Democratic Party Platform – 2016 Draft (Part 2 of 6)

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Part 1

Bring Americans Together and Remove Barriers to Create Ladders of Opportunity

Wow. That’s a mouthful. On principle, I hate it. “We will work to break down barriers standing in the way of Americans and replace them with ladders of opportunity.” Please point me to the mission statement committee so I can berate them appropriately.

Don’t misunderstand me: I like the overall objective.

Racial Wealth Gap

Two paragraphs stating the case, one sentence of

“Democrats believe it is long past time to close this racial wealth gap by eliminating systemic barriers to wealth accumulation for different racial groups and improving opportunities for people from all racial and ethnic backgrounds to build wealth”

There are no policy recommendations here. I can only conclude that the Democratic Party is paying lip service to the problem. Democratic policy recommendations on other issues will help all poor people, and minorities are disproportionately poor, but if you aren’t specifically targeting remedies for past discrimination, you’re only addressing part of the problem. (I do have policy ideas–but this is not the time.)

Criminal Justice

There’s a lot of good stuff here. Closing private prisons is a great idea, although one that will take time. I’ve always hated mandatory minimum sentencing, but we need to make sure that judicial supervisors have data to make certain that all defendants are tried and sentenced fairly. We don’t need judges who sentence minority offenders three times longer than white offenders.

Ending profiling based on race, religion, ethnicity, and national origin is also important. Body cameras probably need to become standard issue, now that they are light enough and cheap enough. I am disturbed that the platform only calls for reforms of civil asset forfeiture, when the abuses of the system indicate that it probably needs to be scrapped completely. I could support a system where assets are seized, held until criminal charges are concluded, then either released–if the defendant is found not guilty–or confiscated as part of the sentence.

Reforming the prison system to put a greater emphasis on rehabilitation and education instead of punishment also makes sense. I have been against the death penalty for years, so I am glad the platform is unequivocal in its opposition.

I wish the platform was more supportive of decriminalization–nay, legalization–of marijuana. Instead, it chooses to leave the issue to the states, while mentioning unfair arrest rates for African-Americans and problems facing marijuana businesses.

Immigration

I like the tone of this section. I especially like the mistake, where they refer to E Pluribus Unum as the national motto. (It was replaced, mistakenly, in my opinion, in 1956 by “In God We Trust.”)

I do think, however, that the policy recommendations are bandages and not cures. Reuniting families, providing paths to citizenship, focusing enforcement efforts on lawbreakers, and making sure unaccompanied children have legal representation are all worthy goals, but they don’t address the underlying problem. And it is a problem, despite the platform stating “Immigration is not a problem to be solved, it is a defining aspect of the American character and history.”

My question to people who want to build a wall on the Mexican border is a simple one: How long does it take for a Mexican citizen without family already living in the U.S. going through legal channels to immigrate to the U.S.?

The answer, which shocks most people, is “Forever.”

This section does mention needing to help Central American countries solve the problems that cause people to want to leave, and that’s important. (Too many people who are anti-immigrant are also anti-foreign aid, which I find foolish.) Finally, the platform condemns Trump’s religious litmus test for refugees, as it should. Not that such a test would be remotely constitutional….

Civil Rights and LGBT Rights

The platform implies that Democrats support adding gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity as protected civil rights classes, and I agree with that position. The rest of the section focuses on condemning hate speech, with a jab at Trump thrown in for good measure.

Disability Rights

I got called out on Twitter on the 4th, asking if I would support Sen. Schumer’s Disability Integration Act. I was skeptical, as Schumer tends to be a good distance to the left of me, but the DIA makes a lot of sense. Simply put, I look at it as replicating the shift from orphanages to foster care, but instead, it moves Americans with disabilities from community homes by providing families with the means and support to care for them at home. The expectation is that this will either result in a cost savings–the cost of home visits by professional caregivers is outweighed by the savings of a group home–or little additional cost. The benefit, of course, is increased freedom for Americans with disabilities. Yeah, I got behind that one.

The platform doesn’t mention DIA explicitly, but it does recommend policy changes, like tax breaks for families caring for the disabled, that would mesh well with it.

Poverty / Communities Left Behind

This section consists mostly of throwing money at the problem and promoting current popular programs. I would like to see a bit more creativity here. How about a program where companies get tax credits for opening facilities in impoverished neighborhoods–if they hire a certain percentage of the new employees from those neighborhoods? You get the double whammy of providing jobs and short commutes that will help the environment.

So, no, I’m not a big fan of this section.

Honoring Indigenous Tribal Nations

This is a page and a half section with a laundry list of things to do for American Indians. I’d be happier if it included the phrase “We will honor our treaty obligations.”

I am guessing that the Democratic proposals will be significantly better than whatever the Republicans propose–if anything–and if any of this passes it would be very helpful. I’ve seen the poverty on the Pine Ridge Reservation with my own eyes. Most of what the Democrats propose are ways to spend money, with only a token mention of investment. Improving the economies of American Indian lands is critical to pulling these areas out of poverty. Without plans to help tribal leaders do this, the rest is almost pointless.

I’m not comfortable on this issue, and I’m doing more research.

People of the Territories

We support full self-government and self-determination for the people of the territories of Guam, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and their right to decide their future status.

Pretty simple–and right on the money. If I recall correctly, American Samoa has the highest level of military service anywhere. The fact that they can’t vote for president is just stupid.

Puerto Rico

Self-determination and debt restructuring. Pretty straightforward stuff, but, as with the section on American Indians, little about how to help Puerto Rico’s economy.

Protect Voting Rights, Fix Our Campaign Finance System, and Restore Our Democracy

Voting Rights

We must restore the full protections of the Voting Rights Act. We will bring our democracy into the 21st century by expanding early voting and vote-by-mail, implementing universal automatic voter registration, same day voting, ending partisan and racial gerrymandering, and making Election Day a national holiday. We will restore voting rights for those who have served their sentences. And we will continue to fight against discriminatory voter identification laws, which disproportionately burden young voters, diverse communities, people of color, low-income families, people with disabilities, the elderly, and women.

I would add to this that we should look into online voting for people who cannot make it to polling places. I don’t have a problem with requiring voters to have a photo ID, but I do think states need to make these IDs free–so that they aren’t a poll tax–and they need to provide free transportation and assistance to anyone who needs help in getting one.

Campaign Finance

We need to correct the influx of political money from corporations and the wealthy caused by Citizens United. The platform says this, but I don’t see any specific means of addressing the problem. They suggest “executive order or legislation,” but I’m not sure these would stand up in court. I don’t know if an amendment is needed, but it might be. Again, the platform identifies the problem, but is weak on specifics.

Judges

We will appoint judges who defend the constitutional principles of liberty and equality for all, 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 see the Constitution as a blueprint for progress.

I hate litmus tests on either side. I would prefer a more general statement about appointing judges with a certain perspective on the Constitution, but it is what it is. The Republican platform will be just as inadequate from the opposite perspective.

Management of Federal Government

We will also ensure that new spending and tax cuts are offset so that they do not add to the nation’s debt over time.

Boring.

Tell me what you’ll actually do to attack the debt. Have some courage and say tax increases might be necessary. They do talk about “progressive investments” to create middle-class jobs.

I’d like to see something innovative here, but they are too dependent on the system.


Tomorrow, if I have time, I’ll get to the sections on the environment and education.

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4 Comments

Filed under Democrats, Racism

4 responses to “Democratic Party Platform – 2016 Draft (Part 2 of 6)

  1. Pingback: Democratic Party Platform – 2016 Draft (Part 3 of ?) | Topher for Congress

  2. Pingback: Democratic Party Platform – 2016 Draft (Part 4 of ?) | Topher for Congress

  3. Pingback: Democratic Party Platform – 2016 Draft (Part 5 of ?) | Topher for Congress

  4. Pingback: Democratic Party Platform – 2016 Draft (Part 6 of 6) | Topher for Congress

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