Some people say that the Democratic Party doesn’t really stand for anything. Sen. Bernie Sanders pushed and pushed as a Democratic presidential candidate, and has achieved results that could change that.
The 2016 Democratic Party platform is a very progressive policy outline. It isn’t everything a Sanders supporter would want, but it does have a lot, and it offers an outline for a lot more progress than the country has seen in a very long time.
But a lot of critics are saying things like “So what?” “It’s just a piece of paper.” “No one reads it after the convention.” Meanwhile, much of the public believes that politicians only say what they need to say just to get elected and will betray them as soon as they take office.
The platform incorporates Sanders’ language and push on a range of issues – electoral reform (where Clinton’s platform was also strong); criminal justice reform, including prohibition of the death penalty and an end to private prisons; shackling Wall Street, including a financial transaction tax and a pledge to break up too-big-to-fail banks and pass a 21st-century Glass-Steagall Act.
This weekend, the platform committee adopted a commitment to a $15-an-hour federal minimum wage. Clinton’s new pledge to make in-state public colleges and universities tuition-free for those earning less than $125,000 and her concessions on health care – doubling spending on community health centers, allowing those over 55 to buy into Medicare, an expanded public option in Obamacare – will be written into the platform. The platform also endorsed expanding Social Security, even though it voted down a pledge to lift the cap on Social Security taxes.
These and other pledges led Clinton and Democratic National Committee spokespeople to spin the platform as the most progressive document in the party’s history.
Candidates are not bound to the party platform. Yet the platform is important as a measure of where the party assembled stands. For citizen movements in motion, the platform can provide an important measure to challenge Democratic Party candidates and state and local officials.
Concluding, she writes, “The ‘political revolution’ hasn’t been won yet, but there has been real progress.”
But you hear people say the platform is meaningless.
Enforce The Platform
Look at what we have here:
● A political party that people say doesn’t “stand for” anything.
● A cynical public that believes candidates make promises to get elected and then go back on those promises.
● A progressive movement that has organized and activated millions of people, building some real clout.
● A party platform that attacks many of the problems of the country in ways that will make all of us and the economy and the country and the political system better off if it is implemented.
What if … what if our progressive movement ties those elements together? What if progressives keep this platform from being just another meaningless piece of paper? What if progressives work to make the platform actually mean something after the election?
Make Them Do It
What if progressives work to enforce the platform after the election? What if progressive organizations and activists organize and rally people to support Democrats who honor the platform and to make political life unpleasant and untenable for those who go against the platform?
Progressives should make politicians actually stick to the platform. This would make the platform actually stand for something that the party could present the public and say “this is what we stand for and what we will do if you elect us.” This would fight public cynicism about politicians and parties. This would turn this platform into an organizing tool that merges our outside movement with elections and policy.
Donald Trump is selling himself as the champion of working-class voters. He says Democrats and their presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, are selling them out with trade deals. But Trump is just a fraud.
Unfortunately, President Obama is pushing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement and Clinton is not confronting him for doing so.
That has to change – fast. Clinton must publicly, directly and loudly challenge President Obama and demand that he withdraw TPP from consideration by Congress.
Trump’s Trade Speech
Trump’s speech on trade and “globalization” issues attempted to frame Clinton and Democrats as being on the side of the “Wall Street” forces that have pushed low-wage policies on working-class Americans. He is using the upcoming and hated TPP being pushed by President Obama as an example of this, saying Clinton is only “pretending” to oppose TPP in order to get votes.
From the speech:
The legacy of Pennsylvania steelworkers lives in the bridges, railways and skyscrapers that make up our great American landscape.
But our workers’ loyalty was repaid with betrayal.
Our politicians have aggressively pursued a policy of globalization — moving our jobs, our wealth and our factories to Mexico and overseas.
Globalization has made the financial elite who donate to politicians very wealthy. But it has left millions of our workers with nothing but poverty and heartache.
[. . .] The people who rigged the system are supporting Hillary Clinton because they know as long as she is in charge nothing will ever change.
In Trump’s usage, the words “trade” and “globalization” mean one and only one thing: moving American jobs and factories to low-wage countries. This movement of jobs in recent decades, pitting American workers against exploited workers who are paid squat and can’t do anything about it, has been used as one lever to intentionally create unemployment, break the unions and force down wages. (Inflation panic leading to Federal Reserve interest rate increases, deficit scares leading to austerity — especially the refusal to spend on infrastructure – and obstruction leading to minimum wage stagnation are others.)
Trump is appealing to disaffected working class workers who used to vote Democratic, but have seen their jobs shipped out of the country and/or their wages cut or stagnate. These workers see Democrats as complicit in adopting free-trade deindustrialization policies. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), pushed and signed by President Clinton, has become a catchall symbol of this disaffection with free-trade policies, but Democrats are generally seen as having done little to fight such policies.
President Obama contributed to the problem by campaigning with a promise to renegotiate NAFTA, then reneging on this promise once elected.
Pressing his staunch opposition to trade deals, Donald J. Trump escalated his attacks on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, saying it was “totally controlled by the special interest groups.”
“They’re a special interest that wants to have the deals that they want to have,” he told a packed arena at a rally here, to whoops and cheers. “They want to have T.P.P., the Trans-Pacific Partnership, one of the worst deals, and it’ll be the worst deal since NAFTA.”
[. . .] saying the Chamber was “controlled totally by various groups of people that don’t care about you whatsoever.”
Obama Pushing TPP As Election Nears
Clinton has said she is opposed to TPP, and opposed to letting TPP come up for a vote in the “lame duck” session of Congress that follows the election. But as Trump makes trade a centerpiece of his campaign, her opposition and trade focus has not been particularly vocal. She has not asked Democrats in Congress to oppose the TPP, and thanks to past Democratic betrayals many in the public just do not believe her.
Unfortunately, as the election nears, President Obama is pushing and pushing hard to get the TPP passed. Doing this directly conflicts with Clinton’s need to show that Democrats are on the side of working people and provides Trump with powerful ammunition.
Making matters worse, efforts to write TPP opposition into the Democratic Party platform were voted down – by Clinton delegates. Unlike Trump, Democrats do not appear to understand how much this matters to voters.
The recent “Brexit” vote should serve as a warning to Democrats to take issues like this more seriously. Working-class voters in the UK voted to leave the European Union (EU) for reasons similar to the appeal Trump is making to working-class voters here.
Analyzing the “Leave” vote in “A Working-Class Brexit,” University of Kent Professor Tim Strangleman writes the following. As you read it, substitute “Democrats” for “Labour”, “Bill Clinton” for “Blair”, “elites supporting free trade agreements” for “remain”, “anti-TPP” for “leave” and “Trump” for “UKIP”:
Resignation, despair, and political apathy have been present in many former industrial regions since the wholesale deindustrialisation of the … economy in the 1980s and 1990s. The election of the Blair-led Labour administration … masked the anger felt in these areas as traditional labour supporters and their needs were often ignored, while traditional Labour supporters were used as voting fodder. Over the … years of Labour power, that support ebbed away, first as a simple decline in votes, but gradually turning into active hostility to the Labour party. Many embraced the UK Independence Party (UKIP).
…for unskilled workers with only a secondary school education, three decades or more of neo-liberalism has left deep scars socially, politically, and culturally, with little hope or expectation that anything would change for the better.
This opposition, so skillfully drawn on by the leave campaign, is in part a working class reaction not only to six years of austerity but also to a long and deep-seated sense of injustice and marginalisation. Most of the remain side, which was a cross party grouping, didn’t seem to understand this before the referendum and, even more depressingly, doesn’t seem to understand it fully now. A stock characterisation of working-class people who intended to vote leave was to label them as unable understanding the issues, easily manipulated, or worse, racist ‘little Englanders’.
Doesn’t this sound just like the working-class voters in places like Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Pennsylvania and other “deindustrialized” parts of the country? These voters used to reliably vote for Democrats, the party that watched out for working people. Donald Trump is appealing directly to these voters. Democrats should not dismiss these voters as “ignorant” or “racist.”
Trump Is A Fraud On Trade
The Economic Policy Institute’s (EPI) Robert Scott, speaking to VICE, summed up why Trump only appears to have the correct analysis on trade:
“Like a drive-by shooting, he fires enough bullets, he’s going to hit some things that might look like a policy that works,” Scott told VICE. “But it doesn’t have a coherence.”
“The problem with NAFTA is that we failed to effectively help Mexico develop as part of the agreement,” Scott continued. A good model, he said, was what wealthier European nations did for their neighbors like Greece and Spain decades ago, pumping money into their economies to create new markets for goods, thus making a Pan-European economy possible.
“We could create such a vision and implement a truly united North American economy that worked for everybody but nobody’s put that on the table,” he said. “Certainly Trump is not talking about that—he’s talking about building walls.”
It’s true that the way we have undertaken globalization has hurt the vast majority of working people in this country—a view that EPI has been articulating for years, and that we will continue to articulate well after November. However, Trump’s speech makes it seem as if globalization is solely responsible for wage suppression, and that elite Democrats are solely responsible for globalization. Missing from his tale is the role of corporations and their allies have played in pushing this agenda, and the role the party he leads has played in implementing it. After all, NAFTA never would have passed without GOP votes, as two-thirds of the House Democrats opposed it.
Republican efforts to drive wages down are the real culprit here:
Furthermore, Trump has heretofore ignored the many other intentional policies that businesses and the top 1 percent have pushed to suppress wages over the last four decades. Start with excessive unemployment due to Federal Reserve Board policies which were antagonistic to wage growth and friendly to the finance sector and bondholders. Excessive unemployment leads to less wage growth, especially for low- and middle-wage workers. Add in government austerity at the federal and state levels—which has mostly been pushed by GOP governors and legislatures—that has impeded the recovery and stunted wage growth. There’s also the decimation of collective bargaining, which is the single largest reason that middle class wages have faltered. Meanwhile, the minimum wage is now more than 25 percent below its 1968 level, even though productivity since then has more than doubled. Phasing in a $15 minimum wage would lift wages for at least a third of the workforce. The most recent example is the effort to overturn the recent raising of the overtime threshold that would help more than 12 million middle-wage salaried workers obtain overtime protections.
Trump in his “trade” speech also called for getting rid of corporate taxes and getting rid of regulations on corporations. He also opposes having any minimum wage at all. Trump and the Republicans are hardly friends of working people.
Opposing TPP Must Be In The Democratic Platform
British elites were surprised when working-class voters decided to “Brexit” and “Leave” the EU. They had been more-or-less complacent about the anger that working people are feeling out there as jobs leave the country, wages are stagnant or falling, work hours get longer for those who have jobs, and the rich just get richer.
Voting against opposition to TPP in the Democratic platform shows that Democrats appear to have the same complacency on trade.
Democrats must get this right. They have to stand up for working people and demand that our trade policies start helping people instead of hurting them. That starts with Clinton demanding that the president withdraw TPP from consideration by Congress.
Clinton must pledge to renegotiate all of our trade agreements, this time with labor, environmental, consumer, human rights and other “stakeholder” groups at the table. This is the best way to show the public that she is on their side.
Here are ways to help Democrats get to the right place on this, and put TPP opposition in the platform:
Here is a slideshow of my photos from the 2008 Democratic Convention. I will organize and post videos as soon as I can.
The button in the lower right of this slideshow frame lets you see these full-screen. The “Info On” button at the top lets you see captions.
I think it looks better with a higher resolution if you go to Flickr to see them. AND you can see and download much higher-resolution versions of each pic if you want.
Sorry I have not posted today. I have been in events and meetings all day. And then the long, long, hot walks covering vast distances between events – with no transportation.
There is just too much going on during a convention. This only happens every four years, a huge gathering of Democrats from all across the country. This is people who have been working hard for years to help elect the people who can restore our country. It is like a super Netroots Nation but with maybe 30-40,000 people here. The thing about it is, everyone here is ON OUR SIDE. So it is all brothers and sisters, everyone you talk to. Even the cab drivers are all for Obama. (Today’s driver was for Hillary but is for Obama now…) Progressive values: community. Everyone in it together, watching out for each other.
Question: was there a focus group that spat out the words, “I’d like to see the words, ‘Made In America’ again.” How many convention speeches have had those exact words in them?
Tell me — how does someone lose a computer battery? But I did! I’m OK: I have the huge, bulky extended battery in the computer. But where did the normal battery go? I’ll be buying a new one I guess.
In my email is the usual Costco Deals email. It just seems so strange to get an email like that on day three of this frantic whirlwind, hundreds of convention emails, TVs all around me here at the Big Tent blasting the convention. Costco Deals?
Anyway, I WILL be writing later, even if it is after I get back. I have a lot of things from this that I want to put into words.
OK, I am avoiding talking about what people are saying at the convention. Part of that is because when I look at a TV screen I see people talking about what people are saying at the convention but not showing you what people are saying at the convention.
But another part of it is that I am “inside the bubble” here and things are flying at me too fast to let me gather up an informed opinion. I know a lot less about what is happening on the stage at the convention than YOU do.