This article is based on a Truthout Op-Ed published August 21, 2020.
NASHVILLE, TN – Medicare for All, legalizing marijuana, and ending fossil fuel subsidies didn’t make it onto the Democratic Party platform for the 2020 Election. Viewers didn’t hear about them during the recently concluded Democratic National Convention.
According to one Sanders delegate to the Rules Committee, these issues are ones the majority of Democrats support. And they are the key to growing the party. But the “Old Guard” is still in control. Shana East said that a “Unity Resolution” between the Sanders and Biden campaigns forestalled any debate within the party on these popular issues prior to the convention (See Big Tent ) .
Two senior Sanders operatives, Jeff Weaver and Larry Cohen, Chair of Our Revolution, acted as lead negotiators on behalf of the Sanders wing unbeknownst to the rest of Sanders members on three standing committees: Rules, Platform, and Credentials. On the eve of the Rules Committee meeting in July, East said a lawyer told to drop her proposed amendments and if she didn’t, other members would be instructed to vote against them. That is what happened, according to East.
“In our Rules Committee meeting, the chat function was closed. At one point, when a motion was made to table an important amendment on preventing lobbyist from being DNC members, I had to write my motion to un-table on a piece of paper and hold it up to my laptop’s camera — and it was still ignored by Chairs Barney Frank and Maria Cardona,” East said.
Cardona is an at-large DNC member, Rules Committee co-chair and principal at lobbying firm Dewey Square Group; Barney Frank, Rules Committee co-chair, has received $1 million in payments from Signature Bank, according to Sludge.
East said the DNC placed members who were there to fight for progressive policies in a separate Zoom “breakout room” where they could not be heard unless they were unmuted by the moderator.
“This violated the very rules set by the parliamentarian at the beginning of the meeting, which stated that the meeting was to be public,” East said. Others corroborated her story.
“I submitted nine amendments on climate and some of them were dropped without my consent. This is both against the rules and undemocratic,” said John Laesch, a Sanders member of the Platform Committee. “I would have understood if they wanted to change a few words, but they wanted to eliminate any reference to eliminating fossil fuel subsidies for enhanced oil recovery, the fossil fuel industry’s plan to address the climate crisis.”
In his acceptance speech Thursday, Biden said he would invest heavily in clean energy. If fossil fuel subsidies continue, can Biden deliver on that promise?
Lynn Casey-Maher, a Sanders member of the Credentials Committee, had a similar story. “I felt that all our committee member voices were excluded. We were supposed to follow Robert’s Rules. A tech person then told us that we were in a separate ‘room’ and that the committee chairs could not hear us. So, in reality we were in a meeting, yet not in a meeting. He said he relayed our questions and concerns to the chairs and told us all motions were seconded in advance of the meeting,” said Casey-Maher.
“That is when we knew we were being silenced. Even though this was a virtual situation that made committee meetings more difficult, shutting down people’s work and voices on Rules and Platform is a disservice to the party. If new ideas are not heard, how else can we grow?”
Growing the party is not a DNC priority. Defeating Donald Trump is. “For them, incorporating more, new and diverse voices would simply be too risky,” East said.
Right now, it looks like Biden-Harris will beat Trump-Pence but you never know. If Trump wins another term, it will confirm a hard truth: the DNC is more concerned about maintaining control of the party than winning an election. It is the Young Turks who have their hands on the pulse of the nation.
And if Biden-Harris does prevail it will require an extraordinary effort, nothing short of FDR’s New Deal to keep the promises they made last week. After all the election hoopla subsides, the long battle for the soul of the party will continue. It is a fight between generations: one that made deals that undermined American democracy and one that wants to remake it without corporate lobbyists running the show.
Biden said he wants to build America back better. He won’t do it unless he unloads a lot of baggage the party has carried for special interests far too long.