Parties Finalize Their Platforms

Over the last two weeks, the Republican and Democratic parties held national conventions to nominate their candidates to become the next President of the United States. While much of the energy and fanfare of the conventions surrounded those choices, also important was the crafting of the public policy platforms of the two major political parties. Conservative leaders hailed the principles of the Republican platform, while editors at The New York Times, which has wondered in recent days about its perceived liberal bent, called it the “most extreme Republican platform in memory” that “lays bare just how much the G.O.P. is driven by a regressive, extremist inner core.” Similarly, liberals lauded the “progressive” nature of the Democratic platform, while many on the right raised great concern with it, particularly its new position supporting taxpayer funding of abortion.

What exactly is in these documents? While not nearly an exhaustive list of significant statements, below are some quotations to provide some comparison:

Faith-Based Organizations

  • Democratic: “Democrats know that our nation, our communities, and our lives are made vastly stronger and richer by faith in many forms and the countless acts of justice, mercy, and tolerance it inspires. We believe in lifting up and valuing the good work of people of faith and religious organizations and finding ways to support that work where possible.”
  • Republican: “To protect religious liberty we will ensure that faith-based institutions, especially those that are vital parts of underserved neighborhoods, do not face discrimination by government.”

Religious Freedom

  • Democratic: “We support a progressive vision of religious freedom that respects pluralism and rejects the misuse of religion to discriminate.”
  • Republican: “The Bill of Rights lists religious liberty, with its rights of conscience, as the first freedom to be protected. Religious freedom in the Bill of Rights protects the right of the people to practice their faith in their everyday lives.”

The Constitution

  • Democratic: “Democrats support a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s decisions in Citizens United and Buckley v. Valeo.”

“We will appoint judges who defend the constitutional principles of liberty and equality for all, and will protect a woman’s right to safe and legal abortion, curb billionaires’ influence over elections because they understand that Citizens United has fundamentally damaged our democracy, and believe the Constitution protects not only the powerful, but also the disadvantaged and powerless.”

  • Republican: “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.”

“Our First Amendment rights are not given to us by the government but are rights we inherently possess. The government cannot use subsequent amendments to limit First Amendment rights.”

Abortion

  • Democratic: “We believe unequivocally, like the majority of Americans, that every woman should have access to quality reproductive health care services, including safe and legal abortion—regardless of where she lives, how much money she makes, or how she is insured. We believe that reproductive health is core to women’s, men’s, and young people’s health and wellbeing. We will continue to stand up to Republican efforts to defund Planned Parenthood health centers, which provide critical health services to millions of people. We will continue to oppose—and seek to overturn—federal and state laws and policies that impede a woman’s access to abortion, including by repealing the Hyde Amendment.”
  • Republican: “[W]e assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental right to life which cannot be infringed. We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to children before birth. We oppose the use of public funds to perform or promote abortion or to fund organizations, like Planned Parenthood, so long as they provide or refer for elective abortions or sell fetal body parts rather than provide healthcare.”

Marriage

  • Democratic: “Democrats applaud last year’s decision by the Supreme Court that recognized that LGBT people—like other Americans—have the right to marry the person they love.”
  • Republican: “Traditional marriage and family, based on marriage between one man and one woman, is the foundation for a free society and has for millennia been entrusted with rearing children and instilling cultural values. We condemn the Supreme Court’s ruling in United States v. Windsor…. We also condemn the Supreme Court’s lawless ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges.”

“We endorse the First Amendment Defense Act, Republican legislation in the House and Senate which will bar government discrimination against individuals and businesses for acting on the belief that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.”

Internet

  • Democratic: “High-speed internet connectivity is not a luxury; it is a necessity for 21st century economic success, social mobility, education, health care, and public safety… Democrats support a free and open internet at home and abroad, and will oppose any effort by Republicans to roll back the historic net neutrality rules that the Federal Communications Commission enacted last year.”
  • Republican: “We will consistently support internet policies that allow people and private enterprise to thrive, without providing new and expanded government powers to tax and regulate so that the internet does not become the vehicle for a dramatic expansion of government power. The internet’s independence is its power. It has unleashed innovation, enabled growth, and inspired freedom more rapidly and extensively than any other technological advance in human history. We will therefore resist any effort to shift control toward governance by international or other intergovernmental organizations.”

Israel

  • Democratic: “A strong and secure Israel is vital to the United States because we share overarching strategic interests and the common values of democracy, equality, tolerance, and pluralism. That is why we will always support Israel’s right to defend itself, including by retaining its qualitative military edge, and oppose any effort to delegitimize Israel, including at the United Nations or through the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement. We will continue to work toward a two-state solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict negotiated directly by the parties that guarantees Israel’s future as a secure and democratic Jewish state with recognized borders and provides the Palestinians with independence, sovereignty, and dignity. While Jerusalem is a matter for final status negotiations, it should remain the capital of Israel, an undivided city accessible to people of all faiths. Israelis deserve security, recognition, and a normal life free from terror and incitement. Palestinians should be free to govern themselves in their own viable state, in peace and dignity.
  • Republican: “Like the United States of America, the modern state of Israel is a country born from the aspiration for freedom and stands out among the nations as a beacon of democracy and humanity….  We recognize Jerusalem as the eternal and indivisible capital of the Jewish state and call for the American embassy to be moved there in fulfillment of U.S. law…. We support Israel’s right and obligation to defend itself against terror attacks upon its people and against alternative forms of warfare being waged upon it legally, economically, culturally, and otherwise. We reject the false notion that Israel is an occupier and specifically recognize that the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement (BDS) is anti-Semitic in nature and seeks to destroy Israel…. The United States seeks to assist in the establishment of comprehensive and lasting peace in the Middle East, to be negotiated among those living in the region.”

Overseas Attacks on Christians

  • Democratic: “We are horrified by ISIS’ genocide and sexual enslavement of Christians and Yezidis and crimes against humanity against Muslims and others in the Middle East. We will do everything we can to protect religious minorities and the fundamental right of freedom of religion.”
  • Republican: “Religious minorities across the Middle East have been driven from their ancient homelands, and thousands, there and in Africa, have been slaughtered for their faith in what the State Department has, belatedly, labeled genocide. The United States must stand with leaders, like President Sisi of Egypt who has bravely protected the rights of Coptic Christians in Egypt, and call on other leaders across the region to ensure that all religious minorities, whether Yazidi, Bahai, Orthodox, Catholic or Protestant Christians, are free to practice their religion without fear of persecution. At a time when China has renewed its destruction of churches, Christian home-schooling parents are jailed in parts of Europe, and even Canada threatens pastors for their preaching, a Republican administration will return the advocacy of religious liberty to a central place in its diplomacy, will quickly designate the systematic killing of religious and ethnic minorities a genocide, and will work with the leaders of other nations to condemn and combat genocidal acts.”

The full Republican platform is available here, and the full Democratic platform is available here.

By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations

Published: July 29, 2016

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