Bernie Sanders has expressed mixed feelings about the ongoing deliberations regarding the Democratic Party platform; essentially a statement of objectives the party, as a whole, will commit to.
While one can argue about the non-binding nature of party platforms, one cannot deny that the Sanders campaign has had a significant impact on the rhetoric of the Democratic Party, a party that has, in the eyes of many, moved rightward over the past several decades.
Throughout his campaign for the presidency, Sanders has done his best to drag the party back to the left, advocating single-payer healthcare, free public college tuition, and heavy taxes on the wealthy. Sanders has also pushed back against President Obama’s favored trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, arguing that it would harm workers and the environment.
Because of his unexpectedly successful run, Sanders has been able to secure positions of influence for many of his supporters, resulting in a platform that reflects many aspects of his agenda.
But, in an op-ed published on Sunday, Sanders argues that the platform “still needs work.”
First, Sanders puts forward what he views as the good news.
“At a time when huge Wall Street financial institutions are bigger now than they were before the taxpayers of this country bailed them out, the platform calls for enacting a 21st-century Glass-Steagall Act and for breaking up too-big-to-fail banks,” Sanders writes.
He also points to the platform’s call “for a historic expansion of Social Security,” its provision encouraging the closure of “loopholes that allow corporations to avoid paying taxes,” and its language supporting the creation of “millions of jobs rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure,” among other crucial measures.
“These are all major accomplishments that will begin to move this country in the right direction. I congratulate Rep. Elijah Cummings (D., Md.), chairman of the Platform Drafting Committee, and all 15 members of the panel for their hard work.”
But while Sanders is happy about the improvements, he makes very clear that this should be viewed as a good starting point, not the destination.
“We need to have very clear language,” Sanders urges, “that raises the minimum wage to $15 an hour, ensures that the promised pensions of millions of Americans will not be cut, establishes a tax on carbon, and creates a ban on fracking. These and other amendments will be offered in Florida.”
Sanders also chides Hillary Clinton’s representatives for their opposition to the inclusion of language that would unify Democrats in opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
“In my view, the Democratic Party must go on record in opposition to holding a vote on this disastrous, unfettered free-trade agreement during the lame-duck session of Congress and beyond,” Sanders writes.
“Frankly, I do not understand why the amendment our delegates offered on this issue in St. Louis was defeated with all of Hillary Clinton’s committee members voting against it. I don’t understand that because Clinton, during the campaign, made it very clear that she did not want to see the TPP appear on the floor during the lame-duck session.”
The TPP, Sanders concludes, “threatens our democracy.”
This piece reinforces a claim Sanders has made throughout his campaign, and indeed throughout his political career: That radical and ambitious goals are what the United States needs. Given the horrendous economic conditions millions of Americans face on a daily basis, Sanders believes that “establishment politics and establishment economics” are inadequate to produce the fundamental changes necessary to reverse these trends.
Recent research seems to bolster Sanders’s argument: though the bottom 99 percent “just had its best year in nearly two decades” in terms of income growth, according to the Washington Post, growth of 3.9 percent is “still not enough to repair all the damage the recession wrought on those workers.”
Meanwhile, the Post notes, “The top 1 percent…have now regained almost all the income they lost during the recession. Their incomes grew by 7.7 percent, almost double the rate of the bottom 99 percent of workers, in 2015.”
Broadly, research by economists Peter Lindert and Jeffrey Williamson seems to indicate that, “Income inequality today may be higher today than in any other era.”
A working paper just released by the International Monetary Fund seems to agree, warning of the increased “polarization” of income groups and highlighting the collapsing middle class.
And by sticking to his promise to stay in the race through the convention, Sanders is doing everything possible to make sure that the voices of his supporters have a substantial impact on the Democratic Party’s goals going forward. So far, his strategy is working; there remains, however, much work to do, both in making the platform more ambitious and ensuring that words are converted into actions.
[Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images]