Democratic committee OKs platform with progressives' input

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at a campaign event at the Colonial Early Education Program at the Colwyck Training Center, Tuesday, July 21, 2020 in New Castle, Del. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at a campaign event at the Colonial Early Education Program at the Colwyck Training Center, Tuesday, July 21, 2020 in New Castle, Del. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

WASHINGTON – Reflecting presidential candidate Joe Biden’s careful positioning, a key Democratic Party committee on Monday approved a 2020 platform that presents a liberal outline for the country but rejects many policies pursued by the left’s most outspoken progressives.

The document, approved by Democrats’ platform committee on a voice vote, now goes to more than 4,000 Democratic delegates who will vote by mail on whether to approve the document ahead of the party’s August convention, which will take place almost entirely online because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The final draft endorses universal health care coverage but, as Biden does, calls for a “public option” insurance plan to compete in existing private insurance markets as the next step. Committee members overwhelmingly rejected amendments to more explicitly endorse the single-payer insurance model like what Bernie Sanders pushed.

In a lengthy passage demanding an overhaul of the criminal justice system, Democrats decry the effects of a decadeslong “war on drugs.” But committee members rejected an amendment calling to legalize marijuana. The same section demands an end to police violence against Americans, but it does not endorse some activists’ calls to “defund the police.”

In total, the platform is part of Biden’s effort to balance the center-left establishment that has been his political home for decades with the party’s ascendant progressive wing represented by high-profile figures like Sanders, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. In fact, the drafting process included a series of policy committees that Biden’s campaign convened with Sanders’ campaign after the Vermont senator finished as runner-up in the nominating fight. Ocasio-Cortez was included in that process, while Warren has emerged as a key policy adviser who talks regularly with Biden.

Biden’s goal has been to avoid the kind of rancor that hobbled Hillary Clinton’s general election campaign four years ago, even as President Donald Trump and Republicans lambaste the former vice president as “captive” to a “radical left.”

The platform committee voted repeatedly Monday not to modify language that would push the party closer to embracing Sanders’ “Medicare for All” health insurance model, sticking with Biden’s preferred language promising to build on the 2010 health care law signed by President Barack Obama.

Abdul El-Sayed, an epidemiologist and former health commissioner for the city of Detroit, argued that the coronavirus outbreak demonstrates why the country needs a single-payer system like Medicare for All rather than just an expansion of the Affordable Care Act.