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June 14, 2016
MEETING WITH HILLARY CLINTON
My campaign was over. With the completion of the DC primary on June 14, 2016, the Democratic presidential primary process had finally come to an end. Starting from nowhere, with a relatively unknown senator from a small state, our campaign had taken on virtually the entire Democratic establishment, shocked the political world, and helped transform American politics.
Starting off at about 3 percent in the polls, we ended up winning twenty-two states and received over 13 million votes. We showed that working people all over this country were prepared to support an agenda that stood up to the billionaire class and that called for the transformation of our economic and political life.
Most significantly, we had won overwhelming support from the young people of our country—black, white, Latino, Asian American, and Native American. This was the future of our country, and we ended up winning more votes from people under forty than Clinton and Trump combined. Young people had shown very clearly that they were tired of status quo politics and were prepared to accept a very new vision of what our country could become.
I was extremely proud that a poll conducted by the Harvard Institute of Politics suggested that our campaign had fundamentally changed the way that millennials think about politics. John Della Volpe, who conducted the poll, stated, “He’s not moving a party to the left. He’s moving a generation to the left.”
Despite losing 95 percent of the establishment superdelegates to Clinton, we won 1,846 delegates to the Democratic Convention.
With no super PAC or dependence on wealthy donors, we had also revolutionized campaign fund-raising. We received some 8 million individual contributions, from over 2 million people, more than any candidate in American history, averaging $27. Hundreds of thousands of volunteers played an active role in our grassroots campaign in every state, and we drew to our rallies some of the largest crowds in recent political history.
On the night of June 14, with the primary process over, Hillary Clinton and her key advisers John Podesta and Robby Mook sat down in a Washington, DC, hotel with my campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, my wife, Jane, and me. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the best way forward and to determine how we could most effectively work together to defeat Trump.
Coming into the meeting, I had a number of questions on my mind. In order to gain the support and enthusiasm of people who had voted for me, was Secretary Clinton willing to move closer to some of the popular positions that I had advocated during the campaign? Could we work together to write a progressive Democratic Party platform that made it crystal clear that we stood with the working families of our country? Could we begin the process of changing some of the archaic and antidemocratic rules of the Democratic Party and open the party up to working people and young people who currently felt little or no allegiance to it?
Those were some of my concerns. Clinton, legitimately enough, had other and more immediate interests. She wanted to know what kind of role I was prepared to play in the general election. When and how should I endorse her? What states would be best for me to focus on? How could we best work together at the convention in Philadelphia?
As is always the case, the devil was in the details. After reaching a general agreement at the meeting as to the best path forward, we trusted our staffs to work out the particulars over the next several weeks.
July 9, 2016
THE MOST PROGRESSIVE POLITICAL PLATFORM IN U.S. HISTORY
I have said it a million times, but I think it bears repeating. The campaign that I ran for president was never about me. It wasn’t about political gossip, campaign strategy, the horse race, or fund-raising.
The campaign was about creating a government and an economy that works for all of us, not just the top 1 percent. While the primaries were over, the fight for economic, racial, social, environmental, and political justice was not—not by a long shot.
As part of the political revolution, our next mission was to write the most progressive platform in the history of the Democratic Party: a platform that would live on beyond the campaign, and, more importantly, a platform that would serve as a beacon for Democratic candidates at the federal, state, and local levels. This would be a document that stated loudly and proudly what the Democratic Party was supposed to stand for.
Historically, the Democratic Party’s platform has been crafted largely behind closed doors, deep inside the corridors of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), by the staff of the presidential nominee. The final product is usually heavy on empty rhetoric but light on specific policy solutions. After the convention, the platform is forgotten about—and sits on a shelf somewhere, collecting dust.
We set out to change all of that, in terms of both process and content. After all, the 13 million Americans who voted for our campaign did not do so because of my good looks, my hair, or my charming personality. Well, maybe a few of them voted for my hair. But most of them supported me because of the issues I stood for, and because they were sick and tired of a political and economic system that was rigged to benefit those on top and was being held in place by a corrupt campaign finance system.
Shaping a platform for a political party when you didn’t win the nomination is not an easy task. The last runner-up in the Democratic primaries to contest the writing of the Democratic platform was Jesse Jackson, in 1988. Reverend Jackson ran an extraordinary and historic campaign that year, one that not only changed the nature of politics in America but helped create a new multiracial progressive movement. During his campaign, Jackson won nearly 7 million votes. I was proud to endorse his campaign and happy that he won the Vermont primary that year. Unfortunately, however, very few of his progressive positions were incorporated into the Democratic Party platform of 1988.
But this was not 1988. This was the year 2016, and something extraordinary had happened—something that, frankly, I had not anticipated. Millions of Americans had stood up and demanded fundamental changes in our economic and political life. Their voices could not be ignored, and the Democratic leadership understood that.
Our staff began to negotiate with the Clinton campaign and the DNC on how the platform would be written, who would write it, what would be included in it, and how it could be amended.
After a lot of back-and-forth, we agreed that there would be a platform-writing subcommittee comprising fifteen voting members and two nonvoting members. Our campaign would select five of the voting members, the Clinton campaign would choose six, and the rest would be chosen by the DNC. Maya Harris, Clinton’s senior policy adviser, and Warren Gunnels, my policy director, would be nonvoting members.
This subcommittee would be in charge of holding hearings, writing the first draft of the platform, amending it in St. Louis, and sending it to the full 187-member platform committee, which would meet in Orlando on July 8 and 9.
The DNC picked Representative Elijah Cummings of Maryland to chair the subcommittee. Elijah is a friend of mine, and an outstanding member of Congress. His selection as chair was an encouraging sign.
For our representation on the subcommittee, I picked Representative Keith Ellison, the co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus; Bill McKibben, the founder of 350.org and a leading champion in the fight against climate change; James Zogby, the founder of the Arab American Institute; Dr. Cornel West, one of the most important philosophers of our time; and Deborah Parker, a progressive leader in the Native American movement.
Clinton’s team picked Representative Luis Gutiérrez; Paul Booth, with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME); Carol Browner, President Bill Clinton’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator; Wendy Sherman, the lead negotiator of the Iran nuclear deal; Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress; and Ohio state representative Alicia Reece.
The DNC’s final three members were Representative Barbara Lee; Bonnie Schaefer, the former CEO of Claire’s Stores; and former Representative Howard Berman, now a lobbyist with the Motion Picture Association of America.
Even though the Sanders faction was in the minority and we could not pass any of our amendments on our own, the Clinton team and the DNC representatives negotiated in good faith. The goal was for both campaigns to work together to bridge many of the policy issues that had divided us during the election.
Did we come to an agreement on everything? Of course not. I was disappointed that, among other issues, the Clinton and DNC delegates opposed our amendments to enact Medicare for All, ban fracking, and oppose the job-killing Trans-Pacific Partnership.
But we made major strides forward.
The platform included the initiative I worked on with Clinton to make public colleges and universities tuition-free for families making $125,000 or less and to substantially reduce student loan debt. This proposal, if enacted into law, would revolutionize higher education in this country.
It also included another policy I worked on with Clinton, one that called for doubling the funding for community health centers. This initiative would increase primary care, including mental health care, dental care, and low-cost prescription drug access for an additional 25 million people.
While we weren’t able to include Medicare for All, Clinton’s team did include a public option to allow everyone in this country to participate in a public insurance program and to allow Americans between the ages of fifty-five and sixty-four to opt in to Medicare. These ideas had been killed by then-Senator Joe Lieberman and the insurance industry during the consideration of President Obama’s health care program.
During the proceedings in St. Louis and Orlando, we were victorious in including amendments in the platform that made it the policy of the Democratic Party to fight for:
• A $15-an-hour federal minimum wage indexed to inflation;
• Breaking up too-big-to-fail banks and passing a twenty-first-century Glass-Steagall Act;
• Levying a tax on carbon, methane, and other greenhouse gas emissions to aggressively combat climate change;
• Making massive investments in wind, solar, and other renewable energy;
• Requiring Medicare to negotiate for lower prescription drug prices and making it legal to import safe and affordable medicine from Canada and other countries;
• Abolishing the death penalty, ending mass incarceration, and enacting major criminal justice reforms;
• Establishing a path toward the legalization of marijuana;
• Expanding Social Security by increasing taxes on those making over $250,000 a year;
• Preventing employers from cutting the earned pension benefits of more than 1.5 million Americans;
• Closing loopholes that allow corporations to stash their cash offshore to avoid paying taxes, and using the revenue generated by this policy to create millions of jobs rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure;
• Making it easier for workers to join unions through majority card-check recognition and by ensuring a first contract through binding arbitration;
• Ending disastrous deportation raids, banning private prisons and detention centers, and passing comprehensive immigration reform;
• Moving to automatic voter registration and the public financing of elections, making Election Day a federal holiday, eliminating super PACs, and passing a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United; and
• Creating the most comprehensive agenda ever to protect and expand the rights of Native Americans and indigenous communities.
All of these progressive policies were at the heart of our campaign, and I was very proud of the accomplishment of our platform-writing team. I also appreciated the willingness of the Clinton team and the DNC to work with us and create a platform that we could all be proud of.
Normally, the media doesn’t pay much attention to the writing of a party platform. This time, it was different. This platform, and the process by which it was written, generated a whole lot of attention.
As NBC News headlined: “Democrats Advance Most Progressive Platform in Party History.”
They reported: “The draft platform … showed Sanders’ clear influence. The document goes further left than Clinton’s position on a number of issues, with Sanders policy director Warren Gunnels saying his campaign achieved ‘at least 80 percent’ of what it came for. ‘I think if you read the platform right now, you will understand that the political revolution is alive and kicking,’ he said.”
NBC also reported: “Clinton won the nomination and now effectively controls the party, but it was Sanders who drove the process in Orlando. While many questioned his decision to stay in the primary race long after losing the nomination, none of the progress of his ideas on the platform would have happened if he had dropped out.”
The media often worries about personality, gossip, polling, and gaffes. I worry about ideas and policy that will improve the lives of the working families of our country. The Democratic platform of 2016 is a very good blueprint for how we can do that. I am confident that the ideas expressed in that document will not be forgotten. They will, in fact, become the heart and soul of a growing progressive movement.
Copyright © 2018, 2019 by Bernard Sanders