A party platform is mostly a list of promises to voters about what the party will do when it takes power. But even today's Republicans, who control the executive branch, both wings of the legislature and the courts, cannot easily deliver on their promises. Freed of practical consequence, the platform becomes a useful look at the party's state of mind. The platform tells you not what the party stands for, but how it wishes to be perceived.
The clearest message of the 2004 Democratic Party platform is that John Kerry's Democrats are not going to be out-hawked or out-flagged. The Democrats call for an expanded military, expensive new weapons, heightened homeland security, better espionage. Domestic spending programs are cunningly repositioned under the rubric "Strong at Home." In long ago 1988, the first President Bush made a campaign issue out of the Democratic candidate's supposedly insufficient devotion to the Pledge of Allegiance. So this year's Democratic platform doesn't merely endorse the pledge but incorporates a big chunk of it.
It is lovely that Democrats favor one nation under God with liberty and justice for all. Anything else?
The issue on everyone's mind -- Iraq -- is buried under a subhead of a subhead on Page 8. On the most important presidential decision made by the man they are running against, the Democrats deliver this blistering critique: "People of good will disagree about whether America should have gone to war in Iraq." Indeed they do. That is why we have elections, and it would have been nice if the opposition party had the guts to actually oppose it. The oatmeal of the first sentence is followed by a fairly incisive critique of Bush's war, but it's already been fatally undercut.
The platform succeeds in telling us what the Democratic Party of John Kerry isn't.
-- Excerpts from Los Angeles Times
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