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Persistent Sanders Earns Role in Shaping Democratic Platform

  • VOA Staff

FILE - Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks at a campaign rally in Piscataway, New Jersey, May 8, 2016. The Democratic National Committee announced Monday its platform committee will include five representatives picked by Sanders.

FILE - Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks at a campaign rally in Piscataway, New Jersey, May 8, 2016. The Democratic National Committee announced Monday its platform committee will include five representatives picked by Sanders.

In the span of one year, Bernie Sanders has gone from 40 points down in polls to having near equal presence with Hillary Clinton as the Democratic Party shapes its platform of policies at its convention in July.

In addition to formally nominating their presidential candidate every four years, the Democrats and their rivals in the Republican Party use the conventions to present detailed statements of what they stand for and the direction they seek for the country.

The Democratic National Committee announced Monday its platform committee will include five representatives picked by Sanders and six by Clinton, with another four chosen by DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

"We will be in a very strong position to fight for an economy that works for all of our people," Sanders told reporters Monday, highlighting the cornerstone of his campaign.

The self-described democratic socialist has gained a huge following, particularly among young people, as he has campaigned on a message promoting economic equality, ensuring affordable college, removing special interest influence from politics and expanding social services.

Sanders has ridden that wave of support to wins in 20 state contests, and along with Clinton and presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump is one of three major party candidates still competing in the race to succeed President Barack Obama in January.

FILE - A young audience member watches Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speak during a rally in Springfield, Oregon, April 28, 2016.

FILE - A young audience member watches Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speak during a rally in Springfield, Oregon, April 28, 2016.

Clinton leads the Democratic race having earned more delegates than Sanders thus far, and is expected to clinch the party's nomination when six states each hold a primary or caucus on June 7. Her campaign said Monday she will not participate in a planned Fox News debate with Sanders in delegate-rich California, instead focusing her energy on a looming general election battle with Trump. The last Democratic debate was on April 14.

Sanders said in a statement he was "disappointed but not surprised" by the decision, and later told supporters in California he thought it was "insulting" to people in the state.

"I also would suggest that Secretary Clinton may want to be not quite so presumptuous about thinking that she is a certain winner," he said. "In the last several weeks, the people of Indiana, West Virginia and Oregon have suggested otherwise."

Sanders won all three states, insisting that despite trailing in the delegate count he would remain in the race until the convention that begins July 25. It is with that persistence that he has been able to force the Democrats to consider his positions and incorporate them into a document that will stand as its basis for the next four years.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Sanders described the platform process as an "excellent time to educate the American people."

"There are two sides to every issue and I'm sure that Secretary Clinton will have very vigorous proponents of her point of view, as we will have."

He said his supporters are expecting a platform that represents working families, the poor and young people instead of Wall Street and corporate America.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks at a rally on Sunday, May 22, 2016.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks at a rally on Sunday, May 22, 2016.

The platform adopted at the 2012 Democratic Convention features a lot of what Sanders, and also Clinton, have promoted throughout their campaigns.

It has a large focus on the economy, including a line that resembles Trump's current "Make America Great Again" slogan.

"Reclaiming the economic security of the middle class is the challenge we must overcome today. That begins by restoring the basic values that made our country great," the document says.

It also highlights a need to prioritize the middle class, make college affordable for everyone, promote efforts to fight climate change, utilize a variety of energy sources, and to institute reforms on immigration, criminal justice, Wall Street and the campaign finance system.

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