by Sen. Doug Whitsett
Both the Democrat and Republican parties adopted their platforms during conventions held earlier this summer. Those platforms reveal a great deal regarding the agendas and priorities of each political party. They represent a roadmap of how each party plans to govern if they are elected.
Republican Party Platform
The Republican Party Platform is a 66-page document encompassing several areas of both foreign and domestic policy. Its Preamble’s first line states: “We believe in American exceptionalism.” It is dedicated to members of the U.S. military, law enforcement, first responders and their families.
Other principles embraced in the preamble include the belief the United States Constitution is our enduring covenant rather than a flexible, living document. The qualities of limited government and the separation of powers are specifically enumerated, as well as the recognition that our people are better stewards of natural resources than our government.
The Platform describes the belief that our nation has been led in the wrong direction for the past eight years. It cites salient examples including the doubling of the national debt, ongoing refusals to control our borders, continued attacks on domestic energy production, stagnant wages for private sector workers, and the dismantling of our health care system. President Obama is chastised for “regulating to death a free market economy that he does not like and does not understand.”
The first section of the Platform is entitled “Restoring the American Dream.” Its central premise is that “government cannot create prosperity.” However, government can, and often does, limit or destroy private wealth.
The section rejects the idea that we should accept the “new normal” of a slow-growing economy. It points out that Obama is poised to be the first modern president to leave office without even one calendar year of three percent economic growth.
Moreover, the number of Americans living in poverty has increased by seven million during his term in office. At 63 percent, the labor force participation rate is at its lowest level since the Carter administration. For the first time since World War II, business closures are exceeding business startups. Business investment has been in negative territory for the past seven quarters.
Suggested solutions to the Obama morass include the development of a simplified, pro-growth tax code. The plan would reduce corporate tax rates while creating incentives for investment and innovation as a “moral imperative.” It would close multiple tax-avoidance loopholes and curb corporate welfare. It calls for better negotiated trade agreements that put Americans first and encourages more home ownership.
Another section emphasizes the use of technology to build the future. The Republican Party is committed to data privacy, the protection of intellectual property, facilitation of access to high-speed broadband and the competition for internet services. It seeks to expedite citing processes to accelerate the expansion of the electrical grid.
Other proposals to spur economic development include the reduction of occupational licensing, annual audits bringing transparency and accountability for the Federal Reserve, establishing a commission to investigate ways to set a fixed value for the dollar, encouraging employee stock ownership plans, streamlining federal personnel procedures and realigning federal employee compensation with the standards of most American employees, reviewing the unionization of the federal workforce, establishing caps on future debt and requiring that major new federal regulations be approved by Congress.
A significant portion of the Republican Party platform is included in a section entitled “A Rebirth of Constitutional Government.”
The Party proposes to protect religious liberty through the passage of a First Amendment Defense Act. It further protects the political speech of advocacy groups, corporations and labor unions by calling for the repeal of federal restrictions on political parties and limits on political contributions.
The Platform aims to uphold and strengthen the Second Amendment by stating support for firearm reciprocity and constitutional carry. Conversely, it condemns frivolous lawsuits against gun manufacturers and opposes the federal licensing or registration of gun owners, the registration of ammunition and the restoration of the Clinton gun ban.
Fourth Amendment issues are addressed through calls to limit aerial surveillance on U.S. soil, other than for enforcement of our sovereign borders. Republicans oppose the use of tracking devices on cars and encourage the reformation of civil asset forfeiture policies.
A section entitled “America’s Natural Resources: Agriculture, Energy and the Environment” makes up approximately six pages of the Platform.
The Party is calling for expanded trade opportunities and the opening of new markets for U.S. agricultural products. It demands food and health regulations must be based upon reproducible science-based standards.
The section upholds ranching on federal land and promotes the active, sustainable harvest, multi-use management of our federal forests. The Platform specifically recognizes the states can perform those functions better than the federal government.
Energy-related proposals include supporting the construction of the Keystone Pipeline and opening public lands, as well as the outer continental shelf, to energy exploration and development. It advocates for transferring authority to state regulators to manage energy resources on federal lands within their borders, expediting the permitting process for mineral production on public lands and developing all forms of energy without government subsidies using private capital.
The Republican Party platform urges the transfer of federal lands to willing states. Most environmental regulation authority would be transferred to the states. Federal rulemaking would be limited and accompanied by a requirement that citizens be compensated for regulatory takings. Private sector development of carbon capture and sequestration technology would be encouraged. The expected result would be increased domestic energy production.
The Platform calls for abolishing the Obama administration’s controversial Clean Power Plan, forbidding the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating carbon dioxide and opposing a carbon tax. It also calls for the rejection of the Kyoto Protocol and Paris Agreement agendas, as well prohibiting further U.S. funding for the United Nations’ Framework Convention on Climate Change.
The Equal Access to Justice Act would be reformed to cap and disclose payments made to environmental activist organizations. The “sue and settle” system of legal extortion used by certain environmental groups would be ended.
The 1906 Antiquities Act would be amended to establish Congress’ right to approve the designation of national monuments. It would further require the approval of the state where a monument is to be designated or a national park is proposed.
“Government Reform” comprises eight pages of the Republican Party Platform. Proposals include a Constitutional requirement for a balanced federal budget, as well as a Balanced Budget Amendment that imposes a cap limiting spending to the appropriate historical average percentage of Gross Domestic Product. It proposes a supermajority requirement for any tax increase, except in instances of war or legitimate emergencies.
This section also addresses issues surrounding immigration policies. It includes support for making English the nation’s official language, making sanctuary cities ineligible for federal funding, establishing a mandatory minimum of five years in prison for illegals who re-enter the country after being deported, reforming the current guest worker program and making e-verify mandatory nationwide.
Also proposed are audits for the Pentagon and Department of Defense, term limits for members of Congress and the reinstatement of the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act regulating the banking and securities industry.
Health care issues are addressed in the Platform’s next section. The Party is calling for the repeal of Obama Care, the promotion of price transparency in the health care industry, the encouragement of individuals and small businesses to form insurance purchasing pools and amending outdated laws to allow consumers to buy insurance across state lines. The Platform also promotes health savings accounts and reimbursement accounts.
The Party recognizes the only hope for public education is to introduce more competition into the current monopolized system. It aims to bolster Americans’ choices by promoting education savings accounts, education vouchers and education tuition tax credits.
The platform’s final section, entitled “America Resurgent,” discusses foreign policy and national defense. It includes the Party’s support for Israel, resolve for maintaining and increasing sanctions against Russia until the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Ukraine are restored, and calling for our allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to make greater investments in their armed forces. Republicans oppose the reinstatement of a military draft.
Democratic Party Platform
The 55-page Democratic Party Platform lists a significantly contrasting set of national priorities. It contains many promises of increased spending on myriad government programs. However, it provides scant detail on how to pay for them other than the familiar rhetoric about corporations paying their “fair share.” What is a fair corporate share and how much revenue it will raise is a figure which is never actually defined.
Salient priorities for the national Democrat Party include overturning the U.S. Supreme Court’s free speech decision in Citizens United, removing the Confederate flag from public properties and closing the “racial wealth gap.”
Included is a call to reaffirm our commitment to develop a national strategy to eliminating poverty. Democrats first responded to that call with President Lyndon Johnson’s 1964 “Great Society.” The multiple layers of Democrat programs created by that effort have perpetuated, expanded and institutionalized poor minorities for more than half a century. One important reason for the programs’ failures is that much of the money allocated for them is used to pay the government employees who oversee and deliver the services.
The Democrat Platform states that we should “secure environmental justice” and combat “environmental racism.” It expresses support for the Kyoto Protocol and Paris Agreement, the Clean Power Plan and Obama’s continued rejection of the Keystone Pipeline.
One stated goal is obtaining half of the nation’s electricity from clean energy sources within a decade, powering the government with 100 percent clean energy and making the U.S. the clean energy superpower of the 21st century. They would purportedly accomplish these goals by incentivizing wind and solar power over the development of new natural gas, by increasing bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure and by taxing carbon dioxide emissions.
Democrats are also calling for a Department of Justice investigation of “corporate fraud” by fossil fuel companies for supposedly misleading shareholders on the “scientific reality” of climate change. There is no mention of the need for similar investigations into the kind of green energy cronyism and corruption that has plagued Oregon and other states for the last several years.
The Democratic Party platform include a plank guaranteeing good schools for every child. It does not address how public education outcomes have progressively worsened by virtually every objective indicator, despite the seemingly endless amounts of money spent to improve those outcomes.
The Platform states the Democrat pride in being the party responsible for enacting the Affordable Care Act. It goes on to describe health care as a right rather than a privilege and includes support for securing universal health care for all, as well as support for the public option. The growing lack of access to medical care and the runaway costs of medical insurance under the ACA are not addressed.
Another Democrat Party Platform pledge is to “tackle the epidemic of gun violence” by revoking legal immunity protections for gun makers and sellers, expanding background checks, eliminating background check “loopholes” and taking “weapons of war” off of our streets.
Another section of the Platform is devoted to foreign policy. It praises Obama for blocking Iran’s ability to pursue nuclear weapons and claims he “crippled al Qaeda’s core leadership.” It states a devotion to ending the rule of Assad in Syria, pledges to close Guantanamo Bay and supports a two-nation solution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Voting choice in November
The obvious contrast between the parties is spelled out in their platforms. Voters would be wise to educate themselves on those differences when considering which candidates to support in November’s general election.
Senator Doug Whitsett is the Republican state senator representing Senate District 28 – Klamath Falls