Minnesota Democratic congressmember and co-chair of the House Progressive Caucus. He’s the first Muslim member of Congress.
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has endorsed former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton today at a joint rally in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The rally comes less than two weeks before the start of the Democratic National Convention. Clinton assumed the mantle of the party’s presumptive nominee after winning the California primary in June, but Sanders refused to concede the nomination in part to give his campaign greater power to push the party to adopt a more progressive platform. On Sunday, Sanders sent out a release praising the adoption of what he called the "most progressive platform in the history of the Democratic Party." We speak to Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN). He was one of the five people picked by Bernie Sanders to serve on the Democratic National Convention’s platform committee. "It takes a position in favor of $15 and a union for a federal minimum wage. It takes a position on a whole range of things, including the environment, that are progressive steps forward," Ellison said. "What do we not achieve? A complete opposition to fracking, we don’t have that. What is else not achieved? There are some things on some foreign policy fronts that I think would and could be better, some saber-rattling with regard to Iran that I don’t think is helpful."
AMY GOODMAN: We begin today’s show on the presidential campaign trail, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders expected to endorse former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton today at a joint rally in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The rally comes less than two weeks before the start of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. Clinton assumed the mantle of the party’s presumptive nominee after winning the California primary in June, but Sanders refused to concede the nomination, in part to give his campaign greater power to push the party to adopt a more progressive platform. On Sunday, Senator Sanders sent out a release praising the adoption of what he called, quote, "the most progressive platform in the history of the Democratic Party."
On Monday, I spoke with Democratic Congressman Keith Ellison of Minnesota. He served on the platform committee after being appointed by Bernie Sanders. I asked him to describe what’s in the Democratic platform.
REP. KEITH ELLISON: One is that we—that there were six members of the Democratic drafting committee from the Hillary Clinton campaign, five from Bernie Sanders, four from the DNC. We took the base document, and we made several amendments at the drafting committee. We heard testimony over the course of two days. A lot of it was really, really startling and important.
I think we have the best statement on Native American rights we’ve ever had. We have strong language that does critique the TPP, although it falls a little short of openly opposing it, which we tried to do but were not able to achieve. It takes a position in favor of $15 and a union for a federal minimum wage. It takes a position on a whole range of things, including the environment, that are progressive steps forward.
What did we not achieve? A complete opposition to fracking, we don’t have that. What is else not achieved? There are some things on some foreign policy fronts that I think would and could be better, some saber-rattling with regard to Iran that I don’t think is helpful and good to be in our platform. I think that it would be—I think that we could have had a clearer statement on two-state solution and the U.S.’s aspiration to have peace and security for both Israelis and Palestinians. I think we were a little bit weak on that.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you explain what you would like to see there, Congressmember Ellison?
REP. KEITH ELLISON: Well, I think that it is important that, you know, the United States state that we don’t think that the occupation of the—what will be the Palestinian state should continue. I don’t think there’s any fear of using the O-word, if you will. I mean, Ariel Sharon used it. You know, the U.N. uses it. I mean, it’s a commonly used phrase to describe what’s going on. I think we could have also made some stronger statements about the—
AMY GOODMAN: What is that word?
REP. KEITH ELLISON: Occupation.
AMY GOODMAN: That they’re not using the word "occupation"?
REP. KEITH ELLISON: Right. I think that there is a humanitarian crisis going on in Gaza. In fact, you know, the—because of the electricity power plant has been destroyed, the sewage is not being processed, and raw sewage is going up into the Mediterranean. In fact, it’s so bad that it’s flowing up into north, and the Israeli desalinization plant is not able to use its—that plant, because of the sewage that is in the Mediterranean coming from Gaza, because Gaza cannot process their own sewage at this point, because of the horrible situation that is going on there. So, there are some more—so, things like that, I think, really could have been identified much more clearly.
AMY GOODMAN: The fracking ban went down?
REP. KEITH ELLISON: Yeah, but there was also some language that did get in there that, you know, the parties negotiated, and we realize that we’re in a better position than we were in before. So—
AMY GOODMAN: Your fellow platform member chosen by Bernie Sanders, Bill McKibben—
REP. KEITH ELLISON: Right.
AMY GOODMAN: —co-founder of 350.org, tweeted, "So, after speeches defining Orwellian, Clinton forces vote down straightforward motion to stop #TPP."
REP. KEITH ELLISON: Yeah, that happened. But I think it’s also important to note that the base document that we started on did not mention the term TPP at all. And so, we went from the drafting committee, where we did identify TPP as problematic, acknowledging that some people support it, then we moved at the overall platform committee, saying that the standards for a decent trade deal would be no investor-state provisions, no lengthening of the intellectual property for medications, no use of human trafficking. And we put those standards in the new—in the latest version, and that did make it in.
But I agree with my colleagues that we should take a position against TPP. You know, most Democrats are against it. And when I say most, I mean as many as 85 percent of House Democrats oppose TPP. The rank-and-file Democrats across the nation are against it. And the only person who I can find who’s really, really for it is maybe 13 House members, a handful of senators and the president of the United States, Barack Obama. It is the Democratic position that we’re against TPP. The minority, though it contains some really powerful people, is in favor of it. So the platform should reflect the position of the overwhelming number of Democrats, which is anti-TPP.
AMY GOODMAN: And, Congressmember Keith Ellison, the issue of single-payer healthcare, the idea of Medicare for all, the party shying away from Bernie Sanders’ proposal to turn Medicare into a single-payer healthcare system for this country—what happened?
REP. KEITH ELLISON: Well, yeah. As you said, you know, that proposal, which is very meritorious and which I support, was not embraced. That’s too bad. But let me tell you, you know, we debate—I guess, Amy, I’m an optimistic person. Right? Whenever we don’t get every single thing that we want, it’s not my way to say, "Pooh-pooh on the whole process." I say we have made important demands and debated this issue. We have made them pay attention to what we’re talking about. And the struggle continues. We’re not going to stop fighting for Medicare for all just because it didn’t get adopted into the Democratic platform. We’re going to keep the fight alive, because people all across the country need it that way, because it is a more humane, more effective way to deliver healthcare to the American people. So I just say, you know, take heart in the success that we had. Keep the battle going. Keep the fight up for a fairer, more equal America. That’s what we do.
AMY GOODMAN: You know, that’s an interesting point, because just on a point on process, is it true that even if you lose at the Democratic platform level, in this meeting that you’ve had in the determination of the platform, 25 percent of voters could sign a minority report that would allow for an amendment to come up again at the national convention in Philadelphia?
REP. KEITH ELLISON: This is true. And I want to just say to you, to the rank-and-file Democrats who are craving for unity, don’t fear a debate. You know, it’s all right for us to have differences of opinion. You know, we’re so much better off than Republicans, who don’t tolerate any debate around issues. We’re so much better off when we signal to the American people that the Democratic Party is open for people to express their ideas and help shape the direction of the party platform. So, I think that the point you make about process is a good one. I think debates are healthy. I think they include more people. And I don’t believe most people, if they don’t win, are just going to take their ball and go home. I think they’re going to keep on fighting, because, you know, they’re going to go back home to people who need real healthcare reform, which, you know, we are still in desperate need of, even now. I mean—
AMY GOODMAN: Now included in the platform, you’ve adopted language against the death penalty?
REP. KEITH ELLISON: Isn’t that wonderful? I mean, I think that that is—boy, talk about an idea that’s time has come. I mean, the death penalty—literally, hundreds of people exonerated from death row, clearly administered along race and class lines that disadvantage people who don’t have privilege in our society. Time to get rid of the death penalty and join the rest of the world. The Democratic Party stands for that, and that’s a good thing. And I’m proud of that. And I want people to know that we are shaping the Democratic Party in a progressive direction. Progressive ideas are ascendant. We are moving the ball forward. And this is the time to get involved and help defeat Trump.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, Politico talks about the language adopted in the platform. They describe it as "sharp language on Wall Street reform." What does that mean, Congressmember Ellison?
REP. KEITH ELLISON: Well, I think that they don’t really appreciate the fact that the role of Wall Street is to take people who have money to invest and put it into businesses that need the investment. That’s what they’re supposed to do. That’s all they’re supposed to do. But what they’ve done is use that intermediary role to reap massive profits for themselves and to put the economy at risk. And, you know, there is this philosophy that any regulation of business is somehow interfering with this sacrosanct market concept and should be discouraged. I disagree with that entirely. I think that whenever businesses harm the economy, harm workers, harm consumers or undermine human rights in any way, then it is the role of the government to make sure that they don’t do that and to make sure that markets are fair and they operate properly. That is all that the platform is saying. It’s not sharp.
If you are a person on Wall Street who wants to do what Wall Street is intended to do, there is nothing in the platform that should bother you, not one single word. In fact, if you really believe in what you’re doing, you should be happy that the Democratic platform is trying to make sure that we’re heading in the right direction. Unfortunately, you know ,some people who believe that they’re entitled to make triple-digit profits, triple—you know, just massive, rent-like profits, they’re upset because they’re entitled in their outlook on life.
AMY GOODMAN: Democratic Congressmember Keith Ellison of Minnesota. He served on the Democratic Party’s platform committee after being appointed by Bernie Sanders. He’s the first Muslim member of Congress. Part 1 of our conversation with him about the Black Lives Matter movement and the protests in Minneapolis, go to democracynow.org.
When we come back, we’ll speak with actress Shailene Woodley and filmmaker Josh Fox about activism and the Democratic convention. Stay with us.