Bernie Sanders Appoints Progressive Legends to Democratic Platform Committee

by Tom Cahill

If Bernie Sanders’ committee appointees have their say, the 2016 Democratic Party platform may be the most progressive in history.

After it was announced Monday that the Vermont senator would get to appoint five out of the total fifteen members of this year’s platform drafting committee, Sanders appointed five progressive leaders advocating for a wide array of issues. Sen. Sanders’ picks are also incredibly diverse, with African American, Muslim, Native American, and female representation.

As The Hill reported, outspoken civil rights activist and professor Dr. Cornel West is the first pick to have a role in drafting this year’s Democratic Party platform. Joining him is U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), a superdelegate supporting Sanders who is co-chair of the Progressive Caucus and one of only two Muslim members of Congress.

In addition to West and Ellison, Sanders appointed Deborah Parker, vice chair of the Tulalip Tribes of Washington State, to serve on the platform committee. Dr. James Zogby, head of the Arab-American Institute, and founder Bill McKibben will also help write this year’s platform.

The lineup suggests Sanders will not only focus on the kitchen table economic issues that have defined his campaign, like a $15/hour minimum wage and universal healthcare coverage, but will also emphasize rights for indigenous peoples, criminal justice reform, and a carbon tax to combat climate change as part of the Democratic Party’s official platform for the next four years.

For example, McKibben wrote a viral article for Rolling Stone magazine in 2012 that laid out the case for bold climate solutions, including a carbon tax:

If you put a price on carbon, through a direct tax or other methods, it would enlist markets in the fight against global warming. Once Exxon has to pay for the damage its carbon is doing to the atmosphere, the price of its products would rise. Consumers would get a strong signal to use less fossil fuel — every time they stopped at the pump, they’d be reminded that you don’t need a semimilitary vehicle to go to the grocery store.

The appointments of Dr. Zogby, a prominent pro-Palestine scholar, and Rep. Ellison, who has compared Israel’s occupation of Gaza and the West Bank to South African apartheid, to the platform drafting committee could also mean that the resulting Democratic platform may include the recognition of the right of Palestinians to statehood.

While Democratic Party leaders have relented somewhat in allowing Sanders to appoint members of the platform drafting committee, Sanders still has no representation on the critically important Rules Committee, which constructs the process by which the party conducts its elections and allocates delegates.



Tom Cahill is a writer for US Uncut based in the Pacific Northwest. He specializes in coverage of political, economic, and environmental news. You can contact him at

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