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Sanders' Appointee Bill McKibben Says There's Hope As Party Platform Process Kicks Off

Oliver Parini for VPR
Bill McKibben addresses the crowd at Sen. Bernie Sanders' campaign kickoff in Burlington last year. McKibben is the sole Vermonter Sanders appointed to the party's platform committee.

It's all but certain that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic presidential nominee. But Sen. Bernie Sanders has been saying for months that he's staying in the race until the convention — in part — to influence the party's platform.

That's the document outlining the beliefs and policies that'll govern the party and its message for the next four years.

Environmentalist and activist, Bill McKibben, is the sole Vermonter Sanders has appointed to the party's platform committee. He spoke with VPR about the committee's process, and the impact the platform could have going forward.

On the committees' process leading up to the Democratic National Convention in July:

McKibben says, after the committee's first meeting this week, the process still somewhat in a state of flux.

"Usually, the platform is a document that — I don't know how to say this politely — is not well read," says McKibben. "And that's because usually there's been a clear consensus nominee and they basically put their stump speech into prose and there it is — a platform."

"This year it's going to be more interesting," he says, "and perhaps a kind of vehicle for bringing everybody together as we head toward the fall."

Usually, the platform is a document that — I don't know how to say this politely — is not well read ... This year it's going to be more interesting." — Bill McKibben

The committee is made up of six individuals appointed by Hillary Clinton, five by Sanders and four appointed by the DNC, McKibben says.

The group of 15 will produce the party platform, that will then be presented to and voted on by the full convention in July.

On what will be included:

Sanders has mentioned including things like tougher restrictions on Wall Street and raising the minimum wage in the party platform "planks," as they are known.

McKibben says he's hoping this year's platform will "have moved some ways from where it was four years ago."

"I went back and looked at the last one," says McKibben, "And President Obama was then calling for what he's called the 'all of the above' energy strategy. Where we made use of every possible source of power, and we dug up as much oil and gas as we could, along with solar and wind."

"I think the time has come to be making a decisive pivot in the direction of renewable energy and away from fossil fuel," he says. And with that, he hopes will come clear benchmarks and goals the party hopes to reach.

"I hope we come out of there saying that we need to be at 100 percent clean and renewable energy — not by 2100 ... but by the middle of the century," McKibben said.

But McKibben admits he's not sure they will be able to achieve these goals through the party platform process this year.

"I've never done [this process] before. In fact, this is as close to the inside of any of these kind of processes as I have ever been. So I am not confident," said McKibben.

"On the other hand, when I helped introduce Bernie at his campaign launch a year ago in Burlington, I was not confident he was going to do very well at all." — Bill McKibben

"On the other hand, when I helped introduce Bernie at his campaign launch a year ago in Burlington, I was not confident he was going to do very well at all."

"So if I am not confident [about the platform process], I am hopeful," McKibben says, "and I'll do my best to be hard-working."

When it is all said and done, Mckibben says this year's platform could have a bigger impact then year's past.

"I think this one may actually be fairly widely read, not probably for it's eloquent prose but as a way to see what the impact of the remarkable Sanders campaign has been," says McKibben. "I think it should demonstrate that there are a lot of new people engaged in this process, and they're engaged for very powerful, issue-oriented reasons."

"So let's hope this one reads differently then the last time around, because the world's a different place then it was four years ago."

Annie Russell was VPR's Deputy News Director. She came to VPR from NPR's Weekends on All Things Considered and WNYC's On The Media. She is a graduate of Columbia Journalism School.
Alex was a reporter and host of VPR's local All Things Considered. He was also the co-host and co-creator of the VPR program Brave Little State.
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