by Nathan Worob
The Democratic Party began as a vision of a political platform for homegrown ideas. It launched politicians like Andrew Jackson, Frederick Douglas, and Franklin Pierce, all notable figures among a vast plethora of others who supported American Conservatism, Slavery, Small Government, and other ideals. If any of them were to look at the official platform of their party today, they would be in total shock and mortification. Every single idea they fought to preserve, every national standard and traditional mechanism that their constituents held them to protect when they elected those leaders, has nearly been betrayed in a sweeping rush of modern thinking, new-age progressivism, and an unprecedented but welcomed ideology. The degree to which the Democratic Party has swung left has surprised and usurped the expectations of many politically-engaged individuals at every point across the country. Even Bernie Sanders, the man responsible for the loudest contribution for the party in the effort to lead it towards leftwards change, has approved of the new platform.
The Independent Senator from Vermont isn’t one to go without dealing criticism. Bernie Sanders has never backed down from an opportunity to fight the Democratic Party’s common adhesion to centrism, a consistency which he in large part contributes to his “Democratic Socialist” ideology. So when he describes the creation process for the platform as a “significant coming together” (which he did in his speech on the first night of the Democratic National Convention), judging it as being anything less than progressively acceptable even from the perspective of leading figures in progressivism such as Mr. Sanders simply doesn’t do the document justice. In many instances, this platform makes up for many past absences in leftism on the behalf of the Democratic Party. Three examples of this include racial policy, in that the current platform fully reverses the previously-upheld stances on mass incarceration by now channeling elements of the Black Lives Matter movement in calling for an end to it, as well as significant reformations to how police brutality is affected by systemic racism and implementing measures to help combat this. Another example would be management of wealth in the control of elites, not only by announcing opposition to the oligarchical Citizens United decision, but also in that the party is now to lead an effort to instill a Sanders-inspired Glass-Steagall Act of the 21st century, and in doing so will be helping to utilize public sector elements and governmental oversights to reign in Wall Street to prevent risks that it might take to potentially severely harm American consumers as it has done in the past. The third, but not the last, aspect that the platform has seen considerable progressive shift in is labor, wherein a $15/hour minimum wage was made front and center as an adaptive measure for the working class to be able to rely upon greater financial security and contained a call to end the subminimum wage both for workers with disabilities and for those who rely on tips; it also called for 12 weeks of paid family and maternal leave while advocating for 7 days per year of assured paid sick days. These are but a few examples of the positive ground that activists, politicians, and the American public have claimed in their fight within the Democratic Party for stronger progressive values.
When looked at from a “very left” perspective, one would be tempted to find holes in the language and identify the sometimes lackluster objectives of the 2016 platform. And those assertions would be merited. Various issues facing a troubled rural working class have yet to be adequately handled. Foreign Policy remains essentially as it was during the Obama administration, with many progressives feeling left out particularly by the lack of support for Palestinian causes. And the environmental section, albeit does recognize the existential and grandiose threat to our societal well-being that it climate change, lacks a plethora of specifics that are widely regarded as quintessential towards truly tackling the problem (a lack in ban on the practice of fracking being one of them). So when it comes to these complications, one need look only to the nature of a platform, and how its implementation can still very much encourage reliably leftwards ideological swings by future Democrats. Upon closer examination, in fact, one could easily determine that those future swings are encouraged, for three determining reasons: stronger embracement of the youth electorate, implementation of distance between the party and its long-held centrism, and the natural ambition brought about by the political vacuum it has yet to fill.
First of all, the embracement of the youth electorate in the platform is heavily unexpected. A near full-encapsulation and endorsement of the Sanders-backed plan for free public colleges, not to mention the more widely-supported aim of freedom from student loan debt, shows that the party is for once giving the age demographic that turns out to vote the least in number a level of attention it has for so long demanded, if not entirely than to a much greater extent than ever before. In doing so, the party climbs its way to reach the point where the ideologies of these passionate young voters are better encouraged by a Democratic political environment and therefore can better prosper in the future, when today’s voters become tomorrow’s candidates.
Secondly, there is notable distance after this convention that has not existed yet between the bulk of the party and its centrists. It is well-known that both the Democratic and Republican Parties have political ideological diversity, even if only a small amount. It also is well-known that both parties have leaned on its more moderate members as a measurement and model for leadership for their members. And so, unique to this year for modern American politics, it also is well-known that both parties have experienced vast influxes in more partisan ideas that, at least in the case of the Republican Party, have compromised the bulk of their consistent centrist dependencies. While it has not become engulfed by partisanship in the way that its rival party across the aisle has, the Democratic Party has felt a great rift between itself and its once-beloved centrism. This is both natural, given the growth in partisanship in America in general, and surprising, given the unprecedented audacity of the Sanders movement, and will likely give more momentum to progressive efforts in the future.
Lastly, this election presents the Democrats with a once-in-a-blue-moon opportunity to do something party elites can only usually dream of doing: reshaping national political standards due to a divergence in efficacy by the alternative party. And given the Republican presidential nominee, in being who he is, we are likely going to see a sweeping Democratic victory come November and a new playing field that the Party can operate on. If this truly comes to pass, there will inherently be far fewer restraints on exactly how far left the party can reach, given that it no longer has to consistently drive itself centrally in an effort to reach compromises for the sake of governmental efficiency. This new vacuum will be for the party to fill. There is no doubt that it will have room to grow leftwards now if not in the future, if for no other reasons than because not only do a growing number of its constituents demand it, but because it can.
Obviously, the document is far from perfect. But given the circumstances, it is a platform worth rallying around. Hillary Clinton will be fighting to push it and so will Democrats nationwide, so it is with them that I stand proud in this fight for a fairer and more progressive future for America.
Boston Regional Director: Nathan Worob, Northeastern