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Democratic Party Platform 2016

Democratic Party Platform 2016

Every four years political parties develop a “party platform”—a formal set of principal goals the party supports which is used to appeal to the general public.

They put energy into creating discreet components of the platform known as “planks” which are used to appeal to specific constituencies while the overall platform is ultimately put forward to garner public support.

So what?, you ask.

Well, many say the party platform is aspirational, but increasingly, a lot of people have come to believe that the party platform holds no real power and is irrelevant.

In looking back over the years at Democratic Party Platforms endorsed when the Democratic nominee won the presidency, I found the following verbage:

  • 2012 - We believe in an America where everybody gets a fair shot and everybody plays by the same set of rules. At the core of the Democratic Party is the principle that no one should face discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, language, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability status.
  • 2008 - Minorities have been hit particularly hard—in 2006, more than 40 percent of the home loans made to Hispanic borrowers were subprime, while more than half of those made to African Americans were subprime. We will work to end housing discrimination and to ensure equal housing opportunity.
  • 1996 - For 220 years, America has been defined by a single ideal: Opportunity for all who take the responsibility to seize it. Tough punishment. We believe that people who break the law should be punished, and people who commit violent crimes should be punished severely. President Clinton made three-strikes-you're-out the law of the land, to ensure that the most dangerous criminals go to jail for life, with no chance of parole.
  • 1992 - A national public works investment and infrastructure program will provide jobs and strengthen our cities, suburbs, rural communities and country. We will encourage the flow of investment to inner city development and housing through targeted enterprise zones and incentives for private and public pension funds to invest in urban and rural projects. While cracking down on redlining and housing discrimination,
  • 1976 - We must be absolutely certain that no person is excluded from the fullest opportunity for economic and social participation in our society on the basis of sex, age, color, religion or national origin. Minority unemployment has historically been at least double the aggregate unemployment rate, with incomes at two-thirds the national average. Special emphasis must be placed on closing this gap.

Since 1976, there have been changes in the party platforms but some things remain the same which begs the question -- what good is a party platform and how do we hold the party accountable for what it says it is going to deliver or better yet, how do we help them to deliver on their promises?

This year, with the phenomenal performance of Bernie Sanders, many progressives hope to hold the party's feet to the fire using the platform developed, in large part, by several progressive leaders.

This year, the Democratic Party Platform will be developed with input from thought leaders from various sectors. As the 2016 Democratic Presidential front runner, Hillary Clinton chooses six of those thought leaders, Bernie Sanders chooses five, and the Chair of the Democratic National Committee, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, selects four.

Here is the line up:

Hillary Clinton's Picks:

  • Neera Tanden – President of the Center for American Progress, a progressive public policy research and advocacy organization. Worked with both Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton in various capacities. First-generation, American born to immigrant Indian parents.
  • Wendy Sherman – Senior Fellow at Harvard Kennedy School's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. Served as Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, the fourth-ranking official in the U.S. Department of State. Former social worker. Born to a prominent Jewish family.
  • Paul Booth - Executive assistant to AFSCME President Lee Saunders. Led AFSCME organizing in Illinois and then nationally in the ‘80s and ‘90s. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) is the largest trade union of public employees in the United States.
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  • Luis Guitierrez – Member of the U.S. House of Representatives representing the 4th Congressional District of Illinois. An outspoken proponent of worker's rights, gender equlity, and LGBT rights. Rep. Guitierrez is of Puerto Rican descent.
  • Alicia Reece – Member of the Ohio House of Representatives. Reece is the vice-chair of the Ohio Women's Democratic Caucus. An African American with a history of civi rights activism, Reece is a graduate of Grambling.
  • Carol Browner – Former EPA Administrator, Secretary of Environmental Regulation for Florida. Browner is also a lawyer, environmentalist and businesswoman.

Bernie Sanders' Picks:

  • Cornel West – American philosopher, academic, social activist, author, and pubic intellectual. The first African American to graduate from Princeton with a Ph.D in philosophy. A frequent media commentator on political and social issues who focuses on the role of race, gender, and class in American society.
  • James Zogby – Founder and president of the Arab American Institute (AAI), a Washington, D.C.–based organization which serves as a political and policy research arm of the Arab-American community. He is Managing Director of Zogby Research Services, LLC, specializing in research and communications and undertaking polling across the Arab world.
  • Keith Ellison – A member of the U.S. Representative representing Minnesota's 5th Congressional District since 2007. Ellison is the first Muslim to be elected the the U.S. Congress. He is also the first African American elected to the House of Representatives from Minnesota.
  • Bill McKibben – An American environmentalist, author, and journalist who has written extensively on the impact of global warming. He is the Schumann Distinguished Scholar at Middlebury College and leader of the anti-carbon campaign group He has authored a dozen books about the environment, including his first (The End of Nature) in 1989 about climate change.
  • Deborah Parker – A former vice chairman of the Tulalip Tribes in Washington, Parker is a Native American who was an early Bernie Sanders supporter and an outspoken advocate for American Indian and Alaska Native issues.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz's Picks:

  • Barbara Lee – A member of the U.S. House of Representatives representing the 13th Congressional District of California. Lee has been in Congress since 1998. She's held several leadership positions and gained national attention when she was the only member of Congress to vote "No" on the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists
  • Elijah Cummings – A member of the U.S. House of Representatives representing the 7th Congressional District of Maryland. Cummings has been in Congress since 1996. Cummings is a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and served as Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus.
  • Howard Berman – An attorney and former U.S. Representative. Berman served in the U.S. House of Representatives for 30 years. Vacating his seat in 2013, Berman served California's 28th Congressional District.
  • Bonnie Schaefer – Former Co-CEO and Co-Chairman of the Board of Claire’s Stores, Inc., the leading international specialty retailer offering value-priced costume jewelry and accessories to fashion-aware tweens.

Every four years the parties convene a platform committee whose members expend quite a bit of time laboring over the words that will be incorporated into the document that will ultimately represent the aspirations of the party. The American Presidency Project, a non-profit organization affiliated with the University of California, Santa Barbara, has archived political party platforms dating back to 1840. In addition to the party platforms, their data base contains 117,510 documents related to the study of the Presidency.


Sharon Kyle
Publisher, LA Progressive