Somewhat overlooked in the excitement generated by powerful speeches given Tuesday by Michelle Obama, keynote speaker Julian Castro, Lily Ledbetter, Gov. Deval Patrick (D-MA), and others, was the fact that the Democratic Party also approved a progressive party platform that stands up for Medicare, Social Security, the right to organize, marriage equality, and many of the other policies and values that make this country great. The contrast with the reactionary platform that the GOP approved at their convention last week illustrates well the fundamental differences between the two parties and the critical issues at stake this November.
Here are some of the highlights from the 2012 Democratic Party platform, and key places where that platform is diametrically opposed to the GOP's agenda:
The Democratic platform vows to defend Medicare as a guaranteed, universal program for seniors, stating:
Democrats adamantly oppose any efforts to privatize or voucherize Medicare; unlike our opponents we will not ask seniors to pay thousands of dollars more every year while they watch the value of their Medicare benefits evaporate. Democrats believe that Medicare is a sacred compact with our seniors.
By contrast, the Republican platform specifically calls for ending Medicare as a "defined-benefit entitlement" and replacing it with inadequate vouchers.
In an age of increasing attacks on working people and labor unions, it is refreshing to see the Democratic platform include a ringing endorsement of the right to organize, stating:
Democrats believe that the right to organize and collectively bargain is a fundamental American value; every American should have a voice on the job and a chance to negotiate for a fair day's pay after a hard day's work. We will continue to fight for the right of all workers to organize and join a union. Unions helped build the greatest middle class the world has ever known. Their work resulted in the 40-hour workweek and weekends, paid leave and pensions, the minimum wage and health insurance, and Social Security and Medicare – the cornerstones of middle class security. We will fight for labor laws that provide a fair process for workers to choose union representation, that facilitate the collective bargaining process, and that strengthen remedies for violations of the law. We will fight for collective bargaining rights for police officers, nurses, firefighters, emergency medical technicians, teachers, and other public sector workers – jobs that are a proven path to the middle class for millions of Americans. We will continue to vigorously oppose "Right to Work" and "paycheck protection" efforts, and so-called "Save our Secret Ballot" measures whenever they are proposed. We will raise the minimum wage, and index it to inflation.
By contrast, the GOP platform promises to continue the attacks on labor unions that have been carried out by GOP Governors, and calls ultimately for a national right-to-work-for-less law.
The Democratic platform calls for reducing the corrupting influence of money on our political system and echoes President Obama's recent suggestion that a constitutional amendment to allow us to take back our democracy may be necessary:
We support campaign finance reform, by constitutional amendment if necessary. We support legislation to close loopholes and require greater disclosure of campaign spending. . . . . We support requiring groups trying to influence elections to reveal their donors so the public will know who's funding the political ads it sees.
The GOP platform reiterates that party's opposition to even such basic steps as the DISCLOSE Act, which would require disclosure of donors to SuperPACs and other groups that try to influence elections.
The Democratic platform sets forth President Obama's call for billionaires and big corporations to pay more of their fair share, stating:
We support allowing the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest to expire and closing loopholes and deductions for the largest corporations and the highest-earning taxpayers. We are committed to reforming our tax code so that it is fairer and simpler, creating a tax code that lives up to the Buffett Rule so no millionaire pays a smaller share of his or her income in taxes than middle class families do. . . . . The Democratic Party opposes efforts to give additional tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans at the expense of the middle class and investments in our future.
The Republican platform calls for further tax giveaways to the wealthy, including elimination of the estate tax, and consideration of repealing the 16th Amendment, which allows for a federal income tax, in favor of a regressive national sales tax.
The Democratic platform strongly endorses reproductive freedom, stating:
Democrats support access to affordable family planning services, and President Obama and Democrats will continue to stand up to Republican efforts to defund Planned Parenthood health centers.
. . . .
The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman's right to make decisions regarding her pregnancy, including a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay. We oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right. Abortion is an intensely personal decision between a woman, her family, her doctor, and her clergy; there is no place for politicians or government to get in the way. We also recognize that health care and education help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and thereby also reduce the need for abortions. We strongly and unequivocally support a woman's decision to have a child by providing affordable health care and ensuring the availability of and access to programs that help women during pregnancy and after the birth of a child, including caring adoption programs.
The GOP platform calls for passage of a "human life amendment" to the Constitution, which would apply the 14th Amendment to unborn fetuses and effectively outlaw choice even in cases of rape and incest, and repeats the false claim that abortion "endangers the health and well-being of women."
The Democratic platform strongly supports equality for women and LGBT Americans, stating:
We are committed to ensuring full equality for women: we reaffirm our support for the Equal Rights Amendment, recommit to enforcing Title IX, support the Paycheck Fairness Act, and will urge ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.
. . . .
We support the Employment Non- Discrimination Act because people should not be fired based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
. . . .
We support the right of all families to have equal respect, responsibilities, and protections under the law. We support marriage equality and support the movement to secure equal treatment under law for same-sex couples. We also support the freedom of churches and religious entities to decide how to administer marriage as a religious sacrament without government interference. We oppose discriminatory federal and state constitutional amendments and other attempts to deny equal protection of the laws to committed same-sex couples who seek the same respect and responsibilities as other married couples. We support the full repeal of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act and the passage of the Respect for Marriage Act.
The GOP platform describes approval of marriage equality as an "assault on the foundations of our society" and calls for a Constitutional amendment to ban marriage equality.
The Democratic platform acknowledges the threat that is climate change and the need for action, stating:
We know that global climate change is one of the biggest threats of this generation – an economic, environmental, and national security catastrophe in the making. We affirm the science of climate change, commit to significantly reducing the pollution that causes climate change, and know we have to meet this challenge by driving smart policies that lead to greater growth in clean energy generation and result in a range of economic and social benefits.
The GOP platform is silent on the issue, which I suppose is better than joining Mitt Romney in echoing the false claims of climate deniers.
Party platforms are, of course, not binding documents and, as such, there is no guarantee that the policies set forth in either party's platform will come to fruition. But the platforms do provide a good sense of the agenda each party would pursue if they were to be in power, and offer an important look at the values and goals that motivate the people who would assume positions of power if their party wins. And what the Democratic and Republican platforms shows is that under a Democratic Administration with a Democratic Congress , political debates would revolve around deciding the best ways to enact the types of progressive policies and goals that are set forth above, rather than having to spend four years playing defense on issues like Medicare, choice, LGBT equality, etc. As such, the Democrat's 2012 platform draws a clear contrast between the retrograde and reactionary policies and values that today's GOP is offering, and demonstrates well why all of us progressives need to stand up and fight for our President over these next two months.