Last night, Senator Bernie Sanders gave a prime time speech to close out the first night of the 2016 Democratic National Convention, where he contradicted his entire domestic policy critique of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Foreign policy made no appearance at all.
Sanders framed his capitulation to Clinton as some odd form of victory for the so-called “political revolution,” the movement to drive money out of politics and achieve social democratic reforms such as universal healthcare, free college tuition, fair international trade deals, breaking up the Too Big To Fail Wall Street banks, and enacting a federal minimum wage of $15 an hour.
Former Secretary Clinton has begrudgingly adopted some of these positions through the course of the campaign, but will hardly be a champion for them if elected. In truth, it is quite likely Clinton will tack right towards her traditional pro-Big Business “centrism” once in office, including offering a deal to make cuts to Social Security and Medicare.
President Obama attempted a similar deal known as the “Grand Bargain” which failed mostly due to partisan intransigence from Republicans. Sanders blasted the deal at the time, but has now endorsed a candidate for president who is likely to try it again.
So what did Sanders get for endorsing a politician who nominally agrees with some parts of the political revolution and is set to threaten cherished parts of the social safety net?
The answer is nothing.
Nothing? But what about the party platform? Last night, Senator Sanders went on and on about how progressive the platform is. Friends, the platform is nothing.
Party platforms in the U.S. political system carry no weight. They are not binding and confer no authority nor obligations. They are the height of symbolism, which makes fights over them interesting political theater and nothing else.
No member of Congress, no state or local official, and no president, is bound by the party platform to do one single thing. And if you compare party platforms of the past to the actual conduct of the officials that signed on to them, you will see the dichotomy. Party platforms are dead letters that are dead on arrival.
So if the lasting achievement of the Sanders presidential campaign is getting changes to a sterile document, then call it a “revolution” lost.