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Opinion

Opinion: Can Bernie Sanders still have an impact on the Democratic Party platform?

Bernie Sanders

Audience members cheer as Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks during an election night campaign event at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena on April 26 in Huntington, W.Va.

(John Minchillo / Associated Press)

Despite his abysmal showing on the latest Super Tuesday – he won only in Rhode Island – Bernie Sanders insists that he will keep campaigning through the last contest (good news for his supporters in California, which holds its primary in June).

But political analysts already are discerning a change in Sanders’ rhetoric consistent with reality. One sign of that recalibration is Sanders’  focus on leveraging his support in the service of a progressive Democratic Party platform.

After Tuesday’s voting, Sanders issued a statement saying that he would go to the national convention in July “with as many delegates as possible to fight for a progressive party platform.”

Please.

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Shifting attention to the platform may be a necessary waystation on the way to admitting that he has lost, but who cares about party platforms? Certainly not presidential nominees, who aren’t bound by them, and probably not the voters either.

Even delegates don’t think it’s a big deal. On Tuesday night I struggled to think of a recent platform battle, and all I could come up with was a kerfuffle at the 2012 Democratic convention over the temporary omission from the platform of a boilerplate reference to Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. (The Guardian reported that the dispute plunged the convention into “chaos.” A bit of an exaggeration.)

In the past, it’s true, platform fights have involved a lot of emotion and energy. I cut my teeth as a teenage political junkie following the fight over a Vietnam plank at the 1968 Democratic convention.

But in recent years platform fights have been few and far between – and the platforms themselves have proved insignificant both electorally and in terms of how a successful nominee governed. President Obama, who intervened to have the Jerusalem reference restored to the 2012 platform, pointedly hasn’t moved the U.S,. Embassy to that city from Tel Aviv.

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Maybe it will be different this year and Sanders’ political revolution will result in a new prominence for a party platform and Hillary Clinton pledging loyalty to a document promising free college, “Medicare for all” and throwing the book at Wall Street crooks.

But don’t hold your breath.

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