Sen. Bernie Sanders was given unprecedented say over the Democratic Party platform Monday in a move party leaders hope will soothe a bitter split with backers of the longshot challenger to Hillary Clinton.
Sanders immediately used his new power to name a well-known advocate for Palestinian rights to help draft Democratic policy.
The Vermont senator, campaigning Monday ahead of California’s primary against Hillary Clinton, said his supporters hope the party will adopt a platform at the summer convention that reflects the needs of working families, the poor and young people, not Wall Street and corporate America.
Sanders said he will “condemn any and all forms of violence” but his campaign was welcoming political newcomers and first-time attendees of party conventions. He said the Democratic Party faces a choice of becoming more inclusive or maintaining the status quo.
“I think if they make the right choice and open the doors to working-class people and young people and create the kind of dynamism that the Democratic Party needs, it’s going to be messy,” Sanders said.
“Democracy is not always nice and quiet and gentle but that is where the Democratic Party should go.”
Sanders was allowed to choose nearly as many members of the Democratic Party platform-writing body as Clinton, who is expected to clinch the nomination next month. That influence resulted from an agreement worked out this month between the two candidates and party officials, the party announced Monday.
Clinton has picked six members of the 15-member committee that writes the platform, and Sanders has named five, the Democrats said Monday ahead of an expected announcement by the Democratic National Committee.
The math is based on the number of popular votes each has received to date, one official said. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chair of the DNC, will name four.
“This is unique in terms of the makeup of the platform drafting committee,” said James Roosevelt, co-chairman of the DNC’s rules and bylaws committee. “What it acknowledges is that the Democratic Party is committed to encompassing the broad range of views that Democrats have surfaced in this very substantive campaign between Secretary Clinton and Senator Sanders. And I think that is unusual but it is also very necessary because a unified Democratic Party will be strengthened by a full hearing for all views.”
DNC rules allow the chairman to pick the entire slate of 15 people who govern the platform that will be presented at the party convention in July. Past chairmen have done just that, in consultation with the White House or the winning Democratic candidate.
The change was made to be inclusive of Sanders supporters after the strong liberal challenge he mounted during a long and sometimes bitter primary. A main complaint of Sanders’s supporters is that party rules and procedures disproportionately favor Clinton. Some Sanders backers claim the system was “rigged” from the start to exclude a challenger.
The procedural concession represents an outreach from party elders aware that Sanders has tapped into a powerful anti-establishment current and concerned that it will be difficult to unite Democrats behind Clinton.
The platform committee is among the most important party bodies, since it writes the policy on which the presidential candidate runs and around which Democrats are supposed to rally. The platform is nonbinding, however, and presidents have ignored parts of it in the past.
Rep. Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, who will chair the committee, was named by Wasserman Schultz. Most others named by Wasserman Schultz and Clinton are party stalwarts or Clinton supporters — the establishment Sanders has railed against to great effect. Sanders’s picks include people from outside the usual sphere of party influence, including a Native American activist and author and racial justice activist Cornel West.
Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute in Washington and a frequent commentator on Arab-Israeli issues, previously served on the larger platform committee that will approve the document, but this is the first time he has served on the drafting committee, he said.
Sanders’s approach to Israeli-Palestinian issues is in line with most Democrats’ views, Zogby said in an interview. Sanders wants American policy to respect both Israel’s security concerns and Palestinian rights, he said.
“You need to find a way to meet the needs of both. To say we will satisfy one without the other is a recipe for failure” as peacemakers, Zogby said.
Sanders also named Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, among his most prominent elected backers, author and environmental activist Bill McKibben and Native American activist Deborah Parker.
Credits to: Washington Post