Democratic Party Reverses Course, Will Release Platform Document

WASHINGTON — Last week, the Democratic Party live-streamed the entirety of its internal debate over the drafting of the platform, one step in a process that ends in Philadelphia with a final fight over the shape of the document that purports to guide the party’s policy direction.

A slew of amendments were offered, debated, rejected and accepted. It was democracy in action — open, transparent, messy, arcane, often boring, sometimes hyperbolic and forged in the end by compromise. But then the democratic process collided with the Democratic Party.

Once the live stream went dead, the draft document that had been debated disappeared along with it, not to be seen again by the public until the days just before the Democratic convention. On Monday, HuffPost reached out to the platform committee to find out why the document wouldn’t be released earlier. On Tuesday, the committee said that, in fact, it would be.

“In 2016, the Democratic National Convention undertook the broadest and most inclusive platform process in history including forums from around the nation and video and written testimony submitted online. A news release highlighting some of the many important issues included in the approved draft is available on the Democratic National Convention website,” a committee official said in a statement released on background. “We will release the updated draft as soon as it is complete. This version will be considered at the full Platform Committee meeting that will be held in Orlando on July 8th and 9th.”

The process of releasing the document will understandably still take some time. “Drafting committee staff are updating the draft document to include the numerous amendments and technical corrections, as instructed by the committee members,” the committee official said.

The release of the document may not be the full political revolution backers of Bernie Sanders are looking for, but it’s evidence that the insurgent campaign is continuing to influence the process and nudge it in a more democratic direction.

The platform itself included significant progressive advances, including a $15 minimum wage, $3 an hour more than Clinton had previously backed; a ban on the death penalty; a financial transaction tax; a public health insurance option; expanded Social Security benefits; a modern version of Glass-Steagall, which seeks to take risk out of the financial system by segregating activity; and big wins for reproductive freedom.

Sanders delegates didn’t win every battle, particularly on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, which remains an open fight. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) praised the progress so far, while expressing disappointment over trade and promising to keep the fight going in Orlando at the next meeting. “The platform draft is the strongest progressive statement to come from the Democratic Party in years. I hope it can be made even stronger in Orlando. The party is responding to the energy and values expressed clearly in this primary election,” he said in a statement. “I am disappointed that my amendment to take a strong stand against the Trans-Pacific Partnership – a position shared by both Secretary Clinton and Senator Sanders – was not included.”

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), another Sanders delegate, called it “imperfect” but a “truly progressive platform draft,” while Sanders himself called it “a very good start.” Sanders delegate Bill McKibben, a climate change activist, also praised some progress, but highlighted the Clinton delegates’ propensity to support noble ideas, but then object to any particular way of getting there when it involved difficult choices. 

We all agreed that America should be operating on 100 percent clean energy by 2050, but then I proposed, in one amendment after another, a series of ways we might actually get there. A carbon tax? Voted down 7-6 (one of the DNC delegates voted with each side). A ban on fracking? Voted down 7-6. An effort to keep fossils in the ground, at least on federal land? Voted down 7-6. A measure to mandate that federal agencies weigh the climate impact of their decisions? Voted down 7-6. Even a plan to keep fossil fuel companies from taking private land by eminent domain, voted down 7-6. (We did, however, reach unanimous consent on more bike paths!)

In other words, the Clinton campaign is at this point rhetorically committed to taking on our worst problems, but not willing to say how. Which is the slightly cynical way politicians have addressed issues for too long—and just the kind of slickness that the straightforward Sanders campaign rejected.

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