My Very Own Democratic Platform

A tongue-in-check attempt to list every position for the Democratic National Committee's upcoming convention

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The Time Warner Cable Arena, site of the upcoming 2012 Democratic National Convention, in Charlotte, N.C.

In my column this week, after deciding to write a platform for the Democrats for their convention, I enlisted the help of Elaine Kamarck, a public policy lecturer at Harvard and former platform author. As I learned, the platform is supposed to be boring. It’s one of the few documents that people write hoping no one reads them. When I sent my seven-page draft to Kamarck, she replied in an e-mail, “Mostly you have the tone right. The actual document will probably be a bit drier.” Here it is in its entirety. After not reading it, write the DNC and demand that they adopt it.

Preamble

There comes a time when a truly great nation must choose to either continue to lead through new progress or to wither in the bright, warm sun of its own success. This is where America now stands, having shown the world democracy, having saved it from fascism and communism, having created a wealth no other people before us could have contemplated. And now we have a choice: To keep fighting for all Americans to have the chance at that success, or to succumb to a decadence and imbalance of wealth that have been the mark of every fallen empire in history.

The Democratic Party has always stood on the side of hard work and fairness, the side that has allowed us to grow into the greatest nation the world has ever known. And now is the time when we will fight for those principles harder than we ever have. Because now is the time when a great nation stops having the luxury to ignore its role as a leader not just through strength, but also through fairness. Because without fairness, we will no longer be strong.

Four years ago, America was at risk of losing our leadership. We were losing our international coalition in Iraq, a war the previous administration started on specious grounds. The dollar was starting to be replaced by the Euro in some parts of the global economy. Our banks were about to collapse, sending us into a second Great Depression. GM and Chrysler, the engines of not just Detroit but our entire country, were about to declare bankruptcy. Americans were getting their homes foreclosed on unjustly. Sick Americans were unable to get health care. America was still dependent on other countries for most of its energy. Al-Qaeda was still well funded by Osama Bin Laden.

In the last four years, we have killed Osama Bin Laden and decimated Al-Qaeda. We have become more energy independent than at any time in the last four decades. Someone, and we’re not saying who, sent a virus to the Iranian nuclear plant that caused their centrifuges to spin really fast and break everything. We have finally left Iraq and are exiting an Afghanistan able to patrol itself. We are far more secure than we have been at any point since the Cold War.

While there is much work to be done to improve our economy, we have avoided disaster. Just as our party saved our country from the Great Depression that a Republican White House caused, our party saved our banks and our automotive industry from a Republican-caused economic disaster. The Democrats alone gave the economy a stimulus that has slowly led us out of recession and toward prosperity, while Europe, which chose austerity instead of stimulus — just as the Republicans in Congress still argue for, despite the evidence proving them wrong — is in the midst of a horrific economic collapse.

Even as Democrats worked to solve those problems, Republicans sought to make them worse. The extreme Tea-Party-controlled Congress held our economy hostage last year. They were willing to jettison the very principles their own conservative hero, Alexander Hamilton, founded our nation’s economy on, by defaulting on our international debt by not raising the debt ceiling, something done with bipartisan agreement every year without incident until then — to get their budget through. A budget that would have given tax breaks to millionaires and cut services to those in need. For that, they were willing to destroy the American economy.

There comes a time to choose between optimism and fear, between hope and panic, between opportunity and selfishness, between progress and retreat, and we choose — as our party always has, from civil rights to social security to gay rights — progress.

Keeping America Working

Through the stimulus, restoring our banks and loaning to our car companies, we kept America from entering another Great Depression. But we now have to steer America back toward the dynamic growth we last enjoyed during the Clinton presidency.

To that end, we will invest more in our infrastructure, including roads and bridges, but also education, broadband connections to all communities and the green, clean energy that is our future.

It’s important that all Americans not only find employment, but jobs that will support a family. That’s why we will raise the minimum wage to $10 an hour and index it to inflation and increase the Earned Income Tax Credit so that hard-working Americans can raise their families.

The Family and Medical Leave Act needs to reach millions more workers as does the childcare tax credit. We will provide every child with a preschool education to close the gap between the needy and the rich that is starting to threaten this county in a way, that if you’ve seen the new Batman, is pretty scary. We will also increase funding for after-school programs, only some of which are midnight basketball.

Never again can we allow Wall Street to risk our money irresponsibly. We must, and we will, restore the Glass-Steagall Act so banks can no longer play fast and loose with investors’ money. Banks must act like banks. Let Wall Street take risks with their own money.

Keeping America Safe

Remember how for more than a decade we lived in fear of Osama Bin Laden? And then President Obama had a bunch of Navy SEALS kill him? I’m sure President Bush would have done the same thing. But he didn’t. President Obama did. Just saying.

Tragedies such as the mass murders of crazed gunmen in Aurora, Colo., and in Tucson, Ariz., stress the need for tighter gun-control laws. While the second amendment clearly allows Americans to own guns, that right — like all our rights — cannot continue to remain unregulated. We will close the gun show loophole, improve our background check system, and reinstate the assault weapons ban, so that guns do not fall into the hands of terrorists or criminals.

Keeping America Solvent

For too long the Republicans, by cutting taxes and increasing spending, have transferred their debt to our children. No more. We are committed to lowering America’s debt by 20% in the next 10 years.

We will do that by asking those who can afford to pay to do so. We will instate Warren Buffet’s proposed tax on those making a million dollars a year. And for those making more than $250,000, we’ll end the Bush tax cuts that sent us into this recession.

We will end the mortgage tax credit, which helps the 1% and hurts the rest of America. Big houses get bigger tax breaks, driving up prices for everyone. We cannot afford to distort the housing market and subsidize people buying expensive houses.

Farm subsidies help the few, giant corporate farms and hurt small farmers. We will end all farm subsidies.

The capital gains tax allows people like Mitt Romney and Warren Buffet to pay nearly no income tax. All income — whether received in a paycheck or through investments — will be taxed as income. Because that’s what it is.

We will peg all raises in social security and Medicare payments not to some fictional cost of living, but to inflation.

We will continue to be vigilant in defense of America. We will strengthen our investment in homeland security and in intelligence. But we will not continue to waste America’s resources by spending on a military designed to fight a Cold War that we won in the 1990s. President Obama didn’t need a giant military to hunt and kill Osama Bin Laden in that daring raid on his compound — just bravery, leadership and decisiveness. By closing overseas bases, ending the two costly overseas wars and reducing production of large military equipment, we will cut military spending by 30%.

Keeping America Fair

Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered Americans can no longer be denied their civil rights. Now that this administration has given them the right to serve openly in our military, we are going to do the right thing and make sure they have the right to marry in every state and territory in the United States of America. They will now be full participants in the American fabric, everywhere and under the protection of our laws.

We will pass the DREAM Act, restoring the American promise to those patriotic young people who grew up here and are as American as anyone born here. And we will create a speedy system for the millions of immigrants who have become part of our communities and paid decades worth of social security taxes to come out from the shadows and become legal citizens.

Our Constitution is the greatest political document the world has ever created, though this one compares rather favorably. To honor the Constitution and to continue to serve as a paragon of justice to the world and our own citizens, we will bring all the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay to trial in our American criminal courts, the most fair justice system in the world. And we will finally join the rest of the democratic world in getting rid of the death penalty, which costs too much per prisoner both in money and morality.

Voting rights are fundamental rights because they are protective of all other rights. We will work to fully protect and enforce the fundamental Constitutional right of every American vote.

For too long Mexican truckers have flouted international rules to gain unfair advantage over American truckers. We shall empower American truckers to fairly compete. We are not sure what exactly this entails, but American truckers know what we’re talking about. It probably has to do with CB talk having to be in English.

In Wisconsin and other states, promises made to our unions have been ignored — in order to give tax breaks to the 1%. We cannot and will not let that happen. We will strengthen our unions to restore the middle class. We will continue to vigorously oppose “Right-to-Work” Laws and “paycheck protection” efforts whenever they are proposed.

Finally, we will end the long injustice that is the Taft Hartley Act by repealing it and restoring our labor union’s rights under our constitution. Taft Hartley will go down in the same way that Osama Bin Laden did when President Obama ordered him killed.

Keeping America Proud

That feeling of pride America felt when President Obama ordered those brave Navy SEALS to kill Osama Bin Laden is something we should be feeling all the time. And we can.

Our young people long to give back to our country but are not given enough opportunities to do so. By instituting a Service Czar in the cabinet, we will work toward a version of a service draft 18-year-olds will be required to spend a summer serving this country. We will expand AmeriCorps and the Peace Corps, integrate service into high schools, and create new opportunities for the retired to serve.

We will work to ensure that veterans get their benefits. We will combat homelessness, unemployment and underemployment among veterans.

Keeping America Healthy

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act vastly improved health care in our country for all Americans. But it is just a first step.

We must end the tax deduction companies get for providing health-care to employees. Neither employees nor employers pay taxes on workplace health insurance benefits, which encourage Cadillac coverage for some Americans, driving up usage and, therefore, health costs overall.

More than 70% of all antibiotics are used on healthy livestock. This has caused the creation of dangerous superbugs, such as MIRSA. We will outlaw such uses of antibiotics, which endanger all of us. We will work to end factory farming, which is not only morally corrupt but toxic to our health and our environment.

We will finally tackle the scourge of homelessness by funding innovative programs to help those with psychological problems transition off the streets of our cities.

Keeping America Clean

Despite Al Gore’s important work, we failed to lead the globe in preventing global warming and cleaning our air. We will gather the leaders of the biggest carbon emitting nations and ask them to sign a new Kyoto protocol.

Here in America, we will follow California’s lead and continue to dramatically increase the fuel efficiency of automobiles and encourage electric vehicles. We will continue to work toward getting at least 25% of our electricity from renewable sources by 2025.

We will raise taxes on gasoline by 25%. We will instate tax carbon emissions, being sensitive to lower-income Americans in the way that tax is structured. Giving people a free ride on destroying our economy has to stop now. Only by taxing people for the pollution and climate change they are causing can we effectively limit the damage we’re doing.

Keeping America Happy

We will legalize marijuana, freeing law enforcement to pursue dangerous criminals and freeing much needed jail space for those criminals.

Keeping America Smart

We support art in schools and increased public funding for the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. If you’ve ever seen a small child trying to play a trumpet for the first time, which is both adorable and hilarious, you will know why this is worth our money.

Keeping America Secure

By security, we’re not talking about the kind of security President Obama provided when he ordered those brave Navy SEALS to kill Osama Bin Laden. We’re talking about a more mundane but nearly as important kind of security.

We are the party that not only created Social Security, but has defended it. And we will continue to do so, against all those who try to privatize it and subject it to the dangerous vicissitudes of the marketplace — a marketplace that would not have served today’s retirees well over the last ten years. Those who look to dismantle America’s greatest domestic policy achievement have short memories and forget how much harder it once was for our seniors. We don’t need to get into the details, but let’s just say that cat food sales are way, way down.

With so many promises to workers broken by corporate America, we will protect pensions by automatically enrolling every worker in a workplace pension plan that can be carried from job to job and match savings for working families who need the help. We will also eliminate all federal income taxes for seniors making less than $50,000 per year.

Keeping America Free

Yes, part of keeping America free means keeping us safe, like when President Obama ordered those brave Navy SEALS to kill Osama Bin Laden. But it also means making sure each of our rights remains untrampled.

The Republican’s War on Women is a war on all Americans. Women are our mothers, our daughters and the people who we hooked up with in college one night and feel bad about not calling again but we weren’t sure what to say. Point is: We should be nice to women.

So we want women to be free. Free to choose to work, to stay home and to get as many abortions as they want. Aborting unwanted children, economists have proven, is also the greatest crime prevention tool we have. You want to keep crime down, keep Roe v. Wade intact. Let us be clear: Abortions are awesome.

Keeping Osama bin Laden Dead

It is, of course, completely impossible for Osama bin Laden to come back from the dead. But if he somehow did, which is impossible, President Obama would not fail to have him killed again.

Conclusion

We do not offer a shrinking, retreating version of the American dream, like the Tea Party. We do not believe America is a nation of individuals who suffer or succeed alone. For our party, strength comes when all of us come together, as we did to beat the Nazis and the Depression. It is impossible to be patriotic alone.

The other party believes there are two Americas, and that each of us must struggle alone to swim from the 99% to the 1% or sink trying. We reject that vision. Not only because it is unjust, but also because that way lies the fall of every great civilization. It is too late and too important to compromise. It is time, we now know, to fight.

20 comments
JasonKellenbeck
JasonKellenbeck

Dear Joel,

Your writing is awesome. You made it really clear that the Democratic platform appeals to the middle class and the majority of Americans. This platform shows what the party is trying to address, however the party has struggled in recent decades on issues of guns, health care, the death penalty, and taxes. Except for the death penalty line, I agreed with every single platform point that you have put forth. The tone of your platform helps.



Wilhoff
Wilhoff

To keep America Fair, this is missing voting representation for us 617,000 citizens of the District of Columbia.  This was in the 2000 Democratic Platform, but missing in 2004 and 2008.  With President Obama's political background, this is a must-have plank.  And for those of us who are disenfranchised, and who were sold out by the Democrats in Congress and by the President on the issue of using our own local tax dollars to pay for abortions for poor women, this is a make or break issue for supporting and staying in the Democratic Party or becoming independents....

szillmer
szillmer

Dear Joel,

Your writing is awesome.  But you spelled Warren Buffett's name wrong.  Twice.  Just sayin'.

Justin Liu
Justin Liu

Genius. At least if all else fails, Joel will still succeed in the "Keeping Osama bin Laden Dead" area.

KP,MD
KP,MD

Amen, Joel. The views expressed are those of the majority of Americans. Thanks for putting them in print. Unfortunately Republikans won't see them since they don't trust the media because it reports things Repubs don't like to hear. You know, like we got Bin Laden, global warming is giving us the hottest and dryest summer on record, guns really do kill people, women don't want to go back to the 1950's, we don't want trickle-down economics again because we've already been trickled on enough...

Reggie Henderson
Reggie Henderson

There's a few points made with a little humor, but I don't think this is tongue-in-cheek, from the point of view of a hard-core Democrat true-believer (me), this comes across as sincere beliefs.

macwhirr
macwhirr

At the close of WWII, the U.S. demonstrated to the world that we were morally superior to our defeated opponents by conducting the Nuremburg Tribunal. Nazi leaders were not summarily executed; they were given a fair trial that could stand up to world scrutiny. If we had simply lined them up and shot them, that would have meant that we had descended to their level.

With this in mind, I am baffled by the continuing insistence by some of my fellow Democrats that the summary execution of Osama bin Laden is something for which we should be proud.

jmt13
jmt13

Except for the death penalty line, I agreed with every single platform point that you have put forth.  Here's hoping that the Democrats have the nerve make our country truly about freedom.

eroteme1
eroteme1

It is not 'my very own Democratic platform' it is 'my very own Democrat platform'.

Josh Atkins
Josh Atkins

no, he got it right. you have to a republican to misspell it (deliberately, of course).

Noor Alam
Noor Alam

 Comments on this High Commission

nooralam

Tue, 17 Jul 2012 14:01 EDT

name miss mony d/o late A.H.LARI

pleas kindly this issues

dear sir 1982 REGISTRSTATION DF DATE.17/10/1982 KARACHI PAKISTAN

FORM TO BE FILLED IN DUPLICATEBY REPATRIATES FROM

BANGLADESH.

I.C.R.C REGIATION

PLOT.2905 SCTOR II AREA MAJEED COLONY LANDHI KARACHI

DUTY OFFCER DATE18/10/1982

OCTOBER1973.a huge air repatriation Citizenship of Biharis who moved to

East Pakistan at the time of partion in 1947.the problem still

remains unresolved.

Most of them spoke urdu which bound them to west pakistan accepted by pakistan

repatriated 4800people agreement1973 india pakistan and Bangladesh

please pick up case

name miss sony d/o late a.h,lari

name miss mony d/o late A.H.LARI

nooralam

Mon, 16 Jul 2012 13:54 EDT

reppartrates from Bangladesh to pakistan 17/10/1982

dear sir 1982 REGISTRSTATION DF DATE.17/10/1982 KARACHI PAKISTAN

FORM TO BE FILLED IN DUPLICATEBY REPATRIATES FROM

BANGLADESH.

I.C.R.C REGIATION

PLOT.2905 SCTOR II AREA MAJEED COLONY LANDHI KARACHI

DUTY OFFCER DATE18/10/1982

OCTOBER1973.a huge air repatriation Citizenship of Biharis who moved to

East Pakistan at the time of partion in 1947.the problem still

remains unresolved.

Most of them spoke urdu which bound them to west pakistan accepted by pakistan

repatriated 4800people agreement1973 india pakistan and Bangladesh

please pick up case

name miss sony d/o late a.h,lari

name miss mony d/o late A.H.LARI

nooralam

Fri, 8 Jun 2012 22:08 EDT

pleas kindly this issues

dear sir 1982 REGISTRSTATION DF DATE.17/10/1982 KARACHI PAKISTAN

FORM TO BE FILLED IN DUPLICATEBY REPATRIATES FROM

BANGLADESH.

I.C.R.C REGIATION

PLOT.2905 SCTOR II AREA MAJEED COLONY LANDHI KARACHI

DUTY OFFCER DATE18/10/1982

OCTOBER1973.a huge air repatriation Citizenship of Biharis who moved to

East Pakistan at the time of partion in 1947.the problem still

remains unresolved.

Most of them spoke urdu which bound them to west pakistan accepted by pakistan

repatriated 4800people agreement1973 india pakistan and Bangladesh

please pick up case

name miss sony d/o late a.h,lari

name miss mony d/o late A.H.LARI

xyz

Mon, 11 Jul 2011 07:28 EDT

qbc

Assalam O Alaikum

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Kasbohmc2
Kasbohmc2

Joel Stein, I would LOVE it if the Democrats read this platform at the convention.  They would be labeled as the biggest pandering poofters across the land.  So hyped up on political correctness.  So hyped up on catering to every minority group under the sun.

It would give people across the nation a real chance to see just how liberal and pansy-ass they really are.

Debra Mahnken
Debra Mahnken

In case you haven't read the results of the most recent census, "regular white people," aka, WASPS, are about to become the minority, so you better be prepared to defend the rights of minorities. But of course, I'm sure your minority is better than the rest of us.

Kasbohmc2
Kasbohmc2

 Hey Debra, thanks for your reply.  Just a couple of comments:

1) As a half-Italian (and only 12% English / mix of others) Roman Catholic white guy, I don't quite fit the 'WASP' profile.

2) I never implied (and am not implying now) that WASPS are a better minority than others.

3) I never implied that my minority (which it is not) is better.

4) I'm not sure about WASPS, but I do know that whites are not 'about to become the minority' anytime soon.  I am aware of the recent census, and I don't think WASP is an ethnic/racial category. 

Regarding whites falling into the minority, that's expected to happen around the year 2050 (38 years from now).  That assumes that birthrates in this country remain the same, and that immigration patterns do not change (among other things).  I don't know about you, but I do not have a crystal ball in front of me to predict the future.  A lot can happen in 38 years that could reverse the current trend.  Whites might be on the verge of becoming minorities, but no one knows if that will actually happen for sure...

Delmer Polak
Delmer Polak

Many of these "positions" are ridiculous, but I'll start with an easy one:

"With so many promises to workers broken by corporate America, we will protect pensions by automatically enrolling every worker in a workplace pension plan that can be carried from job to job and match savings for working families who need the help. "

That plank of your platform was sawed into caskets for the pension funds of 20,000 Delphi workers. By Democrats.

Fatesrider
Fatesrider

 You DO realize that this is tongue in cheek and not to be taken seriously, right?

eroteme1
eroteme1

I would not attempt to tell you a joke.

Dan Bruce
Dan Bruce

I assume that you didn't try to do a Republican Platform because:

1) There would not be enough space on the internet to accommodate all of the contradictory policy positions taken by Mitt Romney in the past few years.

2) You knew it would be hard to write something more ridiculous than what the Republicans themselves will write in Tampa.

3) It makes you sick to your stomach to try to think like a Republican.