Last night, the Democratic Party released the platform that will presumably be approved at tonight’s convention. For the most part, it’s an unsurprising document that reprises many of the political and policy themes pushed by the party over the past several years, and won’t shock anyone who has followed the Obama presidency and the last three years in Congress. But there are still a handful of promising aspirations listed—and a few disheartening planks and omissions as well.
Here’s a quick look at what’s encouraging and disappointing. Again, this critique is in the context of what we understand to be Democratic Party politics. One could certainly imagine a far more progressive platform. (The Nation did, here: “A People’s Platform for the Democratic Party.”) This platform isn’t that, and I won’t belabor that point. I also won’t waste time lauding well-known positions like unequivocal support for Roe vs. Wade.
A constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. The Republican National Convention sucked up a lot of media oxygen last week, so many people missed an important development in the campaign finance battles: during a Reddit session, President Obama proposed a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. The White House, for the first time, was endorsing a massive grassroots movement already underway to undo the highly destructive Supreme Court decision, and it turns out Obama was also previewing the Democratic platform. It reads: “We support campaign finance reform, by constitutional amendment if necessary.”
Exempting the safety net from deficit reduction. There are a few encouraging things about the platform when it comes to deficit reduction, which will be a major issue very soon after the election as Congress must deal with the fiscal cliff. The first is that the platform counts the $2 trillion in spending cuts already signed into law during debt ceiling negotiations as part of an effort to get $4 trillion in deficit reduction—an accurate but not universally agreed upon metric. (Many deficit hawks argue for $4 trillion more in reductions). Encouragingly, the section on deficit reduction then talks about ending the Bush tax rates for top earners, closing corporate loopholes, and enacting the Buffet Rule—but does not include reductions in Medicare and Social Security. Given that Democrats seemed prepared to cut these programs during the debt ceiling negotiations, this is a heartening omission from the deficit reduction section of the platform.
Gay marriage. We’ve already known for months the platform would include this, but it’s worth noting again: for the first time, a major party platform explicitly endorses same-sex marriage. “We support the right of all families to have equal respect, responsibilities, and protections under the law,” the Democratic platform states. “We support marriage equality and support the movement to secure equal treatment under law for same-sex couples.”
Voting rights. Amidst a slew of aggressive voter suppression laws by Republicans in several different states, the Democratic platform contains some strong language fighting back on the right to vote: “ We believe the right to vote and to have your vote counted is an essential American freedom, and we oppose laws that place unnecessary restrictions on those seeking to exercise that freedom…. Democrats know that voter identification laws can disproportionately burden young voters, people of color, low-income families, people with disabilities, and the elderly, and we refuse to allow the use of political pretexts to disenfranchise American citizens.”