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Zirpoli: Dems platform sought to please Sanders, supporters

They say that convention delegates represent the extreme elements of each party. This was certainly the case for the Democratic delegates sitting on the Democratic Platform Committee which published a very progressive platform. And it was certainly the case last week when Republicans published a very conservative platform.

The process to develop the Democratic platform was started by a 15-member draft committee made up of four members selected by the Democratic National Committee, six members selected by Secretary Hillary Clinton, and five members selected by Sen. Bernie Sanders. This distribution was decided to give Sanders' supporters a voice in larger proportion than the votes he received during the primary contest. But it was all about keeping Sanders happy and trying to win over his supporters. Did it work? Time will tell.

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The draft committee presented a working paper to the 187 member Democratic Platform Committee as a starting point for their work. The Platform Committee then held four regional public hearings to listen to voters in Washington, Phoenix, St. Louis, and Orlando. The committee then met for three days to complete a final draft which was approved on Monday night by all the delegates at their national convention held in Philadelphia this week.

Positions approved by Platform Committee were truly progressive: Increasing the federal minimum wage, a call to abolish the death penalty which is already illegal in many states, increasing monitoring of Wall Street transactions, a call to review existing trade agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and expanding health care to all Americans. The platform expresses concerns about the dangers of fracking, and supports greater access to higher education for more Americans through increased public support for community colleges. The platform also expresses support for labor groups and endorses specific policies to support unions.

At the end of the process, the Sanders' campaign stated that "We got 80 percent of what we wanted in this platform." But Sanders did not get everything he wanted. For example, he wanted the platform to call for a total ban on fracking which was not approved by a majority of committee members. The Sanders campaign did, however, win votes on climate change, healthcare, and the minimum wage. On this last issue, the Clinton campaign supported a $15 minimum in richer states and a $12 minimum in poorer states. But the committee eventually voted to support the $15 federal minimum supported by Sanders. These victories demonstrated the extent to which the Clinton campaign went to secure support from Sanders.

Unlike the GOP platform, a large part of the Democratic platform is dedicated to civil rights. The document states that "Above all, Democrats are the party of inclusion." Democrats "believe in protecting civil liberties and guaranteeing civil rights and voting rights, women's rights and workers' rights, LGBT rights and rights for people with disabilities." This was certainly a different message about the LGBT community than outlined in the GOP platform that called for "restoration therapy" to change the sexual orientation of gay people.

On the issue of immigration, the platform states that Democrats "are proud of our heritage as a nation of immigrants. We know that today's immigrants are tomorrow's teachers and soldiers, entrepreneurs and activists, PTA members, and pillars of their communities." Again, certainly a different approach to the immigration issue than that spelled out in the Republican platform.

The Democratic platform states that it will create more jobs by putting "Americans to work updating and expanding our" our nation's infrastructure and the creation of "an independent, national infrastructure bank that will support critical infrastructure improvements. The bank will provide loans and other financial assistance for investments in energy, water, broadband, transportation, and multi-modal infrastructure projects." This is an interesting proposal that could help poor cities like Flint, Michigan replace their water system poisoned by lead.

The platform calls for more action to "confront the epidemic of drug and alcohol addiction, specifically the opioid crisis, by vastly expanding access to treatment, supporting recovery, helping community organizations, and promoting better practices by prescribers." This issue was a major focus and topic of several speeches during the convention on Monday.

A copy of the Democratic Party platform is available at www.demconvention.com/platform/ and a copy of the Republican Party platform is available at www.gop.com/platform/.

Tom Zirpoli writes from Westminster. He is program coordinator for the human services management graduate program at McDaniel College. His column appears Wednesdays. Email him at tzirpoli@mcdaniel.edu.

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