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 Democratic Socialists of America); author, activist, and 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben; Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair Keith Ellison; Native 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: , who ran Obama’s White House Office of Energy & Climate Change Policy; Paul Booth of AFSCME; former under-secretary of state for political affairs Carol BrownerWendy 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.academic Dr. Cornel West (author of the groundbreaking book Race Matters and a leading member of
- 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.