UPDATE Saturday: Platform committee is in session again and it’s getting hot in Orlando. C-SPAN or C-SPAN online.
UPDATE: Following the brief Congressional Black Caucus press conference on the police-involved shootings right at 3, C-SPAN has now switched back to the Democratic Platform meeting in Orlando, where people are still finding their seats. You can also watch at C-SPAN live’s site.
In about a few minutes, at 3pm, the Democratic Platform Drafting Committee begins two days of platform hearings at the Doubletree at Universal Orlando. You can watch it live 3pm on C-SPAN, and then again when the meeting resumes at 10am Saturday.
Already, a 15-member group has hammered out a draft platform for the fuller committee of 187 members to consider. Because of widespread complaints about failures of the DNC to be evenhanded between candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, an unusual decision was made in formulating that draft committee. DNC rules allow the party chair to pick the entire slate of 15, and most chairs have done that in consultation with the White House, the likely nominee or both. But Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, under great pressure to ‘unify’ the party after widespread complaints about her own conduct and with Sanders commanding about 45% of Democratic voters, a wise and unprecedented decision was made by her to give 6 slots to Clinton, 5 to Sanders and retain 4 picks for herself. More on who was on the draft committee here. And read the Democratic Party Platform Draft here.
This afternoon in Orlando when all the state representatives arrive – with amendments to the draft – there are likely to be fireworks.
Here is the full list of the New Jersey Delegation to the Democratic National Convention in Philly July 25-28. Scroll down to see the platform committee members who are scheduled to meet today, representatives of both Clinton and Sanders. They are Steven Goldstein, Salvatore Ferraino, and Tricia Mueller for Clinton and Elizabeth Weill-Greenberg and Cornel West for Sanders.
Expect discussion of a carbon tax, a ban on oil and gas fracking and language promising to expand Medicare. But the hottest issue? The Trans Pacific Partnership, TPP. Running for president, Hillary Clinton has said she’s against the TPP, but as Secretary of State she used words like “exciting,” “ambitious,” “cutting edge,” and “gold standard” to promote it. Depending how you view Clinton’s credibility, she has either evolved on the issue – as politicians can certainly do legitimately – or is making an expedient choice to distance herself from it because Labor (which she depends on to win) opposes it. Trade policy was one of the issues dividing Clinton and Sanders during the primary. (In 2008, Barack Obama accused Clinton of the same kind of flip-flop on NAFTA). made similar charges Sanders has had a longer, and arguably more consistent position on trade deals.
Today, Sanders surrogate Jim Hightower is expected to introduce an amendment that reads: “It is the policy of the Democratic Party that the Trans-Pacific Partnership must not get a vote in this Congress or in future sessions of Congress.” Sanders’ campaign has collected more than 700,000 signatures on a petition urging the Democratic Party to announce its opposition to a TPP vote. And Sanders New Jersey delegates, self included, have also signed on. Elizabeth Warren, rumored to be on Clinton’s short list, has been vocal against the TPP. So, if Clinton is true to her word that she opposes it, I hope we end up with document of guiding principles that makes that opposition clear.
Sanders has yet to endorse Clinton, though the New York Times suggests that endorsement is coming next week. And he has yet to drop out of the race, to the eternal frustration of some Clinton backers. That gives him some leverage to forge a platform as progressive as it can be. Platforms aren’t binding, but the can be used to define core party beliefs, energize the base, and in this case unify two huge segments of the party that have yet to pull together. At least one poll [Bloomberg, June 22] shows that only 55% of likely voters backing Sanders plan to vote for Clinton. Some Clinton backers say the draft document is already more progressive than most years, including language to break up “too big to fail” financial institutions, expand Social Security, ban privatized prisons and abolish the death penalty (Sanders is against it, Clinton for it but she couches her language on it). It also seeks to eliminate super PACs by backing a Constitutional amendment to overturn the SCOTUS decision that allowed for unlimited political spending by corporations and union. These are all issues advocated by Sanders. And this week, Clinton embraced another Sanders position, announcing a plan to eliminate in-state college tuition for families earning up to $125,000 – a big step forward.