Sanders is taking the battle for a progressive platform all the way to the convention.
Sanders is taking the battle for a progressive platform all the way to the convention. Joseph Sohm /

Keep your eye on the ball, progressives.

Late last week, members of the Democratic National Committee adopted some important lefty positions after a marathon debate between the Sanders and Clinton appointees to its platform drafting board:

  • $15 minimum wage: The platform calls for a national $15 minimum wage and deems the current $7.32 wage a "starvation wage"—a longtime Sanders talking point. Clinton's position is that she supports higher wages but wants states to decide on the levels. Still, the AP reports:
    Sanders' allies wanted the draft to specify that the $15 minimum wage should be indexed with inflation. But Clinton's side struck down the amendment, noting that the document already included a call to "raise and index the minimum wage."
  • Abolish the death penalty: This is another Sanders position that was adopted. Clinton still wants to use the death penalty in "heinous" cases.
  • Regulating banks: The platform calls for the passage of "an updated and modernized version of Glass-Steagall" to separate commercial and investment banking. Clinton has talked in vague terms about cracking down on Wall Street. Sanders wanted to reinstate the Glass-Steagall act.
But the Sanders wing of the platform committee lost out on some big issues as well:

  • The Trans-Pacific Partnership: The outcome here is deeply illustrative of the existential divide within the party. Clinton backed the TPP as Secretary of State, but flip-flopped on the issue during the primary and now opposes it. Still, her appointees on the DNC platform committee rejected language expressing opposition to the deal, saying it wouldn't be right to contradict President Obama's support for the trade pact. Sanders called their position "inexplicable."
  • Israel-Palestine: The Democratic Party refuses to call Israel's occupation by its name. AP:
    The committee defeated an amendment by Sanders supporter James Zogby that would have called for providing Palestinians with 'an end to occupation and illegal settlements' and urged an international effort to rebuild Gaza.

Plus, "Sanders lost a lengthy battle over expansion of Medicare into a universal single-payer health-care system," the Washington Post reports. "Sanders allies were also unsuccessful in pressing for a ban on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and a carbon tax to address the effects of climate change."

Clinton, we know, is a big fan of fracking.

Sanders has vowed to keep fighting on these issues with proposed amendments to the platform at the Democratic Convention on July 8.

This is exactly what Sanders should be doing. He has said he will vote for Clinton and tacitly conceded the nomination. But rather than quietly folding his influence into the Clinton campaign and disappearing, he is leveraging his campaign's extraordinary run—nobody had expected him to attract 12 million primary voters, or nearly all young voters, for that matter, and seriously challenge Clinton for the nomination—in order to drag the party leftward on the economy, the environment, racial justice, and foreign policy.

This approach by Sanders doesn't undermine the chances of defeating Trump—it strengthens them. Adopting insurgent, populist positions that buck the elite consensus will help Democrats tap into the anti-establishment mood among voters and turn out their progressive base. The party will hew to the corporatist center at its peril.