The “moderate” Democratic Party died last week. The Platform Committee of the Democratic National Committee ratified the most liberal draft policy platform in the history of the party and it looks likely the party will move even further left in the coming years.
This can be summed up due to 3 random factors converging. The first represents Sanders transformation of the Democratic Party. Sanders campaign successfully integrated many liberal activist groups and voters over the course of the campaign. For example, in NY State he courted anti-fracking activists and in Washington State garnered the endorsement of environmental groups.
As the Sanders campaign probably started to sense it could not win the election it began to foment more of a revolution through the party platform. Sanders and his allies used their leverage (millions of voters strong) to push for a more progressive and ideological agenda.
Secondly, the timing worked out. In 2009, the Democratic coalition was an unwieldy alliance of progressive and conservative legislators. But fast-forward to the results of the 2010 and 2014 midterms and many of those conservative to moderate members of Congress and legislators are gone. There is now less resistance in the party to a more progressive platform.
Lastly, Clinton and Sanders are far more ideologically in sync than many individuals honestly think. So are their supporters. Clinton backers might be more upscale and politically savvy but they largely want to achieve the same goals as Sanders supporters.
Of course, there were disagreements within the party. Labor unions strongly opposed the TPP but not necessarily anti-fracking amendments. Likewise, environmentalists only opposed TPP because of a lack of environmental safeguards but were fervently opposed to fracking. As a result, many “unity amendments” that tried to unify various positions were proposed and failed.
Even so, the party platform is the most liberal in history. The party called for tuition free college (which Clinton backed last week) and extremely strong anti-trust laws, strong support for wind and solar power at the expense of much cheaper and more useful natural gas and a trillion dollar infrastructure plan.
But, by far, the biggest shift was the party’s open adoption of support for a “Public Option”” in “Medicare for all.” Notably, the platform makes no mention of how to pay for such a massive entitlement (just like free college) but its adoption is a sign that the Democratic Party is becoming more of a European style center-left welfare party.
The party used to defend gun rights (even as it banned assault weapons). No reference to gun rights is to be found on the draft platform. On a host of racial and social issues the platform moves left.
The platform calls for the abolition of the death penalty at all levels. No language is found on how government can work with faith-based institutions to better people’s lives (this was in the 2012 platform). However, the document does call for overturning decades of Supreme Court decisions regarding campaign finance.
Race is placed front and center in the platform. The document pledges the Democratic Party to promote racial justice as well as environmental and climate justice. In addition, the document reads like a manifesto with its call for criminal-justice reform and push for societal transformation to make it clear “black lives matter and there is no place for racism in this country.”
Bernie Sander’s helped pushed the party to the left and it is possible that at the Convention the party could move even further. But, for right now, it stands ready to adopt the most liberal platform in America’s history.