Make Policy Great Again
A few days remain until the next president of the United States is elected, so this long national nightmare will be over very soon. If in all likelihood the winner is Hillary Clinton, amid the euphoria of her supporters and the denial and dread of her opponents hopefully someone will remember what Bernie Sanders said about “the most progressive platform” in the history of the Democratic Party — passed this July in Philadelphia—that could become foundational to the policies of a second Clinton administration.
Either that or become totally irrelevant, nothing more than words. “It’s just words, folks, it’s just soundbytes” was the mantra of her opponent all through the so-called debates, yet the candidate immortally dubbed Tangerine Mussolini was right: actions speak louder than words. Rhetoric is not as significant as policy, no matter the source, no matter how charismatic or repulsive people find it.
Let us dispense with the notion that party platforms do not really matter, since they lay out the policy preferences of the party consensus, literally the “party line,” from which serious deviation is potentially a big deal. While not solid reading, party platforms illuminate what is intentional and aspirational as opposed to strictly utilitarian and “doable.”
In 1972, a senator from South Dakota named George McGovern lost bigly to Richard Nixon, who won 60 percent of the popular vote (and received 96.7 percent of the electoral votes). One would imagine that his party’s platform was so radical than an embarrassing margin of the American voting public decided to opt instead for a crook. The document, titled “New Directions,” is by now mainstream liberal orthodoxy. It begins as follows:
Skepticism and cynicism are widespread in America. The people are skeptical of platforms filled with political platitudes—of promises made by opportunistic politicians. The people are cynical about the idea that a rosy future is just around the corner. And is it any wonder that the people are skeptical and cynical of the whole political process? Our traditions, our history, our Constitution, our lives, all say that America belongs to its people. But the people no longer believe it. They feel that the government is run for the privileged few rather than for the many—and they are right.
Unpatriotic garbage, right? Another plank declared that the United States “must be unequivocally committed to support of Israel’s right to exist within secure and defensible boundaries.” In another, the platform states that “fear of crime, and firm action against it, is not racism. Indeed the greatest victims of crime today — whether of business fraud or of the narcotics plague — are the people of the ghetto, black and brown.”
Wow, this stuff is avant-garde. There is no reference to “our nation’s racist past,” as there is in the 2016 platform, which continues: “We will push for a societal transformation to make it clear that black lives matter and that there is no place for racism in our country.” Further, “America’s economic inequality problem
is even more pronounced when it comes to racial and ethnic disparities in wealth and income. It is unacceptable that the median wealth for African Americans and Latino Americans is roughly one-tenth that of white Americans. These disparities are also stark for American Indians and certain Asian American subgroups, and may become even more significant when considering other characteristics such as age, disability status, sexual orientation, or gender identity.
Back in ’72, the Republican Party platform made clear that the GOP “will press on with our fight against social injustice and discrimination, building upon the achievements already made.” The Republicans announced that the American people “must not divide and weaken ourselves by attitudes or policies which would segregate our citizens into separate racial, ethnic, economic, religious or social groups.”
That platform also spoke of progress “from wanton pollution to vigorous environmental protection,” called to “establish realistic environmental standards which safeguard wise resource use,” and castigated the federal government for being “woefully unprepared to deal with the rapidly advancing environmental crisis.”
This year, the GOP platform stated that Republicans “must continue to foster solutions to America’s difficult challenges when it comes to race relations today,” without elaborating on that or explaining what those “solutions” are. It also found that the environment “is too important to be left to radical environmentalists,” who are “using yesterday’s tools to control a future they do not comprehend. The environmental establishment has become a self-serving elite,” it continues, “stuck in the mindset of the 1970s, subordinating the public’s consensus to the goals of the Democratic Party.” One wonders if that includes some of their own former mindset.