The Corporate-Backed Democratic Party Needs a Political Revolution

Bernie Sanders should use the momentum of his campaign to make demands at the Democratic National Convention

Joel Bleifuss April 20, 2016

The presence of corporations loom large at the Democratic Party National Convention, pictured here in Aug. 2008 at the Pepsi Center, Denver, Colorado. (Mike D / Flickr)

In July, win or lose, Bernie Sanders will be bring­ing his polit­i­cal rev­o­lu­tion to Philadel­phia. It promis­es to be quite the par­ty. On the floor of the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Nation­al Con­ven­tion, the del­e­gates will choose a nom­i­nee. They will debate the plat­form that defines what the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty stands for. And they will set the rules that gov­ern how the par­ty oper­ates going for­ward — or at least, until the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Nation­al Com­mit­tee (DNC) deems it expe­di­ent to change those rules.

Are you a K Street suit wanting to get down and dirty in Philly? The DNC offers six party plans, one of which is sure to fit your budget. For “a minimum of $750,000” in bundled contributions, you can enjoy the Lobbyist Convention Package.

At the 2008 con­ven­tion in Den­ver, under Barack Obama’s lead­er­ship, Democ­rats banned their par­ty and its fundrais­ing out­fits from tak­ing mon­ey from PACs and lob­by­ists. That pro­hi­bi­tion was over­turned in July, when the DNC announced that pay-to-play is a‑okay. The mes­sage to lob­by­ists and their PACs: Come on in.

That’s no sur­prise. Today’s DNC is under the sway of Hillary Clin­ton and under the thumb of Chair­woman Deb­bie Wasser­man-Schultz, two politi­cians who, when it comes to PACs and lob­by­ists, have nev­er been able to say no.

Are you a K Street suit want­i­ng to get down and dirty in Philly? The DNC offers six par­ty plans, one of which is sure to fit your bud­get. For a min­i­mum of $750,000” in bun­dled con­tri­bu­tions, you can enjoy the Lob­by­ist Con­ven­tion Pack­age. This fea­tures 10 fab­u­lous perks, includ­ing four tick­ets to an exclu­sive VIP par­ty,” a bed­room in a pre­mier hotel with­in the Nation­al Finance Com­mit­tee block [sic],” and par­tic­i­pa­tion in busi­ness round­ta­bles and indus­try pan­els through­out the Con­ven­tion.” (This last ben­e­fit is a par­ty favor includ­ed in all six plans.)

With­out a tick­et to cel­e­bra­tions fea­tur­ing celebri­ties and oth­er lumi­nar­ies” (anoth­er of the 10 perks), what are low­ly Sanders and Clin­ton del­e­gates to do? Par­tic­i­pate in floor fights over the par­ty rules and platform.

High on some Sanders sup­port­ers’ list of Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty rule reforms is to find a way to keep super PACs out of the Demo­c­ra­t­ic pri­maries. Were such a rule in place, Pri­or­i­ties USA Action, the Clin­ton super PAC that has har­vest­ed more than $55 mil­lion — includ­ing more than $20 mil­lion from peo­ple asso­ci­at­ed with finance, insur­ance and real estate indus­tries— would have refrained from using that mon­ey to attack Bernie Sanders.

As for the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty plat­form, you can bet that Sanders del­e­gates — along with the sup­port of some Clin­ton sup­port­ers — will try to make break­ing up too-big-to-fail banks an offi­cial Demo­c­ra­t­ic policy.

If the Sanders folks got cre­ative, they could pro­pose a plank requir­ing all net­work and cable tele­vi­sion out­lets that hold a broad­cast license to pro­vide free air time to all can­di­dates of any par­ty that meets a thresh­old of pub­lic support.

Sim­i­lar­ly, the del­e­gates could demand that all Demo­c­ra­t­ic can­di­dates who run under the par­ty ban­ner sup­port an amend­ment to the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion that would deny cor­po­ra­tions the rights of flesh-and-blood people.

That’s the nice thing about a polit­i­cal rev­o­lu­tion: It encour­ages peo­ple to think out­side the box.

So, in July, as cor­po­rate lob­by­ists feast on the cre­ations of Philadelphia’s most rec­og­nized chefs” and rev­el in their night­ly access” to VIP lounges” at the Wells Far­go Con­ven­tion Cen­ter (two more of the 10 perks), Sanders del­e­gates and their Clin­ton allies may want to get togeth­er over a beer and fig­ure out how to crash the party.

Joel Blei­fuss, a for­mer direc­tor of the Peace Stud­ies Pro­gram at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Mis­souri-Colum­bia, is the edi­tor & pub­lish­er of In These Times, where he has worked since Octo­ber 1986.

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