The Democratic Party platform

2012-09-04 11:16
(AP, File)

(AP, File)

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New York - On Monday the Democrats released their party platform. To be clear, this is a non-binding set of philosophies the party holds: ie not everyone in the party is expected to maintain them.

This document does, however, inform voters what the party is all about – its branding, if you will. Here, News24 will turn the 25 000-word document into something you can read over a cup of tea – with a focus on policy. Ok maybe two cups of tea. Big cups.   
 
The Democrats plan is called "Moving America Forward", which ties in with the branding of the Obama campaign so far. The titles used are from the document.

Greater Together

Although there are certainly more areas where Democrats and Republicans differ than we can count now, civil rights are where Democrats kick harder, coming out against all kinds of discrimination, such as payment inequality between men and women, and laws that permit people to be fired for being gay.

The manifesto lists civil rights achievements undertaken by the Obama administration ensuring gay couples can visit each other in hospital, and that immigrant gay couples remain recognised with a non-gender specific denotation of "family".

Support for women includes moves to mandate paid maternity leave, and to re-authorise the Violence Against Women Act (which endured a bumpy ride through congress) and all the benefits that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act brings for women, particularly in terms of preventative healthcare.

"The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe vs Wade," the Supreme Court case which made it illegal to outlaw abortion, calling abortion "personal" and "there is no place for politicians or government to get in the way".

Democrats also "support marriage equality and support the movement to secure equal treatment under law for same-sex couples", echoing the president's assertions earlier in 2012.

Democrats claim guns should be subject to "reasonable regulation", which includes the reinstatement of the assault weapons ban.

This document reinforces the "safety net" for those living in poverty, which includes items such as welfare and food stamps. The party does not condemn the death penalty, but says it "must not be arbitrary".

"Democrats are strongly committed to enacting comprehensive immigration reform" for the second election in a row, although Obama has signed an executive order to allow the children of illegal immigrants to remain in the country if they fulfil certain criteria.

Further, there is an endorsement of the administration's policies regarding families (child tax credit, protecting women from domestic violence) and looking after military veterans.

The party also affirms its commitment to assisting the disabled. Democrats respect and welcome faith-based institutions, claiming "our lives are made vastly stronger and richer by faith and the countless acts of justice and mercy it inspires", adding there is no conflict between faith and the US Constitution.

There is support for the agriculture industry as well as rural America, but the difference between Democrats and Republicans is government programmes involving themselves in the sector. The document contains pledges to continue to support the arts.
 

Stronger in the world, safer and more secure at home


This chapter obviously begins with reminders that it was the current president who ended the war in Iraq, administered the killing of Osama Bin Laden and focused energy on al-Qaeda, which has allegedly subsequently weakened.

The big foreign policy goal now is to end war in Afghanistan "responsibly", with the goal to end combat operations by 2014.

America also has a goal to reduce nuclear its own nuclear arms, but it won't get rid of its arsenal until everyone else does.

As you can imagine, Iran gets its own chapter with Democrats swearing an administration of Democrats will use every tactic in the book, including attacking with the military, to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear arms.

Democrats also claim they will cut contact (and food aid) with North Korea if it doesn't pack in its nuclear arms.

Democrats plan to protect America from cyber security threats, biological weapons, climate change and organised cross-border crime.

The Obama government will continue its efforts to remain buddy-buddy with Europe and play a leading role in Nato and the United Nations, while trying to add to its list of friends in Asia, Latin America and the Middle East (including a special mention for Israel).

There is also a special focus on China with aims to improve relations between the countries but "being clear and candid when we have differences".

For Africa, the US will continue to "partner with African nations to combat al-Qaeda affiliates" and nail folks like Joseph Kony. The President's Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (Pepfar) which was enacted under Bush, intends to treat double the people it does now by  the end of 2013.
 
And like Republicans, Democrats think it is vital that the US maintains the world’s strongest military.
 
Moving America Forward

The document initially pans Mitt Romney and his preference for trickle-down economics – different from its Republican equivalent which, although critical, was more judicious in handing out criticism.

Democrats immediately advertise themselves as the party of the middle class – which both parties are trying to – and begin telling everyone just how wonderful America is with lines such as, "We believe America can succeed because the American people have never failed and there is nothing that together we cannot accomplish."

The opening section also criticises Republican plans to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and privatise Medicare, a popular programme that ensures the elderly receive government-guaranteed healthcare.

Surprisingly, mentions of fairness, which have been a repeated stump issue for anyone campaigning on Democrats behalf, are mashed into a small paragraph a little way in.
 
Rebuilding Middle Class Security

As I said earlier, there is a fight for the votes of the middle class in the US - quite simply the largest economic demographic in the USA.

The Democrat manifesto gives an in-depth description of just how bad that month was economically (in case you forgot what Obama's predecessor did) and then tells you everything the current president did to try and fix it but making clear the party doesn't just believe in cutting spending to correct a flat economy.

One of the points it lists is "States have more flexibility to raise standards and reform schools" – important because states rights, governed by the tenth amendment, are a favourite talking point of conservatives.

Most of this part of the document praises Obama for middle class tax cuts, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, stabilising the housing market (which is not really true), and goes on to reinforce Democrat plans for education: "We are committed to ensuring that every child in America has access to a world-class public education so we can out-educate the world and make sure America has the world's highest proportion of college graduates by 2020."

Democrats list all the work and money they have poured into tertiary education, and then propose not to deport academics who are "Americans in every way but on paper", or students who earn advanced degrees "to stay and help create jobs here at home".
 
When it comes to the economy, Democrats back a tax increase on high earners, to bring the percentage paid by rich people on their earnings to those paid by the middle class, as well as letting the Bush tax cuts expire.

The party also plans on a simpler tax code (another thing both parties say but never do), closing tax loopholes which major-earning companies don't need and creating incentives to stop outsourcing American jobs.

Like Republicans, Democrats also call for an energy policy which maximises local output to reduce reliance on foreign energy imports.

Where the policies differ however is Democrat focus on clean energy – clapping itself on the back for over 200 000 clean energy jobs, and maximising what can be gained through wind and solar energy through new technology.

Republicans prefer to harness all domestic energy sources – "drill, baby, drill" if you'll permit me to use former presidential candidate John McCain's energy policy from his run in 2008.

Democrats also pat themselves on the back for reviving American manufacturing, including the bailout of the auto industry, while also insisting on further fuel efficiency regulations.

The party is prepared to use tax incentives to encourage "clean energy manufacturing", and to encourage companies to bring outsourced jobs back to the USA.

Another way Democrats seek to boost jobs is through government spending on infrastructure, as well as investing in science, technology and innovation.
 
When it comes to workers, Democrats are frank about their support for unions, "the right to organise" and "strong labour laws" – adding "We oppose the attacks on collective bargaining that Republican governors and state legislatures are mounting in states around the country."

Democrats also plan to raise the minimum wage and peg it to inflation. The document contains pledges to help small businesses and increase American exports, but doesn't really propose any new specific policies to deal with either.

Of course, China's currency valuation cracks a mention alongside the term "level playing field".

We take a journey through not letting lobbyists decide what government does, and how this plays out regarding Wall Street reform after the financial crisis, with no new real policy additions.

There is also a call for getting rid of government's "unnecessary rules" which could save the taxpayer up to $10bn over five years, and to make the administration more open and transparent (which you will most likely find on every manifesto).

Importantly, Democrats decry the amount of money and lobbying in politics, specifically mentioning the Supreme Court decision in Citizen's United vs the Federal Election Commission, although they do not call for its repeal.
 
News24’s summary of the Republican platform can be found here.

- AP
Read more on:    al-qaeda  |  barack obama  |  simon williamson  |  us  |  iran  |  gay rights  |  nuclear  |  us elections 2012  |  healthcare
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