Sanders May Have Just Won Something Bigger than the Presidency
"We intend to win every delegate that we can so that when we go to Philadelphia in July, we are going to have the votes to put together the strongest progressive agenda that any political party has ever seen." - Bernie Sanders, April, 2016
Win or lose, Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders has made his permanent mark on this year's election by securing a progressive majority on the platform committee of the DNC.
Each election year, the respective parties draft platforms that represent 'their' stance on American politics, giving voters insight into the types of policies that will be enacted and guidance to down-ballot political hopefuls.
These platforms are usually fairly long, mostly dry material that is filled with the status quo of the party line mantra (see 2012's DNC platform).
But this year could be different in the Democrat's platform. Sanders didn't outright 'force' a progressive membership; his campaign was given 5 seats, the Clinton campaign 6 seats, and the DNC chair, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, selected the final 4 seats.
But Sanders' overall influence on the campaign was what tipped the balance -- all of his picks are progressives, 4 of Clinton's are moderately progressive, and 2 of Wasserman Schultz's, including the chairperson, are solidly backing progressive Democratic ideals.
And while the chairperson of the committee, Elijah Cummings, backs Clinton, he's definitely given her a warning of the times:
"My advice to [Clinton] would be to try to first of all embrace the types of things that Bernie Sanders is talking about and speak to the needs of those folks who really want to be supportive of progressive policies, and to me that’s most important."
With the committee now stacked with progressive voices, 11 of 15 seats, much of Sanders' ideology is likely to become the DNC platform for 2016, issues like the $15 per hour minimum wage, climate change, increased banking regulation, and a stronger progressive tax code.
The real question becomes: Can Clinton actually effectively campaign bound to this platform?
There is no doubt that Clinton has had to lean more progressive than she would have liked during the primary -- her strategy was solidly the 'moderate Democrat' strategy that has been successfully employed by every winning Democratic candidate since the Carter administration. Democratic campaign orthodoxy has been to win the 'center' from the beginning, appease the far-left during the general election with concessions (almost the direct opposite strategy of every successful Republican candidate in modern times).
Even worse, will the progressive Democrats currently backing Sanders actually believe her and throw their support behind her?
In the next two months, we will see a political evolution within the Democratic Party that has been unheard of in modern times -- with the rank-and-file Democratic voters forcing the issues important to them into the agenda.
Clinton needs a progressive running mate to help shore up her weakness in this area, one that Sanders' supporters can get excited about, and one that can play the traditional role of the vice-president of 'attack dog,' defending the party's platform.
Her choice may very well make or break her campaign.
Because while she's almost certainly going to be the Democratic nominee, Bernie Sanders is now laying out the agenda and platform she's going to have to follow for the general election.