Bernie Sanders indicated in early May that his campaign was “going to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia with as many delegates as possible to fight for a progressive party platform that calls for a $15 an hour minimum wage, an end to our disastrous trade policies, a Medicare-for-all health care system, breaking up Wall Street financial institutions, ending fracking in our country, making public colleges and universities tuition free, and passing a carbon tax so we can effectively address the planetary crisis of climate change.”
Win or lose in the fight for the Democratic presidential nomination, Sanders said, “we intend to win every delegate that we can so that when we go to Philadelphia in July, we are going to have the votes to put together the strongest progressive agenda that any political party has ever seen.”
Sanders has won a sufficient number of delegates—and a sufficient opening in the debate—to influence the shaping of that agenda. And his representatives on the convention’s newly selected platform-writing committee share a commitment to make it profoundly progressive.
Take the issue of climate change, as an example. Sanders has secured a place for author, activist, and 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben, on the 15-person Platform Drafting Committee—which is responsible for outlining the platform that will eventually be approved at the party’s late-July convention in Philadelphia.
McKibben will have plenty of allies—among the Sanders-aligned members of the drafting committee, among members who are aligned with Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, and among members who are seeking to strike a balance between the two campaigns. It is fair to say that the drafting committee has a progressive majority.
The boldness with which that majority will act upon its progressive inclinations remains to be seen, however. There will be plenty of pressure on the committee from the campaigns, from party leaders, from interest groups, and from grassroots activists. It is a good bet that there will be wrangling over domestic policy (perhaps with regard to a 15-dollar minimum wage, and almost certainly with regard to banking reform) and foreign policy (regarding everything from trade issues to Israeli-Palestinian relations). But this is a far more engaged and activist committee than was anticipated, and it has the potential to write a platform that reflects the demands of new movements and of a political moment that has seen the Sanders campaign pull the debate to the left.
The drafting committee was forged through negotiations among the Sanders and Clinton campaigns and Democratic National Committee leaders. The Sanders camp pressed hard for a real voice in the process, and an agreement was reached to form a committee that would include five members proposed by Sanders, six proposed by Clinton, and four picks by DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz. (In addition, Maya Harris, a senior policy adviser to Clinton, and Warren Gunnels, who serves as policy director for the Sanders campaign, will be official, non-voting members of the committee.)