Sep 04

The Critical Importance of Party Platforms

The Party Platform as Blueprint (It’s NOT Boring!)

Being something of a political junkie, I decided to read the political platforms of the two major parties and the Green Party before the election in 2012. Yes, I said the political platforms of the two major parties. I recommend everybody do the same. It might just change the way you look at what’s going on in Washington D.C. and your state’s capitol. It might just change the way you look at the individual you voted for.

 ”Read the party platforms, you say. Hell, I don’t have time to read more than the headlines in the daily paper, let alone some party platform. The bank’s trying to foreclose on the house we’ve lived in for thirty years. I’m holding down two jobs just to keep bread on the table, and my wife had to take a waitress job after she was fired when the unionized teachers went on strike over new work rules forced on them by the school. The 50-year-old guy across the street got laid off last year and can’t find work because he’s ”too old.” My wife’s cousin’s 14-year-old girl died last month when she used a coat hanger to get rid of the baby because the state’s only legal abortion clinic was forced to close. And you tell me to read the party platforms.”

So what is a party platform? Simply stated, it’s a manifesto or statement setting forth the actions a political party supports in order to appeal to the general public in an effort to get that party’s candidates voted into office.

Legislators don’t always stick closely to the party’s platform, but the platform sets forth the party’s philosophy of governing. It’s a blueprint of what the party believes is important and influences your legislator on issues that touch your life and the lives of those around you.

Now take the fictitious John Q. Public above who sounded off on some issues that have touched the lives of people you may know. His complaints are not uncommon in today’s America, but he may have no idea where the legislator he voted for stands on the issues that have turned his family’s life upside down. Let’s examine the elements of his cry of despair in light of the platforms of the two major parties that dominate the American political arena.

John is holding down two jobs that leave him no time to peruse the party platforms that bear on his issues. He is having to work these jobs just to feed his family. It’s fair to say that this means he is probably not being paid a living wage by one job alone and that he probably has little leisure time to enjoy the fruits of his labor. What’s more, his wife, a former teacher, has been fired from her teaching job for exercising her right to take to the picket line over rules imposed unilaterally by her employer.

The Republican Party’s 2012 platform supports the right of the company to pay John a minimal salary forcing him to take a second job to make up the difference between what he used to make and what he makes now. The second job obviously operates with a similar philosophy. It’s capitalism at work.

The Republican Party’s 2012 platform also supports the school’s right to fire John’s wife for exercising her right to strike against the unfair imposition of burdensome work rules that may boost the school’s profitability. Because her job has been forfeited and other schools are laying off teachers, John’s wife is forced to take a low-paying job to keep the bank from foreclosing on their home. We know that some too-big-to-fail banks have fraudulently created false documents to allow them to foreclose on homes where their legal right to foreclosure does not exist.

As an aside, I must point out here that the U.S. Supreme Court has also weighed in on the side of management’s right to impose rules that make it difficult for unionized workers to oppose rules once considered burdensome. But that is a subject for another time.

By contrast, the Democratic Party’s 2012 platform supports the payment of a living wage which would obviate the necessity for John to have a second job.

The 2012 Democratic platform supports the right of unionized workers to strike when their employer imposes unfair conditions and makes it illegal to fire those workers for exercising their rights, as happened to John’s wife.

The 50-year-old guy across the street that can’t find work is a flaw in the system that has been around for decades but is made worse when, as now, corporations are hip-deep in unused cash yet refuse to hire qualified workers because of the allegation that demand for their product has declined as a result of high unemployment. At the same time, the Republican Party is beating the drum for austerity in the face of an imagined deficit problem and ignoring the nation’s high unemployment. It seems clear that high unemployment is a much higher priority than the deficit which, by the way, is falling as a percentage of the gross domestic product.

Here we see that although the Democratic Party’s 2012 platform urges more investment in the area of unemployment and less focus on austerity, there are Democratic legislators who insist in the face of abundant evidence to the contrary that austerity is the path to follow. One is forced to wonder if they are more concerned with being reelected than they are with the nation’s well-being.

Moving on, John speaks painfully of the tragedy of a young girl dying because the state made it impossible for her to obtain a safe abortion at the women’s health clinic that was closed because the legislators—probably Christian men, by the way—felt it necessary to protect a fetus from being removed safely from the girl child’s uterus. The fact of the matter is that the women’s clinic spent far more effort on other health issues like breast exams and PAP smears than it did on abortions.

One of the key planks in the 2012 Republican platform and earlier platforms has been the elimination of a woman’s right to decide matters dealing with her own reproductive health. The Republican Party is determined to repeal Roe vs. Wade, a 1973 United States Supreme Court decision guaranteeing the right of a woman to choose. Note that another plank in the Republican platform since the Reagan era is support for the Human Life Amendment, yet another effort to overrule Roe vs. Wade. Fortunately, the effort has been stillborn. It needs to be mentioned here that the majority of Americans support a woman’s right of choice in matters of her reproductive health.

By sharp contrast, the Democratic Party’s 2012 platform unequivocally supports the retention of a woman’s right to choose as stated in Roe vs. Wade.

Of course there are more than just the few issues raised by John. For example, the right to vote, particularly for people of color, has been endangered by the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in the case of Shelby County vs. Holder, 570 U.S.__ (2013). It almost seems unnecessary to add that the Republican administrations of several states have wasted no time in adding onerous new restrictions on the right to vote under the bogus claim that they are merely protecting against voter fraud, a claim that doesn’t stand up to close examination.

Let’s look at the issue of One Person-One Vote as perhaps best illustrated by the Popular Vote movement. The Republican Party opposes instituting the popular vote in place of the anachronistic Electoral College. On the other hand, the Democratic platform supports the institution of the popular vote which, unlike the Electoral College, would give each person’s vote the same weight. Stated more clearly, the 2012 Democratic Party platform gives real meaning to giving every voter’s ballot the same weight. That the Republican Party opposes it is strange in view of the fact that, despite losing, the Republicans did better in the popular vote than they did in the Electoral College. Maybe the answer is that the Republican Party fears that the voters will see through their cynical con job designed to confuse voters.

By now, you have a good idea that the Republican Party is opposed to what a normal person would consider to be common sense matters. But today’s Republican is not the same as those of fifty years ago. Witness the clown car of candidates for the presidency during the 2012 primaries: Rick Santorum, Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain and others. The only arguably sane candidate, Jon Huntsman, withdrew from the race early, no doubt wanting to avoid being on the same stage with the crazies who appear to be dominating the Republican Party these days.

Based on the above, it seems obvious that a look at the platforms of the two dominant parties in America, the Democratic and Republican Parties, shows that the Democratic Party has more to offer the people despite the fact that the majority of both parties are slave to the Wall Street interests that would reduce you to neo-feudal peonage.

I close with the strong recommendation that you find the time to take a look at the platforms of at least the two major parties. The future of America is in the voters’ hands…in your hands.


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    • Mary Ann Conley on September 5, 2013 at 00:45

    Enjoyed reading your post. Am wondering where such a succinctly stated comparison of party platforms could be found. I have always assumed that the documents would be long and incomprehensible to those who, like the people in your example, rarely have time to read the morning paper much less attempt to wade through party platform documents. Would love to have a source that would simply “cut to the chasse” as you have done.

      • Don Bay on September 5, 2013 at 13:48

      In reply to, an interested person will click in the Google box at the top of their browser and enter (type) in “party platforms” and the year of the election (Example: “2016 party platforms”) then click “enter” (or “return”) on the right side of your keyboard. This will take you to the first page of the Google search engine where you will find anywhere from the full platform of the parties to summaries to articles about the platforms. If you are not satisfied with the articles on the first page, you can go to subsequent pages which you will find at the bottom of the first page.

      Alternatively, you can designate the particular party in which you are interested by adding the party after the date and before “party platform” in the example given above.

      I read the full platforms of the parties to get the nuances, what was included, what was glossed over and what was omitted. If you want just the summaries, you will find those, but they are very superficial. Regardless, you will find what the party in question deems important to woo potential voters. You may be surprised at what you find. You may discover you have been voting for the wrong party.

  1. Although you point out the clear differences between the two parties, you also mention how beholden they are to the moneyed interests. It seems to me that voters would best be served by a viable third (or more) party to keep the big boys honest.

      • Don Bay on September 6, 2013 at 15:50

      A third (or more) party would be desirable and would be healthier for the country than the two-party system that has limited the choices of voters for at least a century. Gore Vidal opined that the United States has only one party with two right wings. Not far from the truth, and it suggests that a viable third party would be more desirable than what America has now.

      Many have argued that an Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) system would open the way for voters to vote for their candidate of choice rather than choose between bad and worse…or simply not voting. It is successfully functioning in some American municipalities and elsewhere in the world. There are arguments pro and con for IRV, but that or something similar is needed to break the unhealthy grip that the two-party system has on the country. A viable third party might, just might, stir the electorate to break the USA’s deplorable voting record in the world. Look IRV up and join in the fight for meaningful change.

    • Don Bay on September 7, 2014 at 17:59

    The author of this pingback understands that the party platforms are important to knowing where a party stands on a given issue. While a candidate may stray from the party platform, s/he will not stray far.

    Again, I heartily recommend that you take the time to read the party platforms. Unless I am sadly mistaken, the Republican Party platform is not just inhumane, it’s downright scary for democracy. Although I would vote for most Democrats before I would vote for today’s Republican candidates, my neutrality as well as my humanity compels me to lean toward the Green Party even though I have been told I’m throwing away my vote. But then I vote in a heavily Democratic state where my vote doesn’t carry the weight of a vote in, for example, Ohio or Missouri. Yep, I heartily recommend reading the party platforms.

  1. […] strongly suggest you take a look at the Republican Party platform. There it is in black and white. I have in the past recommended you check out the party platforms since they are the blueprints for what the party stands for. It may seem like a drag to spend your […]

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