Party patience wears thin for progressives

PROGRESSIVE PODIUM #2 — by Dennis Obduskey, PDC Vice-Chair

Aside from both starting with the letter “P,” Patience and Progressives have little in common.

The leadership du jour of the national-level Democratic Party wants you to believe that the playing field is level, while it controls the structure of the organization in such a way as to direct the narrative at the expense of the majority. That is inexcusable for an entity that purports to be representative of most Americans, and changing this is a battle we must and will win to remain relevant.

Party Rules may seem like an “inside baseball” issue that only nerds like myself follow, but when a report by Sludge this past February uncovered that two-thirds of the 32-member DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee have backgrounds in corporate influence and corporate legal defense that present possible conflicts of interest for their work on the party rules, you have to take notice. Just prior to the National Convention, a proposal before the Convention Rules Committee to reduce corporate influence over the party sought to permanently bar corporate PAC donations and ban corporate lobbyists from serving on the DNC.

But who votes?

Every state gets three members on the 187-member committee, allocated based on Presidential preferences, along with a handful of representatives from US possessions, DC, and Dems Abroad. The rules also allow for the Chair of the DNC to appoint 25 members of his or her choosing.

Perez appointed as Rules Chairs former Rep. Barney Frank, who serves on the Board of Directors of New York commercial bank Signature Bank, and Maria Cardona, a principal at Dewey Square Group, a lobbying and public relations firm that worked for the insurance industry during the debate over health care reform early in the Obama presidency.

Of course, after some virtual meeting controversy, the committee rejected the change 2 to 1, though there was agreement to maintain limitations on use of superdelegates and conduct “further work” to see what other reforms are needed – and clearly the undue influence of the National Party Chair is one of those.

We have long said that, until we get the influence of money out of politics, things won’t change, and immediately following this November election, we must use our influence and numbers to again continue to take on the improprieties in OUR PARTY and it’s structure.  The party is not the DNC, the DCCC, the DSCC, or other sets of acronyms. It is us, and our patience is running thin.

The Party Platform is a core issue for me.

I’ve had the honor of now completing my third term as co-chair of the state Platform Committee, appointed by two different state party chairs.  I enjoy the work, as unlike some who want to dismiss the process as irrelevant, I believe if handled fairly, the Platform leads the Party.  I enjoy working through different views and love the big tent our state party represents.  In general, our state Platform is highly Progressive and draws upon the efforts from counties and House Districts throughout.  I’ve been involved with it for more than a decade and it is rare that differences of opinions can’t be worked out.

The National Party Platform is another matter. I’ve also been honored to represent Colorado Democrats and Senator Bernie Sanders on the national Platform Committee, both in 2016 and again this year.

Searching for the national Platform over on the DNC website, you will find this statement:

“Every four years, Democrats from across the country join together to craft our party’s platform.  The platform is created to uplift working people and write out the values that will guide our party for years to come.”

I’m incredibly proud to have been a member of this group, and I have been able to incorporate some serious issues both cycles, but as far as the DNC Statement goes, I call B.S..

Unlike in Colorado where members of the Platform Committee are not tied to any particular political candidate, the national committee starts with another group of members appointed by the DNC Chair, which “trumps” the will of the members on the committee, even if they were “allowed” to “vote their conscience.”

It’s particularly sad to see when topics such as “Medicare for All” or a “single-payer healthcare system” are accepted by the majority of Americans, yet because of a process that gives a candidate veto-power over widely accepted ideas, our Platform ends up endorsing “Affordable, Quality Healthcare” instead.  I call B.S., and I can tell you, now that I just turned 65 and am using Medicare, I understand why people have been forced to go to Mexico or Canada to get their prescription drugs. This very issue caused me to join more than a thousand other national delegates to vote NO to adopt the party platform during the convention. 

Here, Tom Perez skirted the rules and failed to announce the votes during the Convention, as is required under the Party’s rules. He knew it would be embarrassing on a night that was to feature a lengthy presentation about healthcare as part of the Convention coverage. I started a petition to require it be reported while others put together email chains and demands via DNC members.

Here’s how it was reported on Fox News:  “Party officials apparently released the vote totals after pressure from Sanders delegates.”

It’s another example of the tone-deaf leadership that must be eliminated from the DNC in the future.  By refusing to announce the votes during the convention, it basically dismissed the views of a quarter of the delegates, who deserved for their voices to be heard.

As part of the platform process, I offered a very “Colorado” amendment to support legalization of marijuana as a national policy, already a part of our state Platform and something supported by the majority of Americans, that was turned by Biden “task group” members into “allowing the states to make up their own minds on recreational legalization.” It ignores the fact that more than 600,000 are arrested annually on drug charges and the majority of them for marijuana possession – and that 5 of 6 arrestees are people of color.   Our nominee has a “deeply held personal belief” concerning legalization, which I respect, but that should in no way “trump” the will of the majority if the party platform is truly representative of views we will fight for.

Other amendments I offered, only to see them vetoed by the Biden campaign: Remove 120+ references to Trump in OUR platform; consider a Wall Street transaction tax, supported by Biden, Sanders, Warren, and others to raise $777 billion; a 10% cut in military spending to reinvest in health care, education, mitigating extreme poverty, and humane incarceration; Support for public banks; accountability beyond fines for corporations that abuse the public trust; declaring “occupation” of the West Bank. All of these were killed without discussion.

Matters that were incorporated: Broadband support in education in rural areas and on tribal lands; improving funding to help low-income litigants in civil court; making mortgage ownership records public and available, including who the money is really owed to; fixing our bankruptcy laws so people don’t risk being homeless over a medical debt; giving bankruptcy judges the ability to modify residential first mortgages (currently ok for yachts and 2nd homes, just not primary mortgages), and fast-track citizenship for deported veterans.

Ideas that were considered “radical” only a few years ago are now mainstream.  That’s how the Platform is supposed to work, when people drive the process rather than politicians.  Our national party leadership has continued to let far too many lobbyists and too much corporate money corrupt our system, and we need to make 2021 the next step in getting back to the grassroots and demanding the politicians run to represent the people.

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