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Despite its shortcomings, the platform draft appears to reflect Bernie Sanders' influence. (Photo: Hillel Steinberg/flickr/cc)

Mixed Bag Platform Draft Sets Stage for Fight at DNC Convention

Final Democratic Party platform draft contains wins on minimum wage and death penalty, losses on TPP and fracking

Deirdre Fulton

The final draft of the Democratic Party's 2016 platform, released Friday, calls for an end to the death penalty, a $15 minimum wage, the establishment of a postal banking system, broad marijuana law reform, and elimination of tax breaks for Big Oil—all victories for Bernie Sanders and his supporters—but fails to include key concessions on trade, Israel-Palestine, or fracking.

Indeed, not only does the document (pdf) fail to endorse a national fracking ban, as climate activists and Sanders are demanding, but "the platform puts the party on record in favor of the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan and the goal of '100 percent clean electricity,'" writes David Weigel for the Washington Post. "That plan and that goal assume that fracking will continue." 

On trade, as Common Dreams reported, the platform merely acknowledges that "there are a diversity of views in the party"—a far cry from the rejection of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) that Sanders and his allies on the drafting committee pushed for. 

And the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is "the one area of the platform where the progressives seem to have slid back since 2012," Weigel says, noting that "[w]here there was once was no mention of the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions Movement, there's now a clear denunciation of...BDS." 

Responding to the draft, Philip Weiss and Adam Horowitz write at Mondoweiss: "How much do Democratic progressives care about Palestine? is the question. The party leaders want to say that Palestinian solidarity is a marginal fringe, and hint-hint, it’s anti-Semitic. And meantime, Israel and the U.S. share 'common values of democracy, equality, tolerance, and pluralism.' That is simply a lie."

On the other hand, "income inequality has a leading role in the document," Amanda Terkel pointed out at the Huffington Post, "and the inclusion of the phrase 'rigged economy' reflects the influence" of Sanders.

The document reads in part:

Democrats believe we must restore the basic bargain that built America’s mighty middle class: If you work hard and play by the rules, you can get ahead and stay ahead, provided we break down certain barriers. The system isn’t working when we have a rigged economy in which ordinary Americans work longer hours for lower wages, while most new income and wealth goes to the top one percent. In contrast, Donald Trump has shown time and again that he cannot be trusted to secure the basic economic dignity of Americans.

On Wall Street reform, the draft "strikes a populist tone," Clare Foran wrote at The Atlantic, pointing to the platform's endorsement of "a modern version of the Glass-Steagall Act, a Depression-era banking law that Sanders has described as a mechanism for breaking up big banks. Sanders and [Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth] Warren have both supported reinstating a 21st-century version of the law." 

Other key progressive victories, Sanders' chief policy advisor Warren Gunnels told the Washington Post, include:

  1. Eliminating conflict of interest at the Federal Reserve by making sure that executives at financial institutions cannot serve on the board of regional Federal Reserve banks or handpick their members.
  2. Banning golden parachutes for taking government jobs and cracking down on the revolving door between Wall Street and Washington.
  3. Prohibiting Wall Street from picking and choosing which credit agency will rate their product.
  4. Empowering the Postal Service to offer basic banking services, which makes such services available to more people throughout the country, including low-income people who lack access to checking accounts.
  5. Ending the loophole that allows large profitable corporations to defer taxes on income stashed in offshore tax havens to avoid paying more taxes.
  6. Using the revenue from ending that deferral loophole to rebuild infrastructure and create jobs.

"What we are seeing is an aggressive economic populism winning out," Robert Borosage, co-director of the progressive think tank Campaign for America's Future, told The Atlantic. "The Wall Street provisions in the platform show that. It marks a shift for the party from where it was 20 years ago."

Former labor secretary Robert Reich was less optimistic, noting to The Atlantic that "the platform is a relatively easy way for so-called mainstream and centrist Democrats to make progressive Democrats feel included without really changing the status quo or ruffling feathers on Wall Street."

Still, he said, "symbolically, the platform gives a sense of where the Democratic Party and the public could be moving."

Meanwhile, with its call to repeal both the Hyde and Helms amendments, which limit abortion access both at home and abroad, the draft is "unequivocally the strongest platform for reproductive freedom we have ever seen," said Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America.

And in calling for the abolishment of the death penalty, the party breaks with its presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton. She said last year that she opposes ending the practice "because I do think there are certain egregious cases that still deserve the consideration of the death penalty, but I'd like to see those be very limited and rare, as opposed to what we've seen in most states." At a town hall event in March, Clinton was forced to defend that stance to a man who wrongly served time on death row. 

For his part, Sanders sent out a lukewarm tweet about the draft:

The platform drafting committee—which included five members appointed by Sanders, six chosen by Clinton, and four selected by DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz—said it heard testimony from 114 people during hearings over the last few weeks. The draft will now go to the full Platform Committee for final approval at a meeting in Orlando on July 8th and 9th, before being ratified by delegates at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia later this month. 

Speaking with CNN's Jake Tapper last week about shortcomings in the platform, Sanders said: "We're going to take that fight to Orlando... And if we don't succeed there, then we'll certainly take it to the floor of the Democratic convention."

And in an email sent to supporters this week,  Sanders said he would "do everything I can to rally support in Orlando for our amendment opposing the TPP. But I want to be clear that if we fail there we are going to take this fight to the floor of the Democratic Party convention in Philadelphia next month."


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