Whose Party? Whose Platform? Progressives Seek to Influence DNC

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Whose Party? Whose Platform? Progressives Seek to Influence DNC

The panel will consider testimony on a number of key issues including raising the minimum wage, so-called "free-trade" deals, foreign policy, and banking reform.

Bernie Sanders has said he is fighting for a bold, progressive party platform. (Photo: Rev Dillis/flickr/cc)

Democrats are meeting in Washington, D.C. this week for a potential "tug of war" between establishment and progressive factions of the party.

Ahead of the national convention in July, the Democratic Party's platform drafting committee gathered Wednesday and Thursday in the nation's capital for the first in a series of regional hearings "designed to engage every voice in the Party."

The panel will consider testimony on a number of key issues including raising the minimum wage, so-called "free-trade" deals, foreign policy, and banking reform.

As the committee includes a slew of Bernie Sanders-supporting progressives as well as "influence peddlers" selected by Hillary Clinton and Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, it remains to be seen if the platform will reflect the revolutionary ideals embodied by the Sanders campaign, or the status quo embraced by the establishment.

Watch a live-stream below:

Common Dreams reported Wednesday on demands that the party's 2016 platform include a nationwide ban on fracking. Low-wage workers also rallied outside the committee meeting on Wednesday, calling for members to write support for a $15 minimum wage into the platform.

Isaiah Poole of the Campaign for America's Future reported:

As a few of the protesting workers, wearing blue shirts with the word "strike" emblazoned on the front, managed to commandeer a row of seats inside the platform committee hearing, Washington, D.C. mayor Muriel Bowser was speaking. When she mentioned that she and the City Council had just unanimously agreed to raise the city's minimum wage to $15 an hour by the year 2020, the workers erupted in cheers.

The platform committee members could not at that point dismiss the chants of "$15 and a union" as the outlandish demands of fringe agitators. From San Francisco to New York and now the nation’s capital, a $15 minimum wage is now becoming the political baseline.

Economic Policy Institute (EPI) president Larry Mishel spoke before the committee on Thursday morning, arguing that to boost Americans' wages, "policymakers must intentionally tilt bargaining power back toward low- and moderate-wage workers," as per EPI's Raising America's Pay initiative. 

Among the other voices testifying before the drafting committee on Thursday: Nancy Altman of Social Security Works; Lori Wallach of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch; Joseph Cirincione of Ploughshares Fund; Sandra Springer, a teacher represented by the American Federation of Teachers; and Michael Smith, a recently laid-off Nabisco worker form BCTGM Local 300.

According to CNN, other "platform fights" to watch in the lead-up to the national convention in July include:

  • Israel/Palestine. Citing Clinton's remarks at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee's (AIPAC) annual conference in March, CNN says "America's relationship with Israel is likely to be the nastiest fight in Philadelphia."
  • Trade. As CNN notes, "the platform approved at the 2012 convention calls for 'free and fair trade'—with a focus on spurring exports while maintaining human rights, environmental and other protections. The key question will be whether the party drops the 'free' from its platform."
  • Wall Street. "Both candidates support keeping a tight rein on Wall Street," CNN reports, "but Sanders and his supporters have been much starker in their language. Like many of the battles, this one is not a question of 'Where does the party go?' but instead, 'How far?'"
  • Healthcare. "Universal health care was a consolation prize Clinton won from Obama in 2008, with his promise to make it a centerpiece of the 2008 platform and push for it," CNN explains. "But now Clinton is on the other side of that equation, with Sanders and his supporters pushing for the more expansive health care coverage and Clinton defending the new status quo."

In its own write-up of the drafting committee meeting, the Huffington Post reports:

It's possible that the meeting could be less dry Thursday, when foreign policy experts give their testimony. Sanders has invited Matt Duss, the president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace, who frequently criticizes the Israeli government, to testify. The senator has spoken about Palestinian dignity in a manner that is unusual for a Democratic presidential candidate. His appointment of James Zogby, the president of the Arab American Institute, to the drafting committee suggests that he wants the party to take a more evenhanded approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and settlement construction in the West Bank.

Indeed, Zogby himself wrote in a blog post this week:

In addition to all of the other critical issues Bernie Sanders has raised, he has done our nation and the cause of peace a service by bringing the matter of Israel/Palestine into the national debate. It belongs there and deserves to be discussed on its merits, without rancor and without fear. I am proud that Sanders has demonstrated the courage to do this and I am confident that if we work together on the platform committee with openness and mutual respect we can forge a new consensus that reflects the will of the majority of Democrats on all of the critical issues facing our country—including the way forward to articulating the principles that would help us achieve a just and lasting solution to Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The next public forum takes place next week in Phoenix, followed by a drafting meeting in St. Louis and the full committee's adoption of platform planks in Orlando, Fla., just ahead of the July 25-28 nominating convention in Philadelphia. 

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports: "The Orlando session will be the first meeting of the full 187-member committee whose members are selected by state parties from among convention delegates, and full committee meetings can sometimes be contentious."

And the evolution of the party platform could inform how the primary race itself takes shape. As former NAACP president and Sanders supporter Ben Jealous told the Huffington Post on Wednesday: "[Sanders] should stay in until he gets everything he's fighting for, or at least as much of it as possible."

Submit your own written or video testimony by June 18 here; follow the meetings on Twitter under the hashtag #DemPlatform:

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