cathedral City, California, U.S., May 25, 2016. REUTERS/Alex Gallardo
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