2016 Platform Committee Testimony in Phoenix

Platform Committee 2016

In my continuing adventures of observing the political process in person, I went to the Democratic National Committee’s Platform Committee testimony section here in Phoenix. This is where the Committee asks ordinary people to weigh in on what they think the Platform should say.

Platforms have a long history in the US and elsewhere even though now few people read the ones put out by parties. In fact, you can say that Martin Luther’s 95 Theses were a platform as was the Communist Manifesto even though we don’t really think of them that way. The Democratic Party’s first one was in 1840, and it is slightly different than the one we will adopt in Philadelphia.

Once upon a time, they were a vital tool for parties to help spread the word about them and sometimes, like in 1948, were a way of saying to the world, :This is who we are. This is what we believe in. And this is why all of those former Democrats ran out the back when we adopted this.” The reason I mention that one is because it was the start of a major split of the Democratic Party that culminated in the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Johnson’s declaration that we would lose the South for a generation.

Platform Committee Testimony

I got there in the afternoon around 1:30. The room wasn’t super full since of course everyone could watch this on C-Span, so most people didn’t need to go in person. They were wrapping up the morning session on energy and the environment. While the speakers had 3 minutes each to talk, there was also time for questions and answers so naturally it took a long time.

I was at the Platform Committee meeting for the health and safety testimony in the afternoon session. There were a few stand outs. First was the President of Arizona’s College Democrats[1], Joseline Mata.  She was one of the students stuck in an abstinence only school and was asking that comprehensive sex education be given to students.

The next one was Monica R Simpson, executive director of SisterSong, a national organization devoted to women of color’s reproductive justice. She had an amazing story to tell and she was also one of those people who knows how to work a room — building emotions through the use of her mellifluous voice. She talked about the lack of access to all of reproductive health care, not just abortion, in many states. Later she was able to get a photo with Platform Committee member Dr Cornell West, who she obviously was excited to meet.

There were three women who spoke from the nurses union and they were not having any of this nonsense about the ACA. They want single payer and they want it now. This caused the closest thing to drama we had all day when Neera Tanden asked some rather pointed questions about Germany having a private insurance system that covers everyone. The last woman broke down in tears over how hard it was for her to use her insurance — she has it, but it is too expensive to use. This is one of those things that make policy decisions so difficult as an elected official because you don’t want to tell someone crying no, but…

The final speaker at the Platform Committee testimony was Pam Simon. Pam spoke about guns as she is now one of the members of Everytown for Gun Safety after surviving the shooting in Tucson. One of the things that stuck out to me were her remarks about how fast the shooting was. She said he killed and injured 19 people in fifteen seconds. She also described how ordinary of a day it was for her and her friends on staff — she expected to go with Gabe Zimmerman to help him pick out a place for him to hold his wedding.  She is a nice lady. (We sat next to each other for a little bit and I promised to take pictures of her speaking.)

Conclusion

It took a very long five plus hours to hear everything (started at 2:05, finished at 7:45) but it was interesting to observe. This is part of people having a say in how their country is run. Even though almost no one reads the actual documents anymore, they do stand as a collected statement of where a great deal of Americans are at.  It gives us a chance to give a voice to the voiceless beyond merely voting.  And we got to do it in air conditioning!