Jason Linkins writes: Every four years, as Democrats and Republicans plan for their national conventions, party leaders come together to decide on how to best dust off and shine up their respective parties’ platform — that catch-all proclamation that signals their political priorities and policy goals. Typically, the publication of these platforms results in a couple days of news stories, in which noteworthy alterations are documented and the other side levies partisan objections.
But this year, there’s an interesting twist: Bernie Sanders — the presumptive second-place finisher in the Democratic primary — has been granted the opportunity to play a role on the platform committee. Which means that the Democratic Party’s platform document may receive up to four days of coverage. Perhaps even five.
If this seems like a cynical way of viewing what is ostensibly an important party document, I invite you to muddle through the last Democratic party platform, authored in President Barack Obama’s re-election year. A red-hot manifesto it is not. Over the course of some 25,000-or-so words, the party outlines, in the safest possible terms, what it stands for. Everything is poll-tested to within an inch of its literary life.
Along the way, the platform is salted with marketing bromides and vague political platitudes. Credit is given to Obama for many accomplishments which need to, in the eyes of the party, continue being accomplished. And, in keeping with recent Democratic Party election-year strategies, much effort is undertaken to cast the GOP in a bad light (“The other guys are crazy!”). It’s a tradition that will no doubt continue now that the presumptive Republican Party nominee is reality TV personality and North Pacific Subtropical Gyre garbage patch Donald Trump.
The objectionable nature of Trump’s candidacy may be one thing on which this year’s platform committee might be able to quickly agree. In an unusual move, Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz is allowing Sanders to name five appointees to the 15-member committee, instead of reserving the right to name the entire committee for herself. Under this arrangement, presidential rival Hillary Clinton‘s campaign will get to pick six members and Wasserman-Schultz will name four, including the committee chair, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.).
As Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum points out, the buried news may be that Sanders is signaling that he understands he won’t win this nomination. Whether or not this is true, the independent Vermont senator is hailing this as a major, substantive concession. And he’s named a quintet of unconventional-by-party-insider standards as his emissaries: Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), environmental campaigner Bill McKibben, Native American activist Deborah Parker, racial justice advocate (and Obama critic) Cornel West and DNC member James Zogby.
Clinton’s picks are decidedly more in keeping with her “barrier-breakers” theme: American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union leader Paul Booth, former EPA head Carol Browner, Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.), Ohio state Rep. Alicia Reece, former State Department official Wendy Sherman and Center for American Progress head Neera Tanden.
So, one way in which this arrangement will generate more news than is typically created by the platform committee will be watching West and Tanden co-author a document. But beyond the soap opera aspect of this collaboration, there are several areas in which Sanders’ representatives could alter what’s traditionally a very staid and cautious party declaration in significant ways. [Continue reading…]