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Thursday, 09 June 2016 05:12

Serody: Five at Dem. National Convention

Written by  Bob Serody

Posted June 9, 2016

The Election Campaign for President of the USA / Bernie + Hillary cont'd.
SCPA Member Opinion*

Five Picks and What They Will Mean at the Democratic National Convention
By Bob Serody

With the Democratic National Convention less than 2 months away, Bernie Sanders has appointed 5 progressive activists and thinkers to the Democratic platform writing committee with the hopes of radically changing political debate within the party.

Ben Norton, a columnist for, says their inclusion is a bellwether of future discussions in the Democratic Party over issues like the Israel-Palestine Conflict and climate change. "I think that it's certainly possible that their voices may eventually be ignored," says Norton, "but the fact that they're already raising these issues is very important and unprecedented."

Bill Curry, a former top aide to Bill Clinton who has helped write multiple Democratic Party platforms, says the committee's work is often ignored. "So the question here is: how do you get a party not only that adopts a platform that reads well, but that takes that platform seriously?" says Curry. "You do that, I think, by building a strong, independent progressive political movement to hold both parties accountable and not simply act as a Political Action Committee."

Six states, including California, will hold their primaries on June 7th. The results are expected to determine the Democratic nominee.

Bernie Sanders had said the Democratic Party would have a contested national convention if he won California by a large margin. (Apparently, he did not win California.)

So who are these five appointees, and how do their ideas move the Democratic Party away from the establishment politics of Hillary Clinton and toward a Democratic movement that embraces the meaning of the song “Your Land is My Land” by Woody Guthrie? I’ve summarized their biographies from Wikipedia and other sources.

1. Cornel West

Cornel Ronald West is an American philosopher, academic, social activist, author, public intellectual, and prominent member of the Democratic Socialists of America. The son of a Baptist minister, West received his undergraduate education from Harvard University, graduating with a bachelor's degree in 1973, and received a Ph.D. from Princeton University in 1980, becoming the first African American to graduate from Princeton with a Ph.D. in philosophy. He taught at Harvard in 2001 before leaving the school after a highly publicized dispute with then-president Lawrence Summers. He was Professor of African American Studies at Princeton before leaving the school in 2011 to become Professor of Philosophy and Christian Practice at the Union Theological Seminary in New York City. He has also spent time teaching at the University of Paris.

The bulk of West's work focuses on the role of race, gender, and class in American society and the means by which people act and react to their "radical conditionedness." West draws intellectual contributions from multiple traditions, including Christianity, the black church, Marxism, neopragmatism, and transcendentalism. Among his most influential books are Race Matters (1994) and Democracy Matters (2004).

2. William Ernest "Bill" McKibben

William McKibben is an American environmentalist, author, and journalist who has written extensively on the impact of global warming. McKibben received his undergraduate education from Harvard University, graduating with a bachelor's degree in 1982. He is the Schumann Distinguished Scholar at Middlebury College and leader of the anti-carbon campaign group He has authored a dozen books about the environment, including his first (The End of Nature) in 1989 about climate change.

In 2009, he led's organization of 5,200 simultaneous demonstrations in 181 countries. In 2010, McKibben and conceived the 10/10/10 Global Work Party, which convened more than 7,000 events in 188 countries as he had told a large gathering at Warren Wilson College shortly before the event. In December 2010, coordinated a planet-scale art project, with many of the 20 works visible from satellites. In 2011 and 2012 he led the environmental campaign against the proposed Keystone XL pipeline project and spent three days in jail in Washington, D.C.  It was one of the largest civil disobedience actions in America for decades. Two weeks later he was inducted into the literature section of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

He was awarded the Gandhi Peace Award in 2013. Foreign Policy magazine named him to its inaugural list of the 100 most important global thinkers in 2009 and MSN named him one of the dozen most influential men of 2009. In 2010, the Boston Globe called him "probably the nation's leading environmentalist" and Time magazine book reviewer Bryan Walsh described him as "the world's best green journalist".

3. Keith Ellison

Keith Maurice Ellison has been the U.S. Representative for Minnesota's 5th congressional district since 2007. Ellison was the first Muslim to be elected to the U.S. Congress and is also the first African American elected to the House from Minnesota.

He is a member of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (DFL), the Minnesota state Democratic Party affiliate. The district centers on Minneapolis and surrounding suburbs. Ellison is a co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and a Chief Deputy Whip, also notably serving in the House Committee on Financial Services.

At age 19, while attending Wayne State University in Detroit, Ellison converted from Catholicism to Islam, later giving the following explanation: "I can't claim that I was the most observant Catholic at the time [of my conversion]. I had begun to really look around and ask myself about the social circumstances of the country, issues of justice, issues of change. When I looked at my spiritual life, and I looked at what might inform social change, justice in society... I found Islam."

Ellison graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in economics in 1987, and graduated with a Juris Doctor in 1990.

After law school, Ellison worked for three years at the firm of Lindquist & Vennum, where he was a litigator specializing in civil rights, employment, and criminal defense law. Ellison then became executive director of the nonprofit Legal Rights Center in Minneapolis, which specializes in the defense of indigent clients. Upon leaving the Legal Rights Center, Ellison entered private practice with the law firm Hassan & Reed Ltd, specializing in trial practice.[20] Ellison has also been regularly involved in community service.

In November 2002, Ellison was elected to his first public office, as a member of the Minnesota House of Representatives serving House District 58B. During this session, he was appointed to the Governmental Operations & Veterans Affairs Policy Committee, the Judiciary Policy & Finance Committee and the Local Government & Metropolitan Affairs Committee.

4. Deborah Parker

Serving as a Legislative Policy Analyst in the Office of Governmental Affairs for the Tulalip Tribes from 2005-2012, Deborah Parker engaged in the legislative process on behalf of the Tulalip Tribes by providing quality analysis of issues most pertinent to the exercise of sovereignty and tribal governance, with particular emphasis in the areas of education, finance, taxation, and healthcare. Deborah graduated from the University of Washington with a Bachelor of Arts degree in American Ethnic Studies and Sociology where she distinguished herself as a scholar and a young Indigenous leader. Deborah is a victim of sexual violence and actively promoted the passage of the Violence Against Women Act in 2012. Domestic violence is a common occurrence on Indian reservations, and congress has been negligent in providing protection to Native American women.

5. James J. Zogby

Jame Zogby is founder and president of the Arab American Institute (AAI), a Washington, D.C.–based organization which serves as a political and policy research arm of the Arab-American community. He is Managing Director of Zogby Research Services, LLC, specializing in research and communications and undertaking polling across the Arab world. In September 2013, Zogby was appointed to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom by President Obama. Zogby is a lecturer and scholar on Middle East issues and a Visiting Professor of Social Research and Public Policy at New York University Abu Dhabi. He is also a member of the Executive Committee of the Democratic National Committee. Zogby received a B.A. from Le Moyne College and a Ph.D. from Temple University.

It is interesting that many of us would immediately brand him as a Muslim. This knee-jerk reaction may come from the negative feeling that all Muslims are ignorant, bloodthirsty creatures who are planning the overthrow of Christianity. Actually, he is a Christian whose ethnicity is Lebanese-American. He will bring a more balanced perspective on the conflict between Arab and Jew in the Middle East.

On June 6, Mr. Zogby posted this relevant must-read commentary: 'My Role with the Democratic Platform Drafting Committee.'

• • •

AND SO THERE YOU HAVE THE CANDIDATES Sanders has selected to help craft the planks of the Democratic platform:

• An American philosopher and activist speaking for the millions of Blacks whose ancestors were kidnapped to grow cotton in the South and serve as slaves.

• An American environmentalist, author, and journalist who has written extensively on the impact of global warming, a subject that like Damocles’ Sword, hangs over our heads by threatening the existence of life as we know it.

• The first Muslim and African American to be elected to the U.S. Congress, who is also a member of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (DFL).

• A legislative policy analyst and activist for the Tulalip Tribes, who has distinguished herself as a scholar and as a young Indigenous leader for the prevention of violence against women on the Indian reservations.

• The founder and president of the Arab American Institute (AAI), and a lecturer and scholar on Middle East issues.

THESE FIVE PICKS indicate that Bernie Sanders is no ordinary candidate running for President. They are progressives who will not only stand up for this country’s minorities, they are scholars and activists who will fight to return both social and economic reforms to the Democratic Party and, eventually, through these planks, equal opportunity to all Americans.  Although promises made can be ignored without the right presidential candidate, Bernie is not yet finished.


Bob Serody is a member of Space Coast Progressive Alliance.

*ED. NOTE: The views expressed here are solely those of the author. SCPA does not endorse candidates and welcomes commentary on a wide range of issues, including political campaigns, local,regional and national. If interested in contributing commentary, please contact SCPA.

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