It’s often said, probably with a great degree of accuracy, that a party platform is forgotten soon after a convention is over. For the next few weeks, I intend to turn conventional wisdom on its head and will be exploring, comparing, and contrasting elements of our platform with the Republican Party platform. Because the platforms are lengthy, with the exception of today, I won’t be covering them word for word. For those who want to read ahead, the Democratic Party platform is here: 2016 Democratic Party Platform and the Republican Party Platform can be found here: 2016 Republican Party Platform.
The best place to start is obviously the beginning. A preamble is intended to be an introductory statement of purpose, aims, and justification, but the approaches taken by the parties in their respective preambles could not be more different or more indicative of the differences in the parties. Below are the opening words of the Democratic preamble. It’s an overview of the previous eight years under a Democratic president (thanks, Obama!) and highlights the achievements, not just through legislation, but through the resilience of Americans across the country. In a paragraph showing the influence of the Sanders’ campaign, it doesn’t, however, shy away from recognizing that problems still exist. (The involvement of the Sanders’ campaign in drafting the platform was the result of an agreement negotiated with Sec. Clinton and was a departure from the norm. [http://www.cnn.com/2016/05/23/politics/bernie-sanders-democratic-platform-convention/index.html])
In 2016, Democrats meet in Philadelphia with the same basic belief that animated the Continental Congress when they gathered here 240 years ago: Out of many, we are one.
Under President Obama’s leadership, and thanks to the hard work and determination of the American people, we have come a long way from the Great Recession and the Republican policies that triggered it. American businesses have now added 14.8 million jobs since private sector job growth turned positive in early 2010. Twenty million people have gained health insurance coverage. The American auto industry just had its best year ever. And we are getting more of our energy from the sun and wind, and importing less oil from overseas.
But too many Americans have been left out and left behind. They are working longer hours with less security. Wages have barely budged and the racial wealth gap remains wide, while the cost of everything from childcare to a college education has continued to rise. And for too many families, the dream of homeownership is out of reach. As working people struggle, the top one percent accrues more wealth and more power. Republicans in Congress have chosen gridlock and dysfunction over trying to find solutions to the real challenges we face. It’s no wonder that so many feel like the system is rigged against them.
The Republicans take a different approach. Because they did not hold the presidency, they instead affirm the motivating principles of Republicanism (in theory, if not in practice). The presence of undisguised religious (specifically Christian) language is an interesting element (e.g. the Constitution as “our enduring convenant”). I think it would be naïve to assume that the choice of the word “convenant” was accidental; as used, it has a specific religious meaning that is familiar to anyone educated and/or immersed in a Christian tradition (and here, different from its use in Judaism). From Wikipedia [Covenant (religion)]: “In religion, a covenant is a formal alliance or agreement made by God with a religious community or with humanity in general. It is central to the Abrahamic religions and derived from the biblical covenants, notably the Abrahamic covenant.” To the casual reader, this particular phrase may not raise an eyebrow, but to a Republican, the claim is effectively being made that the Constitution is a quasi-religious document.
With this platform, we the Republican Party reaffirm the principles that unite us in a common purpose.
We believe in American exceptionalism. We believe the United States of America is unlike any other nation on earth.
We believe America is exceptional because of our historic role — first as refuge, then as defender, and now as exemplar of liberty for the world to see.
We affirm — as did the Declaration of Independence: that all are created equal, endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
We believe in the Constitution as our founding document. We believe the Constitution was written not as a flexible document, but as our enduring covenant.
We believe our constitutional system — limited government, separation of powers, federalism, and the rights of the people — must be preserved uncompromised for future generations.
We believe political freedom and economic freedom are indivisible.
When political freedom and economic freedom are separated — both are in peril; when united, they are invincible.
We believe that people are the ultimate resource — and that the people, not the government, are the best stewards of our country’s God-given natural resources.
Back to the Democratic platform and continuing the focus on the economy, inequality, and working people. Despite what the media would have you believe, not only did Hillary talk about the needs of working people, our platform did too.
Democrats believe that cooperation is better than conflict, unity is better than division, empowerment is better than resentment, and bridges are better than walls.
It’s a simple but powerful idea: we are stronger together.
Democrats believe we are stronger when we have an economy that works for everyone—an economy that grows incomes for working people, creates good-paying jobs, and puts a middleclass life within reach for more Americans. Democrats believe we can spur more sustainable economic growth, which will create good-paying jobs and raise wages. And we can have more economic fairness, so the rewards are shared broadly, not just with those at the top. We need an economy that prioritizes long-term investment over short-term profit-seeking, rewards the common interest over self-interest, and promotes innovation and entrepreneurship.
We believe that today’s extreme level of income and wealth inequality—where the majority of the economic gains go to the top one percent and the richest 20 people in our country own more wealth than the bottom 150 million—makes our economy weaker, our communities poorer, and our politics poisonous.
With odd sychronicity, the Republican platform contains similar language, although less prescriptive and with a (un)remarkable lack of self-awareness.
As Americans and as Republicans we wish for peace — so we insist on strength. We will make America safe. We seek friendship with all peoples and all nations, but we recognize and are prepared to deal with evil in the world.
Based on these principles, this platform is an invitation and a roadmap. It invites every American to join us and shows the path to a stronger, safer, and more prosperous America.
This platform is optimistic because the American people are optimistic.
This platform lays out — in clear language — the path to making America great and united again.
For the past 8 years America has been led in the wrong direction.
Our economy has become unnecessarily weak with stagnant wages. People living paycheck to paycheck are struggling, sacrificing, and suffering.
Americans have earned and deserve a strong and healthy economy.
I’m providing the next section in bulk, rather than breaking it down to each paragraph. Read together, this is the essence of who we are as Democrats. It is also a collection of statements which recognize where we’ve been, where we are, and where we need to go. Overall, they are positive, affirming statements of our aspirations as Democrats.
And we know that our nation’s long struggle with race is far from over. More than half a century after Rosa Parks sat and Dr. King marched and John Lewis bled, more than half a century after César Chávez, Dolores Huerta, and Larry Itliong organized, race still plays a significant role in determining who gets ahead in America and who gets left behind. We must face that reality and we must fix it.
We believe a good education is a basic right of all Americans, no matter what zip code they live in. We will end the school-to-prison pipeline and build a cradle-to-college pipeline instead, where every child can live up to his or her God-given potential.
We believe in helping Americans balance work and family without fear of punishment or penalty. We believe in at last guaranteeing equal pay for women. And as the party that created Social Security, we believe in protecting every American’s right to retire with dignity.
We firmly believe that the greed, recklessness, and illegal behavior on Wall Street must be brought to an end. Wall Street must never again be allowed to threaten families and businesses on Main Street.
Democrats believe we are stronger when we protect citizens’ right to vote, while stopping corporations’ outsized influence in elections. We will fight to end the broken campaign finance system, overturn the disastrous Citizens United decision, restore the full power of the Voting Rights Act, and return control of our elections to the American people.
Democrats believe that climate change poses a real and urgent threat to our economy, our national security, and our children’s health and futures, and that Americans deserve the jobs and security that come from becoming the clean energy superpower of the 21st century.
Democrats believe we are stronger and safer when America brings the world together and leads with principle and purpose. We believe we should strengthen our alliances, not weaken them. We believe in the power of development and diplomacy. We believe our military should be the best-trained, best-equipped fighting force in the world, and that we must do everything we can to honor and support our veterans. And we know that only the United States can mobilize common action on a truly global scale, to take on the challenges that transcend borders, from international terrorism to climate change to health pandemics.
The Republicans at this point are still continuing with their blaming, finger-pointing, and whining. I’m incapable of reading this without my partisan bent, but even more than that, it’s astonishing to me the extent to which all these things of which Democrats are accused are now precisely the actions being taken by the current president and Republicans in Congress. In addition, this section of the preamble is a Declaration of Grievances rather than a statement of a positive vision and policies (from their perspective) for the future.
Our standing in world affairs has declined significantly — our enemies no longer fear us and our friends no long trust us.
People want and expect an America that is the most powerful and respected country on the face of the earth.
The men and women of our military remain the world’s best. The have been shortchanged in numbers, equipment, and benefits by a Commander in Chief who treats the Armed Forces and our veterans as a necessary inconvenience.
The President and the Democratic party have dismantled Americans’ system of healthcare. They have replaced it with a costly and complicated scheme that limits choices and takes away our freedom.
The President and the Democratic party have abandoned their promise of being accountable to the American people.
They have nearly doubled the size of the national debt.
They refuse to control our borders but try to control our schools, farms, businesses, and even our religious institutions.
They have directly attacked the production of American energy and the industry-related jobs that have sustained families and communities.
In this final section of the Democratic platform, the language becomes soaring, even as it explicitly contrasts our principles with those of Republicans. This is the language that so thrilled us during the convention and so defines us as a party of optimism, hope, compassion, and a better future.
Above all, Democrats are the party of inclusion. We know that diversity is not our problem—it is our promise. As Democrats, we respect differences of perspective and belief, and pledge to work together to move this country forward, even when we disagree. With this platform, we do not merely seek common ground—we strive to reach higher ground.
We are proud of our heritage as a nation of immigrants. We know that today’s immigrants are tomorrow’s teachers, doctors, lawyers, government leaders, soldiers, entrepreneurs, activists, PTA members, and pillars of our communities.
We believe in protecting civil liberties and guaranteeing civil rights and voting rights, women’s rights and workers’ rights, LGBT rights, and rights for people with disabilities. We believe America is still, as Robert Kennedy said, “a great country, an unselfish country, and a compassionate country.”
These principles stand in sharp contrast to the Republicans, who have nominated as the standard-bearer for their party and their candidate for President a man who seeks to appeal to Americans’ basest differences, rather than our better natures.
The stakes have been high in previous elections. But in 2016, the stakes can be measured in human lives—in the number of immigrants who would be torn from their homes; in the number of faithful and peaceful Muslims who would be barred from even visiting our shores; in the number of allies alienated and dictators courted; in the number of Americans who would lose access to health care and see their rights ripped away.
This election is about more than Democrats and Republicans. It is about who we are as a nation, and who we will be in the future.
Two hundred and forty years ago, in Philadelphia, we started a revolution of ideas and of action that continues to this day. Since then, our union has been tested many times, through bondage and civil war, segregation and depression, two world wars and the threat of nuclear annihilation. Generations of Americans fought and marched and organized to widen the circle of opportunity and dignity—and we are fighting still.
Despite what some say, America is and has always been great—but not because it has been perfect. What makes America great is our unerring belief that we can make it better. We can and we will build a more just economy, a more equal society, and a more perfect union—because we are stronger together.
And now the last section of the Republican preamble. It includes not-so-sly othering of President Obama (whether due to his skin color or implications about his place of birth and religion; I assume the interpretation is left to the specific lie believed by the reader); laughably hypocritical statements urging that the people be given the power to make their own decisions about what’s best for them (presumably excluding women and their health decisions); and more Christianist pandering.
The President has been regulating to death a free market economy that he does not like and does not understand. He defies the laws of the United States by refusing to enforce those with which he does not agree. And he appoints judges who legislate from the bench rather than apply the law.
We, as Republicans and Americans, cannot allow this to continue. That is why the many sections of this platform affirm our trust in the people, our faith in their judgment, and our determination to help them take back their country.
This means removing the power from unelected, unaccountable government.
This means relieving the burden and expense of punishing government regulations.
And this means returning to the people and the states the control that belongs to them. It is the control and the power to make their own decisions about what’s best for themselves and their families and communities.
This platform is many things: A handbook for returning decision-making to the people. A guide to the constitutional rights of every American. And a manual for the kind of sustained growth that will bring opportunity to all those on the sidelines of our society.
Every time we sing, “God Bless America,” we are asking for help. We ask for divine help that our country can fulfill its promise. We earn that help by recommitting ourselves to the ideas and ideals that are the true greatness of America.
I defy anyone to read these two preambles and say with a straight face that the two parties are just the same.
And now for obligatory cuteness in Basset form:
— Toby, Henry & Me (@AolCatherine) June 12, 2017
I can never get enough of this one.
— Doggie Pals (@mb_mclane) June 6, 2017
Just remember, no matter how bad or stressful things get, basset hounds are great. pic.twitter.com/R0ECkLnYCK
— Jonah Goldberg (@JonahNRO) June 4, 2017
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