On Sunday, Bernie Sanders reiterated his commitment to ensuring that the new Democratic platform is the most progressive in history.
He’s well on the way to achieving this goal. The presence of professor Cornel West, Congressman Keith Ellison, tribal leader Deborah Parker, climate expert Bill McKibben, and other progressive luminaries on the Democratic platform drafting committee hasn’t just been symbolic. They’ve already had some “very, very important victories,” Sanders explained to CNN’s Jake Tapper—the initial draft of the platform includes planks that call for a universal $15 minimum wage, breaking up big banks, and the closing of private immigrant-detention centers, for example. The Vermont Senator assured Tapper that he’d bring his trademark tenacity to the remainder of the platform process: “We’re going to take that fight to Orlando, where the entire committee meets in two weeks. And if we don’t succeed there, then we’ll certainly take it to the floor of the Democratic convention.”
And so, for the first time in memory, the progressive movement is shaping the official policy framework of the party. This has real implications for the national legislative agenda. And it’s directly attributable to the leverage won through the historic Sanders campaign.
Still, the Democratic platform is only as good as the party’s ability to implement it.
Even with an increasingly likely landslide victory for Hillary Clinton against an outrageously flawed GOP candidate, the heavily gerrymandered House and 60-vote Senate mean that Democrats will still have to reckon with some degree of divided government. While the party platform matters tremendously for shaping strategic vision, a great deal of progressive change in the coming years must also come through skillful application of subtler instruments: executive actions, agency rules, and—crucially—personnel appointments. It’s here that progressives ultimately need to use their newfound leverage.
In the face of a GOP Congress that has explicitly hoped for his failure, President Obama has used executive orders, agency-level rules, and other tools like prosecutorial discretion to remarkable effect. But there’s clearly more to do. On the most pressing issues, including climate regulations, Wall Street accountability, the rights of undocumented immigrants, the drone program, NSA surveillance, and prison reform, Bernie has pledged to do more and better—and he’s consistently called on Hillary to do more and better if elected.