As Our Revolution’s patron saint Bernie Sanders noted in the wake of what proved to be fatal primary defeats back in March, the left is finally winning the ideological battle within the Democratic Party. While the majority of voters on Super Tuesday and beyond opted for Biden as the safer bet to beat Trump in November, the exit polls showed clear majorities favoring Sanders’ “radical” plans, like eliminating private insurance in favor a single government payer, canceling student debt, and transforming our economy and energy system through a Green New Deal.
The Sanders and Warren campaigns unflinchingly championed a number of policies that were long seen as political kryptonite. Those two candidates’ many town halls and their able performances in nationally televised debates and interviews undoubtedly did much to sow the seeds of popular support for “big structural change” and a “political revolution”. This new liberal policy consciousness is now fusing with popular anger over the pandemic and systemic racism, which we see is translating into more electoral wins for the left against the establishment (and notably it’s young PoCs in the vanguard).
Here in Virginia, Our Revolution Arlington has tried to do its part to shift the debate locally and at the state level on issues ranging from broadband to energy to housing. Several ORA members who were delegates to the Virginia Democratic Party’s state convention submitted a number of progressive resolutions, several of which were ultimately adopted by as part of the Virginia Democratic Party’s state platform. The resolutions were largely drawn from Sanders and Warren’s own platforms, but a few were also inspired by (read: plagiarized from) our friends at the Democracy Collaborative. What is discussed below is only what ORA members submitted and omits lots of other great resolutions from other Bernie and Warren delegates.
Here is a the list of resolutions we submitted to CD 8:
- Fair Banking, Wall Street Reform, and Public Banking;
- Expanding Community Broadband and Ensuring Affordable, High-speed Internet for All;
- Corporate Accountability and Democracy;
- Housing for All;
- Responsible and Sustainable Marijuana Legalization;
- Wealth Tax;
- Universal Childcare and Pre-K for All.
Here is the list of resolutions we submitted to the VADP resolutions committee:
- Right of First Refusal for Workers to Buy Their Businesses;
- Expanding Public Banking in the United States;
- Public Ownership of the Fossil Fuel Industry;
- Medicine for All and Creating a Free Public Vaccine for COVID-19;
- Creating a Welcoming and Safe America;
- Adopting Universal Basic Income and Creating a National Social Wealth Fund;
- Adopting Ranked Choice Voting and Fair Representation.
CD-8 Resolution Process
It turned out to be a two-step process. The first bite at the apple for us was the CD8 resolutions committee, to whom we submitted the following resolutions (click the numbered titles to see the original resolutions):
The content of this resolution was drawn from elements of both Sanders‘ and Warren‘s respective policies on financial reform, in addition to Thomas Hanna’s proposal for a public takeover of too-big-to-fail banks in the case of a future financial crisis. The outcome on this one was that the CD8 committee adopted the resolution’s [pg. 63] “background” section pretty much wholesale, but deleted the public banking items and all calls to action to the VA General Assembly. The VADP adopted the resolution [pg. 31] in this form, with no specific calls to action. This led us to submit a more targeted resolution on public banking to the state resolutions committee, more about which is below.
Like the preceding resolution, this one was crafted from elements of both Warren and Sanders‘ respective proposals on broadband. CD8 adopted it wholesale as did the state resolutions committee (pg. 37-38). This was an exciting win for us given our work this year (through the ArlFiber group) on trying to dismantle state barriers to community broadband in Virginia (you can read about those efforts here).
This resolution was drawn from parts of Sanders’ proposal of the same name. We emphasized the “democracy” portion of it in our resolution, calling for expanded worker ownership through inclusive ownership funds and right of first refusal for workers to buy their workplace. CD8 adopted the resolution [pg.61], but scrapped right of first refusal and all calls to the VA General Assembly, which once again led us to craft a more targeted resolution on worker ownership for the state committee (more below).
This resolution was based on Sanders’ Housing for All plan (which in turn was based on the Homes Guarantee proposal) and Jarrid Green’s report on Community Control of Land and Housing. The CD8 resolutions committee rejected it in favor of a resolution on upzoning, so we resubmitted this resolution to the state committee, which adopted it in truncated form. The state committee adopted much of the resolution [pg. 27], but removed the call to VA legislators to pass legislation granting right of first refusal for tenants and local governments to buy buildings when they are up for sale and legislation authorizing local rent control measures (both of which would be a powerful key anti-displacement tools – especially when they are combined). We plan to start of Homes Guarantee campaign here in VA to continue to push these issues.
This resolution drew on aspects of Sanders and Warren’s respective proposals, but called for additional state-level policies, including 1) using part of the revenue to capitalize a reparations fund for victims of the drug war; 2) maintaining a state monopoly on the sale of marijuana, using existing ABC stores; 3) creating a network of community owned growing cooperatives that use organic, sustainable farming methods; 4) barring large agribusiness corporations and tobacco companies from participating; 5) creating a state-owned and -insured bank to hold revenue from marijuana sales; 6) banning advertising and imposing a light tax on marijuana products. There were two competing resolutions submitted to CD8 on pot legalization, so the one that was adopted [pg. 32] used the competing resolution’s background brief, but adopted our resolution language wholesale. The state resolution committee adopted the CD8 resolution [pg. 91], but eliminated our call to VA state legislators to maintain a state monopoly on sale, which is unfortunate.
6. Resolution on Imposing a Wealth Tax, Restoring Progressive Taxation, and Creating a Social Wealth Fund
This resolution drew on Sanders and Warren‘s respective wealth tax proposals, EPI’s proposals on restoring a progressive tax system, and the People’s Policy Project’s proposal on creating a national social wealth fund. The CD8 team adopted the resolution [pg. 65], but excised the call for a national social wealth fund and all calls to VA state legislators to impose a state wealth tax, adopt a more progressive income tax, create a state wealth fund, and impose a “head tax” on our largest corporations to fund the housing trust fund. The state resolutions committee adopted this pared down version [pg. 33]. We were loath to let the social wealth fund component fall by the wayside, so we teamed up with some other Bernie delegates to write a joint resolution on enacting universal basic income and creating a social wealth fund. See below for more on that.
This resolution also cribbed from Sanders and Warren’s respective proposals on both childcare and education and included calls to both Congress and the VA General Assembly to increase funding, support, and protections for child care providers and educators, guaranteed nutritious meals for school-age children, increased funding for the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) Program, and eliminating discriminatory and overly restrictive elements from Virginia’s child subsidy program (among other things). Both the CD8 and VADP resolutions teams adopted this resolution [p. 72] with no changes.
VADP Resolution Process
The second bite of the apple was the state resolutions committee, to which we were able to resubmit rejected proposals or submit additional ones. We were not thrilled that some important policy calls were culled from the resolutions adopted by CD8, so we decided to submit new proposals targeted to those policies. We also submitted a few resolutions that we did not have time to draft and submit to CD8. Here’s what we came up with:
The language for this resolution was copied basically wholesale from Peter Gowan’s Right to Own proposal, but mimicking some aspects of Bernie 2020’s Corporate Accountability and Democracy proposal and Senator Sanders’ WORK Act and U.S. Employee Ownership Bank bill. The VADP adopted it in full (pg 18) with no noticeable changes. The main feature of the resolution is that it calls for legislation to enable workers to buy their workplace when it goes up for sale, is closing, or if a factory is moving overseas and for the creation of employee ownership technical assistance centers and dedicated funding sources to help workers take advantage of this right of first refusal. This is now part of the VA Democratic Party’s official platform. You’re welcome workers!
Since calls to expand public banking in our Fair Banking resolution were removed at the CD8 level, we decided to submit a more resolution focuses solely on this issue to the VADP committee. The resolution, drafted with input from Democracy Collaborative’s Thomas Hanna, included references to a number of different proposals on democratizing finance in the U.S. and Virginia, but at the federal level, the main call to action echoed this proposal from Hanna on bringing too-big-to-fail banks into public ownership if they are going under due to mismanagement or malfeasance. At the Virginia level, it calls on the VA legislature to form a public bank for VA and to give explicit authority to localities to form their own public banks, as was recently done in California. Given the Bank of North Dakota’s admirable performance during the pandemic, we hope VA legislators will take a hard look at this.
This resolution was cribbed from Johanna Bozuwa’s recent proposal of the same name. The resolution calls on Congress to take advantage of the steep drop in fossil fuel company stocks and valuations to establish a controlling stake in these companies and begin to wind them down for the sake of the planet, while ensuring justice for the workers in this industry. Despite the rhetoric from local Democrats about the existential threat of climate change, the VADP did not deem this resolution to be worthy of adoption.
This resolution was drafted based on Dana Brown’s recent proposals on public pharma and public vaccine production (and in consultation with her). The resolution calls on Congress to enact legislation that establishes a full cycle pharmaceutical R&D institute at the NIH and to nationalize vaccine production in light of the failure of private industry to ensure safe, affordable, and timely medicine and vaccines for the public. While the pandemic has placed an exclamation mark on all of this, the problem predated all of this and will continue to plague us (pun intended) if we do not take action now. Amazingly, the VADP adopted this resolution (pg. 20), with a slight amendment to the call for nationalizing vaccines (they urge Congress to nationalize “select” vaccines).
This resolution was based on Bernie 2020’s proposal of the same name. The resolution called on Congress to pass a number of existing bills to protect immigrants from arrest, detention, and deportation (particularly during the pandemic); decriminalize border crossing; abolish ICE, create an easier path to citizenship, and provide robust labor rights and protections for undocumented workers and work visa holders. Sadly, this resolution was not adopted by VADP.
This resolution was cowritten with some other Bernie delegates and calls on Congress to pass the Automatic Boost to Communities Act, which would establish universal basic income for the duration of the economic crisis brought on by the pandemic and to create a national social wealth fund that would gradually accumulate ownership in various productive assets in order to return an annual dividend to all U.S. citizens. Our contribution to this resolution was the call for a social wealth fund, which was modeled on Matt Bruenig’s Social Wealth Fund for America proposal. This resolution was likewise rejected by the VADP resolutions committee.
Like the previous one, this resolution was crafted in collaboration with some other Bernie delegates. The resolution calls on Congress and the VA legislature to adopt existing legislation to enact ranked choice voting and fair representation at the national and state level. Frustratingly, this resolution was also rejected by VADP. In an environment where the Democratic Party is increasingly being split between the Sanders/Squad wing and Biden/Pelosi wing, it is supremely unwise to continue ahead with first-past-the-post primaries and general elections, as it could demoralize and deactivate portions of the base.
Well that does it! We got 10 out of 14 progressive resolutions into the Virginia Democratic Party’s 2020 platform. Not bad for our first time. Now tell your representatives to start cracking on this legislation!