On the Political Front: Dem Platform Changes Were Key to Sanders Backing Clinton

Jul 11, 2016

Credit Kate Brindley for NHPR

"On the Political Front" is our occasional check-in with NHPR's Senior Political Reporter Josh Rogers.

  Hillary Clinton returns to New Hampshire Tuesday. It will be her first visit since February. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders will be on hand, reportedly to endorse her.  So all’s well that ends well. That’s the message?

Well, that’s what Democrats surely hope. But the end remains a ways off, Nov. 8. But with the Democratic convention two weeks away, now’s a logical time for Sanders to formalize his support for Clinton. Particularly in light of the Democratic National Committee’s draft platform, which was debated over the weekend in Florida. That platform doesn’t include what Sanders most wanted: a plank opposing the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement, or a measure he backed to “end the occupation of Palestine." But it does include a lot he does like: a $15 per hour min wage, for instance, indexed to inflation. Recall Hillary Clinton ran on a $12 minimum wage. There is also language seeing to put a price on carbon. It stops short of the ban on fracking Sanders had sought, but calls for more regulation at every level. You pair this with some of Clinton’s recent policy addendums: proposing to make public college tuition-free for families earning less than $125,000 a year, and calling for a doubling in spending on community health centers, and support for a public option for insurance, and you can see how Sanders has influenced things.

How much attention does anyone really pay to the party platform at the end of the day?

Typically not too too much, but this platform, which also, for instance calls for "reasoned pathway for future legalization" of marijuana is seen as the most liberal Democrats have drafted in years, some are calling it the most progressive platform the party has ever had. Absent Sanders, we’d be getting a different one.   

Now you mentioned a public option for insurance. I couldn’t help but notice the location for Clinton’s event is Portsmouth High School. I seem to recall President Obama holding a health care town hall way back when.

Yes, back in 2009. That was when the public option was a huge debate among Democrats, and when the larger debate over what became the Affordable Care Act was stoking so much outrage among the GOP. You know, I’m not sure why the Clinton campaign picked Portsmouth as a location—and for the record Sanders beat her there by about 800 votes --  or that it would make much difference where they chose. But it’s certainly far easier to get to – for the public and the press - than Unity, the Sullivan County town where Clinton endorsed Obama in the June of 2008. 

OK, so stay tuned for Clinton and Sanders Tuesday. Later Monday morning, Sen. Kelly Ayotte will give a national security speech at St. Anselm College.

Kelly Ayotte
Credit Allegra Boverman for NHPR

  Yes. Its being billed by her campaign as a comprehensive strategy for defeating ISIS and confronting the threat of radical Islamic terrorism. We’ll see what’s in it, but national security is an area where Ayotte’s campaign believes it should have a real edge, and it simply hasn’t been a big focus in this race so far. And when it has come up, over the resettlement of Syrian refugees, say, or on the future of Guantanamo Bay prison, the differences between the candidates have been hard to see.

On both issues, Hassan more or less breaks with her party. Recall earlier this year when Hassan was the only Democratic governor in the country to call for a pause in the resettlement of Syrian refugees. And when it comes to Guantanamo, Hassan’s been a skeptic of the President’s plan to close it ever since those plans were first aired back in February. So we’ll see what sort of substance Ayotte lays out this morning. But as a matter of politics, you’ve got to think she’s hoping votes see clearer differences on national security issues, which should, in theory,  be to her advantage.