t 32 pages compared to the eights released by the Republican party, the platform of the Democratic Party of the United States goes into considerably more detail.
President Obama has the advantage of running on his presidential record which, depending on how one spins it, can be interpreted as a list of sizable accomplishments or a dangerous failure.
Headings in the platform reflect a strong concern for the average citizen as opposed to catering to the upper class, as Republican policies have tended to do.
Headings include: Rebuilding Middle Class Security; America Works When Everyone Plays by the Same Rules; Greater Together; and Stronger in the World, Safer and More Secure at Home. Each of these large sections contains a variety of mutually reinforcing policy proposals—some new, and some extensions of Democratic initiatives over the past four years.
To rebuild middle class security Democrats have focused on putting a floor under the free fall that began in the economy in 2007-8.
This “middle class bargain” includes middle class tax cuts (including to small business), accessible health care, a commitment to maintaining Social Security and Medicare, support for education (including access to higher education and training), proposals to allow Bush’s tax cuts to the wealthy expire (so that billionaires don’t pay lower rates of tax than their employees), gradual movement toward a sustainable energy future, promoting insourcing (bringing manufacturing back to America from overseas), investing in infrastructure, committing to science and research, modernizing labor laws while retaining collective bargaining rights, and promoting trade.
Democrats propose continuing reform of Wall Street’s banking industry, as well as making government regulation simpler and more transparent, and curbing the influence of corporate lobbyists, whose pleadings for special deals often make regulation inefficient and ineffective.
The platform rather naively asserts the belief that Americans share a set of ideals and values that promote collective efforts whose results are greater than the sum of individual actions.
This sentimental puffery may hold some truth, but the record of opposition from the last Republican-dominated Congress surely casts doubt on this idealism (over thirty votes to end Obama’s health care plan, alone).
Democrats support “a big, compassionate America where everyone who works hard has the chance to get ahead.” They want to strengthen the American community through streamlining immigration (particularly to reunify families). Proposed family supports include expanded medical leave and reformed Head Start (a program for preschool children).
They also support veterans with “health care, benefits, education, and job opportunities that they have earned.” The plan includes federal hiring of 100,000 Americans with disabilities by 2015.
Democrats make specific plans to continue to protect civil (including women’s) rights, reaffirming support for the Equal Rights Amendment. They support protecting “a woman’s right to choose,” to make decisions about her own pregnancy.
They oppose restrictions some states have put in place on voting rights. Democrats also “know that climate change is one of the biggest threats of this generation;” and their commitment to a clean environment is detailed.
Obama has withdrawn American forces from Iraq, sponsored the removal (murder) of Osama bin Laden and further measures against al-Qaeda, and created plans for the exit of American forces from Afghanistan by 2014.
Democrats want to reduce nuclear weapon stockpiles, yet wish to remain ready to counter emerging threats against cybersecurity and any threats using biological weapons.
They commit to further work through diplomacy on the climate change issue. They still wish to retain the strongest military in the world.
Finally, they promise to advance, both at home and globally, the universal values of tolerance and equality, and fair, equitable justice.
The wealth of detail compared to the scanter Republican platform demonstrates Democrats’ belief in the role of an activist government that does things for people, a philosophy that contrasts Republican notions of total personal self-reliance.
Recent comments by Republican candidate Mitt Romney, critical of poor or otherwise disadvantaged Americans, further highlight this division. Which platform do you prefer?
Al Lehmann is a retired secondary school teacher living in Terrace, B.C.