Highlights for Activists from the New Democratic Platform

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Democratic_convention

By «Marylandstater» [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

This weekend in Orlando, members of the Democratic National Convention’s full Platform Committee hashed out a new set of positions from the draft published on July 1st. The final agreements include some relatively progressive items—among them an amendment focused on criminal justice reform that notably calls for an end to the death penalty but also for Department of Justice investigations of any police-involved shootings.

The language regarding capital punishment, which passed unanimously, is particularly vigorous, as is the recognition of the follow-on effects of racial bias on criminal justice as a whole. Here is the position from the draft, which apparently substantively stands:

We will abolish the death penalty, which has proven to be a cruel and unusual form of punishment. It has no place in the United States of America.

We have been inspired by the movements for criminal justice that directly address the discriminatory treatment of African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and American Indians to rebuild trust in the criminal justice system.

The capital punishment plank shows the influence of prospective nominee Bernie Sanders. His metaphorical signature is also evident in support for a $15/hour minimum wage, steps intended to break up too-big banks, and environmental moves like prioritizing renewable energy and limiting fracking.

Sen. Sanders (I-VT) has refrained from a formal endorsement of Hillary Clinton until the platform, which is nonbinding and must still be ratified at the convention, was crafted. Sanders has apparently been playing an active waiting game, but on Saturday he told reporters that the campaigns are “coming closer and closer together in trying to address the major issues facing this country.” Pundits expect his endorsement on Tuesday.

Still, Sanders and supporters did lose on some major amendments, including a move to directly oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, which both Sanders and Clinton oppose but which President Barack Obama supports. Benjamin Jealous, a Sanders supporter and a former president of the NAACP, argued that language opposing the TPP would help Democrats take the election in November. “I want us to stop making it harder for us to win and start making it easier for us to win,” he said. But Clinton senior policy adviser Maya Harris says that Clinton also opposes the TPP but is not about “tinkering around the margins” of the deal. She added that the TPP “fails the test that is now laid out in the platform as a result of this amendment.”

The Sanders campaign also lost on language that called for “an end to occupation and illegal settlements,” instead retaining the language advocating a “two-state solution of the Israel-Palestinian conflict” that guarantees Israel’s security with recognized borders “and provides the Palestinians with independence, sovereignty, and dignity.”

On the issue of wages and labor, the draft platform read:

Democrats believe that the current minimum wage is a starvation wage and must be increased to a living wage. No one who works full-time should have to raise a family in poverty. We believe that Americans should earn at least $15 an hour and have the right to form or join a union. We applaud the approaches taken by states like New York and California. We should raise and index the minimum wage, give all Americans the ability to join a union regardless of where they work, and create new ways for workers to have power in the economy. We also support creating one fair wage for all workers by ending the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers and people with disabilities.

There is also language on housing…

We will increase the supply of affordable rental housing by expanding incentives and easing local barriers to building new affordable rental housing developments in areas of economic opportunity. We will substantially increase funding for the National Housing Trust Fund to construct, preserve, and rehabilitate millions of affordable housing rental units. Not only will this help address the affordable housing crisis, it will also create millions of good-paying jobs in the process. Democrats also believe that we should provide more federal resources to the people struggling most with unaffordable housing: low-income families, people with disabilities, veterans, and the elderly.

We will reinvigorate federal housing production programs, increase resources to repair public housing, and increase funding for the housing choice voucher program. And we will fight for sufficient funding to end chronic homelessness.

…LGBT Rights…

Democrats will fight for comprehensive federal non-discrimination protections for all LGBT Americans and push back against state efforts to discriminate against LGBT individuals. We will combat LGBT youth homelessness and improve school climates, and we will protect transgender individuals from violence. We will promote LGBT human rights and ensure America’s foreign policy is inclusive of LGBT people around the world.

…disability rights and voting rights, and extensive language on Native American rights and programs. There was also strongly worded resistance to attacks on reproductive freedom, specifically calling out those who attempted to defund Planned Parenthood:

Democrats are committed to protecting and advancing reproductive health, rights, and justice. We believe unequivocally that every woman should have access to quality reproductive health care services, including safe and legal abortion—regardless of where she lives, how much money she makes, or how she is insured. We believe that reproductive health is core to women’s, men’s, and young people’s health and wellbeing. We will continue to stand up to Republican efforts to defund Planned Parenthood health centers, which provide critical health services to millions of people. We will continue to oppose—and seek to overturn—federal and state laws and policies that impede a woman’s access to abortion, including by repealing the Hyde Amendment. We need to defend the ACA, which extends affordable preventive health care to women, including no-cost contraception, and prohibits discrimination in health care based on gender.

The platform holds much more, of course (like a resolution to remove marijuana as a Schedule I federally controlled substance, “providing a reasoned pathway for future legalization”), and we encourage our readers to offer their commentary either in our comments or an op-ed.

Sanders himself remains reticent about the package, tweeting on Sunday, “The Democratic Platform includes some accomplishments that will begin to move this country in the right direction.” He is not the only skeptic. Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich is quoted in the Nation as saying the platform reflects “a relatively easy way for so-called mainstream and centrist Democrats to make progressive Democrats feel included without really changing the status quo or ruffling feathers on Wall Street.” Platform language, he adds, is “still just rhetoric. […] It reveals the current limits of what is acceptable political discourse inside the party.”

As a concluding thought, NPQ would like to acknowledge that although this platform will contain a few positions long advocated by many in the civil sector, and some mention is made of movements and even individual organizations among our field, there is no specific language on supporting the civil sector or the role of nonprofits and philanthropy in our society.