The Democratic Party Platform Committee convened in Orlando, Fla., over the weekend. Once more, the Sanders delegates pushed hard for inclusion of fundamental reforms. Once more, they made progress on many issues and were rejected on several. The campaign hasn’t announced if it will demand a debate on minority planks before the full convention in Philadelphia but it has every reason to do so.
The platform incorporates Sanders' language and push on a range of issues – electoral reform (where Clinton's platform was also strong); criminal justice reform, including prohibition of the death penalty and an end to private prisons; shackling Wall Street, including a financial transaction tax and a pledge to break up too-big-to-fail banks and pass a 21st-century Glass-Steagall Act.
This weekend, the platform committee adopted a commitment to a $15-an-hour federal minimum wage. Clinton’s new pledge to make in-state public colleges and universities tuition-free for those earning less than $125,000 and her concessions on health care – doubling spending on community health centers, allowing those over 55 to buy into Medicare, an expanded public option in Obamacare – will be written into the platform. The platform also endorsed expanding Social Security, even though it voted down a pledge to lift the cap on Social Security taxes.
These and other pledges led Clinton and Democratic National Committee spokespeople to spin the platform as the most progressive document in the party’s history. But major portions still disappoint. On foreign policy, the document offers a continuation of our intervention in the greater Middle East. It heats up rhetoric against “Russian aggression.” The platform committee even defeated an attempt to write current U.S. policy on Israeli settlements into the document.
Medicare for all was defeated. While the climate change language was strengthened in Orlando, it still is not accorded the importance it requires. The platform committee voted against a ban on fracking, and against a carbon tax. Even the investment language seems muted in comparison to the pledges made by President Obama.
Most bizarrely, the platform committee continued to vote down an explicit commitment to defeat the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal and to oppose a vote in the lame duck. It thus rejected the stated position of both Clinton and Sanders, largely at the behest of President Obama, who still plans to drive the treaty through the lame-duck session of Congress after the election.
The Wall Street Journal quoted Veronica Turner, a platform committee member who supports Clinton, as saying, “I thought it was important not to embarrass President Obama.” Another Obama supporter accused a Sanders delegate of “giving a middle finger to the president.”
In fact, the reverse is true. The president is insisting that the party give the middle finger to both of its presidential candidates and to Democratic primary voters. If not corrected at the full convention, this is like handing Donald Trump a loaded gun to shoot up Clinton’s claim to be opposed to the TPP.
Sanders has rightfully praised the progress made in the platform, particularly on Wall Street, the minimum wage, tuition free college and more. He hasn’t indicated whether he will continue to fight for Medicare for all and against the TPP before the entire convention. The press is saying that Sanders will move to endorse Clinton this week. What is clear out of Orlando is that his political revolution needs to keep building if it is to change the course of the party and the country.