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Unpacking the New Democratic Party Platform

BY: Nicole Donelan

The Democratic Party has begun to unveil its 2020 party platform ahead of the Democratic National Convention this August. The 80-page draft covers a myriad of social and economic issues, with broader goals such as strengthening the economy, securing universal and affordable healthcare, reforming criminal justice, and repairing divisiveness, among many more. 

While the party platform certainly leaves no stone unturned when it comes to pressing domestic issues, it has left a lot to be desired for the progressive wing of the party. As NPR pointed out, “rather than backing a single mandatory government-run health insurance program… [the platform] calls for adding a public option to the existing Affordable Care Act.” Although this would increase the availability and affordability of health insurance, it comes at a time when Medicare for All has become an essential policy point for progressives and an increasing popular idea among Americans. An amendment to include a single-payer system was overwhelmingly rejected by the DNC.

The platform draft also drew the ire of progressives in support of legalizing marijuana. The Democratic National Committee voted 106-50 against including the legalization of marijuana in their 2020 platform, instead opting for decriminalization, a position favored by presumptive presidential nominee Joe Biden. Legalizing marijuana, especially for medical and recreational use, has become an issue increasingly popular among Americans from all sides of the political spectrum, with 67% of people polled in a 2019 Pew Research Center study saying they supported legalizing the drug. While decriminalization would reduce the number of people imprisoned on nonviolent marijuana possession charges, it would still classify marijuana possession as a civil offence or minor misdemeanor for which one could be fined. And those possessing more than the small amounts that fall under decriminalization laws could still be subject to harsher punishments.

Supporters of Palestine also expressed disapproval at the party platform for its refusal to include language acknowledging the “occupation” of the West Bank by Israel. While the platform “recognizes the worth of every Israeli and every Palestinian” and seeks an end to the conflict between Israel and Palestine via a “negotiated two-state solution,” the Democrats were also steadfast in their support of Israel as an ally and as a recipient of U.S aid, saying their “commitment to Israel’s security, its qualitative military edge, its right to defend itself, and the 2016 Memorandum of Understanding is ironclad.” The platform also noted its support of recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, reflecting a controversial statement made by President Trump in 2017. Both Israel and Palestine claim Jerusalem as their capital.

New York State Senator Jessica Ramos has also claimed that the party refused to include an amendment regarding corporate PACs and lobbyists being involved with the DNC, voting down the amendment 105-45. This is in contrast to the push to ban corporate PACs from contributing to campaign finance, made popular by progressive Senators Sanders and Warren.

Tension between progressives and moderates over this new party platform further highlights the ongoing ideological split among Democrats and calls into question the ability of the party to retain its progressive voter base in the future. Even progressives themselves struggle to unify; the dueling hashtags of “#demexit” and “#settleforbiden” that have become popularized during this election cycle show that they are grappling with the decision to stick it out with the Democratic Party under a harm-reductionist mindset for 2020 or distance themselves from the party altogether. While much of the DNC party platform was informed by the Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force, it has still not prevented progressives from launching the policy criticisms mentioned above, nor has it stopped infighting within the Democratic Party. While it is undeniable that Sanders, Warren, and the progressive wing of the Democratic party have pushed Biden further left, it is clear that these concessions will not completely address the concerns made by these voters.

*All arguments made and viewpoints expressed within Youth In Politics and its nominal entities do not necessarily reflect the views of the writers or the organization as a whole.


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