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Dr. Cornel West, pictured here campaigning for the candidate, was among the progressive notables appointed by Bernie Sanders to help draft the Democratic Party platform. (Photo: Matthew Putney/ The Courier)

Seizing Chance, Sanders Makes Bold Progressive Picks to Shape DNC Platform

Though compromised allotment falls short of Sanders' suggestion, Vermont Senator doesn't waste opportunity to make progressive choices

Lauren McCauley

Seizing on the Democratic National Committee's (DNC) reluctant concession allowing him to appoint five members to the committee that writes the party platform, Bernie Sanders on Monday announced a suite of picks that included activists across the progressive sphere.

Sanders' appointees to the 15-member Platform Drafting Committee include: racial justice activist and scholar Dr. Cornel West, 350.org co-founder and noted environmentalist Bill McKibben, Native American activist Deborah Parker, Progressive Caucus co-chair Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), and James Zogby, a pro-Palestinian scholar as well as founder and president of the Arab American Institute (AAI).

The announcement came roughly two weeks after Sanders sent a letter to DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) accusing her of stacking the party's three standing committees, including the drafting committee, with "Clinton loyalists."

According to the Washington Post, party officials and the two Democratic candidates "worked out" a compromise "based on the number of popular votes each has received to date." Under the agreement, frontrunner Hillary Clinton would be allotted six members and Sanders five, while Wasserman Schultz will name four.

The final selections were made "in consultation with the campaigns and the DNC from larger slates of 12 and 10 suggested by the campaigns," the Post reports.

The deal falls short of Sanders' recommendation that each campaign choose seven members for the Drafting Committee and the 15th member would jointly picked by the two campaigns. Nonetheless, it is an improvement over the standing rule, under which the DNC chair would consider a list of ten names from each candidate, choose four from each and then appoint an additional seven.

"We believe that we will have the representation on the platform drafting committee to create a Democratic platform that reflects the views of millions of our supporters who want the party to address the needs of working families in this country and not just Wall Street, the drug companies, the fossil fuel industry and other powerful special interests," Sanders said in a statement.

The list of progressive appointees was welcomed widely. Canadian author and activist Naomi Klein noted on Twitter that two of Sanders' picks "were arrested for peaceful civil disobedience during [the] Obama years," referring to West and McKibben.

As for the remaining appointees, the Post reports:

The Clinton campaign’s choices are Wendy Sherman, a former top State Department official and Clinton surrogate; Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress and longtime Clinton confidante; Rep. Luis Guttierez of Illinois; Carol Browner, a former former director of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy; Ohio State Rep. Alicia Reece and Paul Booth of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union. 

Wasserman Schultz also named former California Rep. Howard Berman; California Rep. Barbara Lee and author and executive Bonnie Schaefer.

The platform announcement comes amid a growing rift between the Sanders campaign and the DNC, which has been accused of deliberately rigging the system in Clinton's favor.

Over the weekend, Sanders threw his weight behind Tim Canova, who is running a progressive challenge to Wasserman Schultz's House seat, and said that if he wins the presidency that the chairwoman "would not be reappointed."


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