Whether he wins the Democratic presidential nomination or not, Bernie Sanders will play a big role in writing the Democratic Party platform.
Of the 15 members of the official Democratic National Committee platform writing committee, five will be Sanders' picks, including environmental activist Bill McKibben, renowned scholar Cornel West and pro-Palestinian activist James Zogby. These are real progressives and they will give progressives a real chance to put their stamp on the future of the Democratic Party. They could also play a big role in the fight against the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, which I like to call the Southern Hemisphere Asian Free Trade Agreement -- SHAFTA.
As it stands right now, the TPP's best chance of passing is in the slim window of time between Election Day and Inauguration Day -- the so-called lame duck session of Congress. This is really the easiest time for President Obama to push through a massively unpopular trade deal like the TPP without anybody noticing.
The corporate media will be too busy speculating about who'll join the new president's cabinet to bother covering something they never really covered anyway -- and because Election Day will have come and gone, lawmakers will be free (from the White House's perspective, at least) to vote as they like without having to worry about the consequences at the ballot box.
We've seen this kind of thing before. Taking advantage of media cluelessness and public apathy during the lame-duck session to pass unpopular and unsavory legislation is a time-honored tradition.
For example, back in 2000, Bill Clinton worked with Republicans in the final months of his presidency to pass the Commodities Futures Modernization Act, the Wall Street deregulation bill that more or less caused the Great Recession.
If he wants to pass the TPP, President Obama, like President Clinton in 2000, will also have to rely on Republican votes. In fact, he pretty much has to rely on Republican votes because the TPP wouldn't stand a chance in a Democratic-controlled Congress. What makes this even more screwed-up than it already is the fact that Democrats actually have a very good chance of retaking the Senate this November.
Apparently, President Obama would rather force through a massively unpopular so-called free trade deal with the help of Republicans than potentially let members of his own party -- and maybe a Democratic presidential successor -- decide what they want to do with it.
That's where the Democratic Convention Platform comes in.
As Dave Johnson of the Campaign for America's Future argues, it could be an opportunity to force President Obama's hand on the TPP. "Democrats," he writes, "should pass a strong platform trade plank committing to opposition to TPP and similar 'free trade' agreements, and demanding that Democrats do what they can to stop a vote on TPP from occurring after the election."
There's no one in a better position to do this than Bernie Sanders.
If Bernie does win the Democratic nomination -- and there's still a chance he may, despite what mainstream corporate media outlets say -- rejecting the TPP will be a big part of his presidential platform, as it has from the beginning. If he doesn't win the nomination, though, he'll still play a role, and a very necessary one.
That's why Bernie Sanders' role in writing the Democratic Party's platform is so important -- he can get Democrats to agree on paper to scrap the TPP in full.
President Obama might still go ahead and push it through a Republican-controlled Congress, but that will be a lot harder and more politically costly to do if it violates official party policy in the form of a platform plank.
Progressives have a real opportunity at this year's convention to change the Democratic Party and the country -- and they should take advantage of it.