Progressive Democrats eke out minor gains in draft party platform

A victory by progressives is the inclusion of language explicitly opposing the expansion of Israeli settlements.

biden sanders
Progressive supporters of US Senator Bernie Sanders, left, have succeeded in inserting language about Medicare for All in the 2020 Democratic platform now being debated by party officials [File: Matt Rourke/AP Photo]

An early draft of the Democratic Party platform leaked on Wednesday night hints at some minor gains by the progressive wing of the party but falls short of endorsing many of the more contentious ideals of that camp such as defunding the police, legalising cannabis, and curtailing military aid to Israel.

The 80-page document obtained by the Politico news service includes a nod to former candidate Bernie Sanders’s signature issue, Medicare for All, despite such language being shunned by a “unity” task force of the two rival wings of the party in the last couple of weeks.

Overall, the platform shows the party being nudged to the left by Sanders and his acolytes in the progressive wing but not nearly the degree to which his supporters would have preferred. The Sanders camp did succeed, however, in locking in foreign policy language that is considerably less hawkish than previous Democratic platforms.

Jockeying for the final language of the platform – which will eventually be approved by delegates to the Democratic National Convention next month – will begin Monday when the Democratic National Committee’s platform committee takes up the proposal.

The Sanders wing is – at least publicly – pleased with the results of their lobbying so far.

“Support for Medicare for All has never been mentioned in a Democratic Party platform. Its inclusion now is significant,” Analilia Mejia, Sanders’s political director, who spearheaded the Vermont senator’s strategy on the platform drafting committee, told Politico. “The way we approach our movement is sometimes making big, rapid change, and sometimes it requires smaller gains that ultimately transform the discourse.”

Debate over the language in the platform has been going on for several weeks behind closed doors, in contrast to previous years when such discussions were more open. Among the most contentious issues to come up during the debate were healthcare, criminal justice reform and Israel.

As the debate progresses in the coming week, the Sanders wing of the party will continue pushing for further changes about the legalisation of cannabis, defunding the police and a harder line on Israel, all of which Biden has publicly opposed in the past.

Another major victory by the progressives is the inclusion of language explicitly opposing the expansion of Israeli settlements, illegal under international law, in the occupied territories, something the left wing attempted and failed to squeeze into the 2016 platform. The Sanders camp failed, however, to secure language in the document referring to Israel’s “occupation” of the West Bank and a call for placing conditions on military aid to the country.

“Democrats believe a strong, secure, and democratic Israel is vital to the interests of the United States,” the document reads. “Our commitment to Israel’s security, its qualitative military edge, its right to defend itself, and the 2016 Memorandum of Understanding is ironclad.”

It continues: “Democrats recognize the worth of every Israeli and every Palestinian. That’s why we will work to help bring to an end a conflict that has brought so much pain to so many. We support a negotiated two-state solution that ensures Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state with recognized borders and upholds the right of Palestinians to live in freedom and security in a viable state of their own.”

Sanders’s staff were also said to be pleased with the less hawkish foreign policy language in the new platform, including a call to wind down the “open-ended wars” in the Middle East and to de-escalate the conflict with Iran.

“Turning the page on two decades of large-scale military deployments and open-ended wars in the Middle East does not mean the United States will abandon a region where we and our partners still have enduring interests,” the document says. “Democrats believe it’s past time, however, to rebalance our tools, engagement, and relationships in the Middle East away from military intervention – leading with pragmatic diplomacy to lay the groundwork for a more peaceful, stable, and free region.”

Source: Al Jazeera