The Democratic Platform: Hillary and Bernie

Any presidential candidate faces broad challenges in illuminating the harsh injustices of our country and endorsing specific policies to fix them. Yet this is precisely what our leaders must do to create a nation of justice and opportunity.

We live in a nation of two (or more tiers) of experience: drinking bottled versus toxic tap water, eating organic vs. dangerous food, speeding by on privatized roads vs. sitting in traffic, accessing good vs. failing schools, and escaping or falling prey to a web of banking fraud and predatory corporate practices. Yet the ensconced economic elite makes or influences the rules.

The wealthy take for granted—as we all should—that they are relatively protected from global shocks, that their bodily sanctity will be protected, and that traditional government services like infrastructure and education will help their families thrive.

Below are some of major challenges ahead that any presidential candidate (or large nonprofit) should be highlighting. The following issues have a disproportionate impact on poor and middle class Americans but affect us all. These areas serve as a basis to evaluate the campaigns of leading Democratic candidates:

Global issues have a huge impact on the stability of our country, and the opportunities of all. What is often done in the name of “national security” destroys individual security of Americans and others worldwide, contributing to radicalization globally over a fight for resources.  

  • A stable non-predatory financial system
  • Limiting climate change
  • Trans-Pacific Partnership
  • A rethinking of war and peace

Individual rights speak to the very sanctity of one’s body. The lack of safety, food, shelter, and health care are the gravest threats to our collective security.

  • Gender safety and reproductive rights 
  • Freedom from gun violence
  • (Accountability) for and an end to police/jail brutality
  • Accessible, affordable health care
  • A fair minimum wage and life with dignity
  • Good public health throughout the lifespan
  • Safe, sustainable environment

Governmental responsibilities should promote democracy and our economic prosperity for all.

  • Voting rights for all
  • Fair sourcing of revenue
  • Good public education and affordable college
  • Well-funded public infrastructure and utilities
  • Consumer standards and regulations

Much work lies ahead for candidates to define our values and identify credible policies in these areas, even as they weigh in on current issues.

Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is smart, with a notable background at the Children’s Defense Fund, Legal Services Corporation and in designing health care. After the growing popularity by Bernie Sanders and the populism of Elizabeth Warren, she has recently voiced standard Democratic positions while avoiding identifying actors who create and promote injustices. Is the late timing and lack of framing true leadership? And how do positions necessary for justice and opportunity square with a record as a “corporate” ally and a “hawk?” The Clinton Foundation and Clinton’s Global Initiative worked with banks under investigation and foreign governments who donated received more arms under her State Department leadership. Credible endorsement of above platform and an explanation of the Foundation’s funding would be welcome. To date, the weak narratives represent major barriers in believing her campaign truly focuses on human rights, innovative policies and structural changes.

“Democratic socialist” Bernie Sanders has placed those values at the center of his presidential campaign, identifying corporations and policies that threaten them, thus surging in early primary polls . He has supported a single payer system, breaking up the big banks, using a financial transaction tax to pay for state college, and taxing carbon.  He weighed in on current issues including voicing his opposition to the TPP and Keystone XL Pipeline. Now there’s real leadership.

For a more detailed discussion of all the issues raised in this article, with links to useful original sources, click here.

Veena Trehan, Chair
Social and Economic Justice Task Force

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