How Bernie Sanders Made A Meaningless Procedural Document Matter
Bernie Sanders and his supporters cheered a slew of progressive proposed amendments to the Democratic Party platform, but were ultimately dealt a setback in Orlando over the weekend when Hillary Clinton and Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s representatives on the party’s platform committee led the way in voting down amendments that would have supported a nationwide ban on fracking, criticism of Israel’s apartheid regime against Palestinians, the establishment of a single payer healthcare system, and indefinitely delaying a vote on the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.
The setbacks came in the final meeting between representatives on the platform committee and only days before Sanders’ expected endorsement of Clinton Tuesday in a joint rally in New Hampshire, where he defeated her by a 22-point margin in the Democratic primary in February.
The Sanders campaign has been in close contact with the Clinton campaign in recent weeks, as the two sides have tried to find common ground ahead of the Democratic National Convention on July 25. The Democratic counterparts first met in mid-June, a tense meeting during which Clinton reportedly asked what it would take to land an endorsement from the Vermont Senator, who dominated Clinton with the youth vote.
To that end, Sanders’ camp has been able to force Clinton to earn his endorsement by pushing the presumptive nominee to the left on issues such as $15 minimum wage and health care: The language on the minimum wage — complete with Sanders’ very own “starvation wage” campaign terminology — was included in the final platform draft, and Clinton has included language supporting a “public option” for healthcare in recent statements to the press — mirroring some elements of Sanders’ medicare-for-all proposal. Sanders also was able to secure commitments from Clinton to support free in-state college tuition for families earning $125,000 or less annually.
Sanders has praised Clinton for the speedy progress in recent weeks, noting that “the Clinton campaign and our campaign are coming closer and closer together.” But Sanders has avoided an all-out endorsement, to the frustration of most in his adopted party.
In addition to the stalemates on fracking and Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, Clinton’s representatives on the platform committee voted down multiple initiatives relating to Social Security: an elimination of the cap on Social Security taxes as well as a new cost-of-living index for Social Security benefits. Sanders also has criticized the Democratic Party for its embrace of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade deal he has railed against and for which Clinton has switched her stance after initially calling it the “gold standard in trade agreements.”
Sanders has been much more vociferous in his opposition to TPP, slamming it as a corpotist attack on American jobs and regulatory measures and a potential source of human rights violations around the world. Sanders recently said as much in an op-ed for the New York Times, calling upon Democrats to “defeat the Trans-Pacific Partnership.”
While Clinton has said she opposes TPP, her campaign and many of her representatives on the platform committee have a history of sticking close to the legislative priorities of President Obama, who has promoted TPP repeatedly as a partnership that would give the U.S. an edge over China and would strengthen America’s relationships with countries around the world.
Amid frustration from the left on the committee’s refusal to pass Sanders’ reforms — particularly on the issue of TPP — some Sanders supporters observing the process chanted “Shame!” and “Are you Democrats?”
Nevertheless, the party platform, usually a symbolic document, has hewed left perhaps more than Sanders expected and is probably enough for him to proceed with his planned endorsement of Clinton Tuesday. In fact, he could use the platform to hold Clinton accountable to his base — as a checklist of issues on which Clinton has pledged to reach out to progressives in the party.
It is the most progressive Democratic platform ever, thanks to Sanders directing his supporters’ attention to the drafting process. It will be up to those supporters to hold Clinton and other Democrats to the promises that document makes.
Photo: U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders holds up his notes while speaking about his attempts to influence the Democratic party’s platform during a speech in Albany, New York, U.S., June 24, 2016. REUTERS/Brian Snyder