History May Be Written By Wisconsin
State’s Democratic leaders writing a national platform to address racial equity that could lead to historic legislation.
In 1948, an upstart U.S. Senate candidate thundered to the Democratic National Convention: “It is time to get out of the shadow of states’ rights and into the bright sunshine of human rights.” Then Mayor Hubert Humphrey of Minneapolis—birthplace of the modern Civil Rights movement–demanded that delegates adopt a robust civil rights platform.
The initiative, spurred by Wisconsin Congressman and Platform Committee Chairman Andrew Biemiller, prevailed, to the chagrin of southern delegates, who stormed out in protest. Humphrey went on to win election to the Senate and his fingerprints would eventually mark civil rights legislation for the next four decades.
Humphrey’s signal moment was rooted in the progressive momentum of the New Deal, whose transformative policies continue to influence modern life. Today, Bernie Sanders and his delegates have an opportunity to energize that forward motion, using the same tools available to Humphrey.
Sanders is the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee. Should Biden prevail, and should Dems take the upper house, the Vermont independent would ascend to the chair and every budget bill would need his blessing. This means that the platform planks that Rickman, Pocan and others are writing, may well soon find their way into the nation’s law books.
Sanders built his campaign on the motto “Not Me, Us.” Prescient words? Let’s hope so. With Pocan in the House, Sanders in the Senate, and Biden at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, Democrats could revitalize the New Deal (and its precursor, Wisconsin’s “little” New Deal) and rekindle Humphrey’s campaign for racial justice.
Wisconsin’s delegates hold an awesome responsibility; then, as now, history is written in Wisconsin.
Tom Nelson, Outagamie County executive and Bernie Sanders delegate (PLEO) to the DNCC.
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