Although it is becoming increasingly clear that Senator Bernie Sanders, despite running a brilliant, odds-defying campaign, will not be able to clinch the Democratic nomination for the presidency, it's also becoming clear that there will be a long-lasting "Bernie effect," long after he concedes to Hillary Clinton. Sanders has shown the Democratic establishment that America is, indeed, hungry for change, and open to ideas and policies that were once dismissed as being "too liberal." Through Sanders's potential shaping of the Democratic platform, the Bernie effect may change the face of the Democratic party.
In an unprecedented move, meant to spark unity between Sanders's passionate supporters and Hillary Clinton's supporters, the Sanders campaign was given five seats on the Democratic Platform Committee. Clinton was give six appointees, and the Democratic National Committee will add an additional four, for a total of 15. The committee will be chaired by Representative Elijah Cummings.
Sanders has appointed a relentlessly liberal group, naming Keith Ellison, Cornel West, James Zogby, Bill McKibben, and Deborah Parker.
In a so-called "normal" political cycle, the authoring of the Democratic Party Platform is seen as a rather boring affair, covered by the news cycle, certainly, but there are very little surprises. Even with the re-election of the country's first African-American president, there was nothing very revolutionary in the 25,000 words wherein the Democratic party outlined what it stands for, in the safest possible terms.
But with Bernie Sanders given such a strong voice, and a Democratic primary that was supposed to be a virtual given, drama-free and easy, but has turned out to be anything but, the Bernie effect will continue on as his liberal beliefs may shape policy and platform for, perhaps, a newer, more aggressively and unapologetically left-leaning Democratic party.
The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: With the Sanders' campaign nomination of James Zogby to the Democratic Platform Committee, Sanders sent a clear signal that the historical two-state solution and an engaged peace process that the Democratic platform has traditionally embraced when it comes to the conflict between Israel and Palestine may be questioned. Zogby's own pro-Palestine beliefs have literally made headlines, and it does not take much to interpret Sanders' choice.
The Working Class: If anyone has spent more than two minutes listening to Bernie Sanders speak, it becomes immediately clear that the working class is central to his cause. The Democratic Party has always made the middle class central to their platform -- in 2012, the revival of middle class economic fortunes received an unprecedented amount of attention. But while the middle class has their problems recognized, and has had a somewhat stumbling but at least present renewal since the crash years of the Bush economy, the working class continues to struggle mightily, and simply has not received the attention that the middle class has. Issues such as poverty and food insecurity are central to Bernie Sanders' campaign, and why he has worked relentlessly for a $15 minimum wage.Fracking: In the 2012 Democratic Party Platform, Democrats embraced an "all-of-the-above" energy policy, but Sanders has recently added what the Huffington Post described as "anti-fracking riffs to his standard stump speech, going so far as to propose a nation-wide ban" on fracking.
"If we are serious about combating climate change, we need to put an end to fracking not only in New York and Vermont, but all over this country."Black Lives Matter: Sanders' appointment of Cornel West sends a sharp message that he unequivocally supports the Black Lives Matter movement, and a call for change in the way the Democratic party has traditionally garnered the African-American vote. West has been critical of the Democratic Party, stating that the African-American voter bloc has been in a "perpetual state of electoral capture," meaning that the African-American population is forced to choose between the GOP, which continuously marginalizes and alienates them, and the Democratic Party, which no longer needs to do much of anything in order to remain the more attractive voting option for minorities. West may push for more concrete ideas on how the party can work for African-Americans.
Citizens United: Money in politics is an issue that has driven Sanders' campaign from day one. The Democratic party itself remains critical of much of what surrounds Citizens United, but it hasn't done much to "match the zeal" over the issue that Sanders has. The 2012 platform did address it, saying, "Our opponents have applauded the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United and welcomed the new flow of special interest money with open arms," in the only time in which "Citizens United" is specifically mentioned.
"In stark contrast, we believe we must take immediate action to curb the influence of lobbyists and special interests on our political institutions."There is little doubt that Bernie Sanders will make removing that kind of money from politics a major focus of the Democratic Party's official platform for 2016 and beyond.
Although Sanders is not likely to receive the nomination in 2016, and, at his age, another run in eight years is a near-impossibility, it's become increasingly clear that the Bernie effect will certainly have a lasting impact on the Democratic Party, pushing what many see as a complicit political establishment to embrace the more liberal ideas and ideals of the 74-year-old Vermont "Democratic socialist" senator whom no one knew a year ago, but who managed to capture the hearts and minds of so many during his "political revolution."
And even without the nomination, there is little doubt that Bernie Sanders has, essentially, done exactly what he set out to do.
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