Which direction will the Democratic Party go? Video from DNC Platform Committee public hearing

The DNC is trying something new; giving both of its candidates – Clinton and Sanders – input on the drafting of the party’s direction document, its platform. Also new are public hearings, and ways for everyday Democrats to be heard on what the party’s priorities should be. Some of it is undoubtably window dressing – the DNC has lost a lot of voters, credibility, and mojo – but it’s an opportunity, and a good step toward repair of a party with clear fissures. Below, info on the DNC platform committee, video from its first regional public session and how you can add your voice.

As you know, one of the “concessions” the blighted national Democratic Party made to Bernie Sanders and the approximately 45% of its electorate that he represents is the inclusion of Sanders picks in the party’s 15-member Platform Drafting Committee. It’s definitely a fresh move on the DNC’s part and a smart one.

The usual arrangement is a platform committee is entirely chosen by the DNC chair.  In 2012, Cory Booker co-chaired the platform committee, and presented its findings to the convention, a plum opportunity for a rising political star. But this year is different, because of the widespread observation that Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz tilted the scales the scales in favor of Hillary Clinton, for whom she was campaign co-chair in 2008. This was a bad year for the DNC. Because of DWS’ conduct it looked like it violated its own rules [Article 5, Sec. 4 is a pretty big thing to screw up] to prop up a pre-selected candidate. There was insurrection at DNC – accusations of DWS lying by one of her DNC vice-chairs, the resignation of another of her vice-chairs, voter petitions to remove as chair, and discussions as late as 3 weeks ago on Capitol Hill whether to dump Wasserman Schultz before the July convention.

These are party problems – big, ugly and public. But beneath the drama and sloppy-looking leadership are real questions whether its electorate has shifted, whether the party – and its presumed candidate – can effectively represent the large chunk of its voters who are more progressive and anti-establishment than the party is used to. Dems used to be 36% of the voting population (in 2008, Obama’s year). They’re now only 31%. Add that to Clinton’s record-breaking negatives (not as record-breaking as Trump’s) and her failures with ‘independents’ and that spells problem. DNC is wise to let Sanders influence party direction, and wise to let him flex some muscle. Even with all that, I have to suspect this exercise is at least as much about optics and repairing Democrats’ street cred than any real change. Sanders was given 5 slots to fill, Clinton 6 and DWS 4. So given Wasserman Schultz’ conduct this cycle, I read that as 10 slots aligned with Clinton and 5 Sanders.

But it’s a start, and a good one. Offering the “losing” candidate that much input on the party’s platform is a first. And so, apparently, is opening up that process in public regional hearings. Somehow, I missed hearing about the first of these – last week in D.C. – until it was over.

Sanders picks include: activist and academic Dr. Cornel West (author of the groundbreaking book Race Matters and a leading member of Democratic Socialists of America); author, activist, and 350.org co-founder Bill McKibbenCongressional Progressive Caucus co-chair Keith EllisonNative American activist and former Tulalip Tribes Vice Chair Deborah Parker (a key advocate for reauthorization of VAWA –  Violence Against Women Act); Arab-American Institute President James Zogby (a veteran of many conventions who was an adviser to the campaigns of the Rev. Jesse Jackson, VPOTUS Al Gore and Pres Obama). In addition, Maya Harris, senior policy adviser to Clinton, and Warren Gunnels, policy director for the Sanders campaign, will be also both be official, non-voting members of the committee. Platform committee members aligned with Secy Clinton include: Carol Browner, who ran Obama’s White House Office of Energy & Climate Change Policy; Paul Booth of AFSCME; former under-secretary of state for political affairs Wendy Sherman (who once ran EMILY’s List); Center for American Progress President Neera Tanden; Rep. Luis Guttierez of Illinois (an advocate for immigrant rights); Ohio State Rep Alicia Reece (a former deputy mayor of Cincinnati who has a long history of working on economic-development and racial-justice issues). DWS picks are: Chair Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland; former California congressman Howard Berman; business executive Bonnie Schaefer of Claire’s Stores, who is active in Women’s Media Center and Equality Now.

Upcoming public sessions are in Phoenix (June 17-18), St. Louis (June 24-25) and Orlando (July 8-9). But if you want to, there are ways for you to participate. Here are the instructions as I got them and they include a way to testify via Skype:
  • Hearings are open to the public. Those wishing to speak must register in advance through the link
  • Record a video message via Skype
  • Submit your written request or testimony in writing

Below, video of some of the testimony and statements by platform committee members from the Washington, D.C. session last week. Video is about 2 hours (it’s easy to skip around). The first sessions included testimony from committee chair Rep. Elijah Cummings, DWS, Democratic Convention chair Rev. Leah Daughtry, former AG Eric Holder, activist Fawn Sharp, and religious lobbyist Sister Simone Campbell.

Comments (3)

  1. CreedPogue

    Talk about focusing on small ball!

    Cornel West is simply a poke in the eye to President Obama himself.

    If you really think that all it takes to get VAWA reauthorized is including it in the platform, there is a bridge in Brooklyn for sale CHEAP.

    Platforms have meaning but nowhere near as much as some activists think they do. Screaming in two years “it was in the platform” is meaningless if we are dealing with a GOP House. It will also be very interesting to see what the Sanders proposal is for the Israel plank.

    It is sad that the narrative of the DNC being so bad is still being told while we need to unite to beat Donald Trump. Unfortunately, it is more likely that some segment of Sanders supporters will do what they can to make the race much closer than it should be and then act surprised when legislative majorities aren’t available to get things done. BUT, they did have a good time demonstrating in Philadelphia!!

  2. Rosi Efthim (Post author)

    You put rather a lot of words in my mouth, there Creed. Not the first time.

    I do believe I said that this move certainly has a big window dressing component, and is designed to improve the street cred of a blighted DNC in one of its most embarrassing years ever, and one in which it’s not certain at all that they or their candidate have the finger on the pulse.

    As to the “narrative of the DNC being so bad,” it’s not my job to muck out the DNC’s stalls. That’s their job, and at least part of this post congratulates them for one step toward doing that. And, sorry Creed, from here on in, it’s Hillary Clinton’s job and the DNC’s to unite the party, to win, or to improve their image in a bad year, not mine and not ours. These are folks who wanted to lead – fought for it – and if they don’t, nobody’s fault but their own.

  3. CreedPogue

    Wasn’t trying to put any words in your mouth. Just replying to what I heard you say. You didn’t tell me anywhere that I misheard you.

    Sadly, you sound the same as our old “friend” Bertin. But, there may not be a lot of effort put forth to build a bridge to people who keep saying they want to blow up bridges. It is somewhat disingenuous to claim that it is someone else’s responsibility to clean up the yard when you have contributed your share of litter.

    If you are apparently deciding to remain on the sidelines, then you should remain on the sidelines and not throw bottles on the playing field. You obviously have the right to make that choice but you shouldn’t make it more difficult for the rest of us who are trying to save the country from Donald Trump just because you didn’t get what you wanted.

    Regrettably, there are those who are too young or inexperienced to know any different especially with all the fanciful spin that has been constantly put out by the Sanders campaign and a segment of their supporters. We will see if tomorrow night is just the latest installment. There are those who voted for Jill Stein or simply abstained in 2008 and 2012 and are unhappy that they didn’t get what they wanted. I can forgive the first and won’t waste any time on the latter.

    But, there are those who have been around and know from 2000 the consequences of letting the “perfect” be the enemy of the good and of false equivalence. That any of those people would put anything (but particularly pique and ego) above preventing Donald Trump from getting his hands on the nuclear codes is just stunning.


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