Sanders Policy Advisor: The Political Revolution Continues to Philadelphia
Bernie Sanders policy advisor Warren Gunnels says though there were losses in the DNC platform draft over TPP and fracking, there were victories for progressives over federal reserve policy, financial regulation, and the death penalty
SHARMINI PERIES, TRNN: It’s the Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore.
Last Week the Democratic National Convention’s Platform Committee wrapped up its draft ahead of the DNC convention that will be taking place in Philadelphia. Several progressive stances proposed by the Sanders appointees to the committee were rejected. Such as opposing TPP, the trade plan, and banning of fracking, promoting single payer healthcare, a $15 minimum wage pegged to inflation, and ending the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
Dr. Cornel West a Sanders appointee to the drafting committee abstained from the final passing of the draft. Now this draft will be going forward to Orlando, Florida next week ahead of the DNC convention in Philadelphia.
Joining us now to discuss all of this is Warren Gunnels. He’s the Senior Policy Director for the Sanders Campaign. He has also served as the Minority Staff Director on the Senate Budget Committee for Senator Sanders. He has been working with Senator Sanders for more than 17 years on economic policy, financial services, and retirement issues.
Warren, so good to have you with us.
WARREN GUNNEL: Well it’s great to be here. Thank you very much.
PERIES: Warren, many of Sanders’ followers are feeling defeated after that Platform Committee exchanges and testimonies were just completely disregarded by the committee in terms of the final draft. What happened and what can we expect leading up to Orlando?
GUNNEL: Thank you very much for the question. First I want to start off with we did have some significant defeats in St. Louis. But we also achieved a great deal that hasn’t gotten much attention. So I’d like to talk to you a little bit about what was achieved in St. Louis. We were able to work with the Clinton campaign on clear language calling for the breakup of too big to fail financial institutions. For a modern day version of the Glass-Steagall Act to begin to make banking boring again and to make sure that we don’t have another financial crisis like we did in 2008.
We were able to get language in the platform to abolish the death penalty which is a stance that Senator Sanders has had for decades. And there was disagreement there on the campaign. Campaign Secretary Clinton was saying that she supported the death penalty in limited circumstances but we were able to get all of the members of the Platform Drafting Committee in St. Louis to agree to make it the policy of the Democratic Party to oppose the death penalty.
We were able to get language in the platform to remove conflicts of interests at the Federal Reserve so you don’t have a situation where Jamie Diamond, the CEO of JP Morgan as Director of the New York Feds Board. We were able to get language to make it clear that that should not happen. And there were a number of other very important achievements that we made to rebuild America. Creating millions of jobs, rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure, paid for by closing the tax loopholes that allow corporations like General Electric and IBM and other companies to shift their profits and their jobs overseas to avoid paying US federal income taxes.
So we achieved some very important victories. It was not all that we hoped to achieve. Now the next step is to have the draft platform move from St. Louis to Orlando where there will be 187 members that will continue to markup the platform. Our goal is to make sure that the Democratic Platform is the most progressive in the history of the Democratic Party. We’re going to take amendments there to make it clear that we need a $15 federal minimum wage.
In the year 2016, no one who works 40 hours a week should be living in poverty. And we need particularly to make it clear that it’s the policy of the Democratic Party to oppose a vote on the disastrous Trans-Pacific Partnership that would make it easier for corporations to ship jobs to Vietnam where the minimum wage is only 65 cents an hour, to increase prescription drug prices, to erode our democracy through the investor state dispute settlement system, and to reward some of the worst human rights violators in the world. So we need to make it clear that the Democratic Party stands strongly on the side of working people, environmentalists, and human rights activists in rejecting the TPP. That’s another major issue that we’re going to be taking there.
We also need to have a very strong amendment to band fracking. In New York, the environmental regulators have told us in very crystal clear language that there is no amount of regulation that can make fracking safe. And at a time when we’re all concerned about safe and clean drinking water, we cannot allow our drinking water to be poisoned by the chemicals that go into the fracking problem. So that’s another very important amendment that we’ll be taking to Orlando.
Another one would be to establish a tax on carbon. We had a hearing in Phoenix, Arizona, the members of the drafting committee, and we heard from one of the leading experts on climate, Dr. Michael man from Penn State University. And he said that we need to establish a carbon tax as soon as possible to make sure that this planet is habitable for our children and grandchildren. So we need to take that—the Democratic Party needs to be the party of science. It’s not good enough to be better than Donald Trump. We’ve got to make sure that we have a planet that’s healthy, inhabitable for our children and grandchildren, and we need to continue to rebuild the disappearing middle class and make sure that we have a government that works for all of our people and not just those on top.
PERIES: Warren, many people particularly many followers of the Real News Network who were keenly watching the testimonies and the debates and the discussion that was going on at the Platform Committee aren’t as optimistic as you are here. There wasn’t a lot of hope after that final draft, particularly with Cornel West and the position he took. Now what hope do you have in terms of going forward to Orlando in terms of getting bigger part of your demands met there?
GUNNELS: Well I think one of the reasons for that issue is because no one has actually read everything that’s in the Democratic Platform. What you saw in St. Louis was a debate on amendments that we wanted to get into the Platform to improve it. But I think that today you will see actually what’s in the Democratic Platform. And I think that there are several issues that progressives can be proud of.
On the postal service, we’ve got very strong language in there to reinstate strong overnight delivery standards and to expand jobs at the postal service instead of cutting them. We’ve got very strong language in there that will allow banking services to be provided in every single post office in this country.
So you won’t have low income people that would have to depend on payday lenders and check cash facilities that can charge interest rates of 300-400% for loans and sky high fees to cash checks. Instead we would have the post office offer those services at a much more reasonable cost and we think that will go a very long way, something that progressives have fought for as hard and we can. I think that we’ve made substantial progress on that front.
I think that there is hope because if you look at the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Secretary Clinton’s campaign has said that there’s absolutely no daylight between Senator Sander’s position on the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Secretary Clinton’s position on the Trans-Pacific Partnership. If that’s true and we do believe—we have every reason to believe that is true, her Platform Committee members should vote for our amendment.
PERIES: But they didn’t Warren. But they didn’t. Clearly if what you’re saying about the TPP is correct and Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are on the same page, when it comes to that trade deal, is Hillary Clinton not instructing her Platform Committee to represent her point of view? And even if she were, is it really possible with Debbie Wasserman-Schultz being appointed as the head of the Platform Committee as well as the Rules Committee? Two things that are at the heart of Senator Sanders’ campaign in terms of what he needs to change in order to support Hillary Clinton and her candidacy for president.
GUNNELS: That’s absolutely right and we’re very disappointed on that. But the thing is there’s a process. We lost in St. Louis. Now we’re going to bring it to Orlando. There are different members–Orlando’s 187 members. In St. Louis, there were just 15 members. And so what we’re working on right now is we’re working with labor unions, we’re working with the environmental community.
We’re working with progressive organizations like Campaign for America’s Future: A Democracy for America, we’re working with the American Postal Workings Union and the Communication Workers of America. They just sent out a petition. So there are a number of Platform Committee members in Orlando that represent labor unions that have all come out strongly opposed to the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
PERIES: Some labor unions as you know, other labor unions on the committee had opposed the position put forward by McKibben in terms of fracking and other issues.
GUNNELS: Well in terms of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, every trade union in this country has come out–they came out a strong opposition to fast track and they are strongly opposed to the Trans-Pacific Partnership. That’s one of the main issues that we’re going to be bringing to Orlando. Jim Hightower is going to be offering that amendment in Orlando and we’re going to make the case. This is a political revolution and what Senator Sander has been talking about that if we want change, change never comes from the top down. It always comes from the bottom up. So I hope all of your listeners will contact Secretary Clinton’s campaign, ask her to support Jim Hightower’s amendment. And we will continue to work with–we’ve had a very productive working relationship with Secretary Clinton’s staff and her campaign. We have succeeded–I think if we had this interview not too long ago and you were to say that we were going to be able to pass an amendment in St. Louis 15 to nothing that calls for breaking up the largest financial institutions in this country that were too big to fail and to enact 21st century Glass-Steagall Act, that Senator Elizabeth Warren and Senator John McCain had worked so hard on. I think that you would have said that we would’ve lost that amendment. But we didn’t. We passed it 15 to nothing.
On the death penalty. If you were to ask me a few weeks ago what were our chances on getting clear language in there that the Democratic Party opposes the death penalty. I would’ve said that that would’ve been a very hard fight. Instead we won that vote by a vote of 13 to nothing, with one abstention.
So what I’m trying to say is we’re going to build the grassroots movement. We think that we have a very strong case to make. Secretary Clinton and Senator Sanders have said that look right now there’s no daylight on their position on TPP. We need to put that in the Platform in Orlando. Make that clear and if we don’t then we’ll–we’re going to continue that fight to Philadelphia.
So this fight, the political revolution continues. We’re right now focused on Orlando and I think that we have a decent shot at winning. But the only way that we’re going to win is if we can get millions of Americans to stand up. To ask Secretary Clinton’s campaign to support this amendment and to stand up and stand on the side of working people instead of Wall Street CEOs and multinational corporations.
PERIES: Warren Gunnels, Senior Policy Directors for the Sanders Campaign. I thank you so much for joining us today and I hope to have you back very soon because I know that most of our viewers are watching this negotiation that’s going on, on the Platform Committee leading up to the convention. So there’s a lot of interest out there. Thanks for joining us again.
GUNNELS: Thank you very much. It’s good to be with you.
PERIES: And thank you for joining us on the Real News Network.
DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.