- The Washington Times - Monday, April 29, 2019

Progressive activists gathered in Washington this week to adopt an agenda they want the Democratic Party to embrace heading into the 2020 elections, demanding fealty to expansive government ideas such as a federal jobs guarantee and erasing drug convictions from criminal records.

Those plans joined liberal wish-list staples such as universal health care, free college and a 70% top income tax rate that activists at the People’s Wave Convention said the 2020 Democratic presidential field must sign onto.

They dubbed their agenda the People’s Platform.

“We’re not going to settle for the lesser of two evils anymore, y’all,” said Bryce Fields, a board member of One People’s Campaign. “In November 2019, we are going to decide if there is a candidate bold enough on our platform that has a plan to win through a movement politics campaign that makes us proud. And a plan to actually co-govern with us to enact our shared agenda.”

The liberal leaders from People’s Action, a progressive network linking nearly 50 grass-roots organizations across 32 states, were meeting to try to settle on their asks for the 2020 field and train progressive organizers.

Their agenda includes nearly two dozen ideas, ranging from the specific — erasing drug convictions — to the more general, such as more lenient treatment of immigrants living in the U.S. illegally.

They also advocated for expanding voter access, ending racial and economic inequality, and keeping people out of the criminal justice system.

“These aren’t just words on paper. This will determine if people get real justice and liberation in their lives,” Ryan Greenwood, director of Movement Politics for People’s Action, told The Washington Times.

Attendees were divided on which policy item they would like the 2020 candidates to make their main priority, though implementing a progressive tax model and expanding health care coverage were prominent.

“What we need to do is figure out which one of those fights we can win first to then keep growing our momentum,” said Andre Vasquez, a city alderman in Chicago.

Birch Kinsey, from Buffalo, New York, said her generation’s main priority is climate change.

“It’s my first time voting this year and I really want to see a candidate that acknowledges the connections we have to our planet and how the separation is causing destruction,” she said. “It’s an existential crisis and it connects to our issues we address in our work.”

Much of the 2020 Democratic field is on board in spirit, even if they haven’t embraced the entire list of priorities.

The candidates debate the best way to raise taxes on the wealthy and the most expansive — and expensive — ways to cover more people’s health needs or cover the costs of college.

However, Scott Garren, an attendee from Vermont, said it’s not enough to simply try to join the bandwagon.

“For me, it’s important that the presidential candidates have an authentic commitment to these issues. We’re in an era of the Democratic Party where there’s a lot of hand waving and everybody’s trying to seem progressive. I want to hear from the candidates an authentic commitment,” he told The Washington Times.

People’s Action leaders said they will meet with several 2020 candidates to gauge their commitment to their platform.

Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont is expected to address the gathering this week.

Activists said they’re looking not only for verbal commitments but also a record of pursuing liberal policies in office.

Mr. Greenwood said he hopes candidates endorse the agenda but doesn’t consider the platform a litmus test.

“If there’s one or two points of disagreement, but they’re by far the strongest candidate, it may be the best move to advance our agenda to support them,” he said.

• Gabriella Muñoz can be reached at gmunoz@washingtontimes.com.

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