Bernie Sanders Wins Concessions from Democratic Party, Names Five Members to Platform Committee

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Glynn Wilson —

To understand the impact Bernie Sanders is having on the presidential election of 2016, look no further than Tuesday’s announcement that Sanders gets to name 5 of the 15 members of the Democratic Party platform committee.

While the Washington Post broke the story, the paper now owned by Amazon.com’s Jeff Bezos chose to highlight the choice of James Zogby, a longtime activist for Palestinian rights who is already a member of Democratic National Committee, obviously to try to highlight a potential controversy with staunch supporters of Israel. Watch for the Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump to make light of that on Twitter and in speeches.

But the long-term political implication of this announcment is far more important than that.

Due to the success of the Sanders campaign in bringing hundreds of thousands of people into the political process with his bold stances standing up to Wall Street, the Clinton campaign and the DNC knew they had to make concessions to try to head off a fight at the convention in Philidelphia July 25-28, and to begin soothing a bitter split between Sanders supporters and those of Hillary Clinton. She is expected to clinch the nomination with the California primary June 7.

When given the choice, Sanders immediately picked people from outside the usual sphere of party influence, including African American racial justice activist and author Cornel West; author and environmental activist Bill McKibben of 350.org, who was instrumental in getting President Barack Obama involved in the fight against climate change due to global warming from the burning of fossil fuels; Native American activist Deborah Parker, and Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, one of Sanders most prominent elected backers. He also picked Zogby, who already co-chairs the party’s resolutions committee.

“With five good members on the platform-drafting committee, we will be in a very strong position to fight for an economy that works for all of our people, not just the one percent; to fight to break up the large banks on Wall Street, who in my view now have much too much economic and political power,” Sanders said. “We will be in a position to fight for a carbon tax, so that this nation can begin to lead the world in aggressively addressing climate change. We will be in a position to fight to have the United States join the rest of the industrialized world in guaranteed health care as a right.”

Clinton got to name six members including Wendy Sherman, a former top State Department official and Clinton surrogate; Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress and a longtime Clinton confidante; Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez of Illinois; Carol Browner, a former director of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy and former head of the Environmental Protection Agency; Ohio state Rep. Alicia Reece; and Paul Booth of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union.

DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz got to name the remaining four members, including Rep. Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, who will chair the committee. She also named former congressman Howard Berman of California; Rep. Barbara Lee of California; and executive Bonnie Schaefer.

The platform committee is among the most important party bodies, according to The Post and other news outlets, “since it writes the policy on which the presidential candidate runs and around which Democrats are supposed to rally.”

Of course the platform is nonbinding, and presidents have ignored parts of it in the past. But it is a road map that sets the priorities of the party and sends a signal to the American people about what the party’s priorities are going to be.

This move will probably not sway all of Sanders’ hard core supporters who are out there in social media every day saying “Bernie or Bust.” But it should begin to ease the heat of one of the main complaints of Sanders’s supporters, that party rules and procedures disproportionately benefit Ms. Clinton. They have consistently claimed that the system was “rigged” from the start to exclude a challenger.

“We’re pleased that the upcoming Democratic convention will ensure supporters of Senator Sanders are well represented in the drafting of the party’s platform,” Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon said. “The Democratic Party historically has been a big tent, representing a diverse coalition, and Hillary Clinton is committed to continue welcoming different perspectives and ideas.”

Many mainstream Democrats who are terrified that the Sanders-Clinton split could lead to the election of Donald Trump as president hope this helps alleviate some of the bitterness of the primary and begin the process of unifying the Democratic Party to take on Trump this summer and fall.

Editor’s Note: We have been advising for several weeks that Sanders delegates find a way to get involved in the Democratic Party rather than leaving it for Trump if Ms. Clinton becomes the nominee. While the Democratic Party is never a unified party like the simpleton Republicans, stopping Trump should now become the main priority.

© 2016, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.