The 2012 Democratic platform

In the GOP, there is, or was, a horse-race for the Presidential nomination: strike that as unfair to horses, and the race has been won by the Vulcan ahead of the circus barker and the various escapees from their carers. We know the platform already: soak the poor and the middle class, [update] screw the world, and stiff the future [/update].

On the Democratic side, we know the candidate – the sitting President, barring acts of God or the Queen’s Republic’s enemies. But what’s the platform? Time to get a discussion going. Don’t let the Broderist insiders write it unconstrained.

The aim and working hypothesis has to be a Democratic congressional majority as well as the White House. Without that, all a re-elected President Obama can do is veto attempts to dismantle his legacy, as well as FDR’s and LBJ’s. So the platform has to be a congressional one too. Progressives have real influence here in differential support. They should use their contributions intelligently, funding like-minded PACS and candidates, and not generic party funds. (I declare a non-interest here: as a foreigner I’m not allowed to make political donations).

A few suggestions.
1. The Bush tax cuts
Above all, no pre-emptive cave-in. The cuts must expire in December, and the Republicans don’t have the votes to stop it. Democrats should campaign on the reintroduction of the middle-class component only.
If the platform is honest about long-term fiscal sustainability the reintroduction should be either temporary (2 or 4 years), offset or both. Which brings us to:

2. Climate change
Make a commitment to a 450 ppm cap on the global CO2-eq concentration as a core national interest, to be kept whatever it takes in domestic and foreign policy. The cap should be defined as a step towards a safer long-term 350 ppm (lower than the present). There is no point compromising with denialists on targets – they won’t – so you might as well have the science on your side.
The clever domestic policy here isn’t to reintroduce cap-and-trade, but to copy the Australian model of a carbon tax refunded as tax cuts. So the new carbon tax would finance the middle-class component of the Bush-Obama tax cut.

3. Campaign finance
The GOP strategy for his year’s election, with a weak candidate, is to buy it. In self-defence, the Democrats must put a lid on plutocrat vote-buying after this election, which will be ruinous. So the platform should include:
- legislation imposing the strongest possible limitations compatible with Citizens United;
- a commitment to reverse the decision as wrongly decided, and as a litmus test for future SCOTUS nominations;
- free air time for party political broadcasts, as in Europe.

4. The War on Terror
Declare success (not victory) in the war with the incapacitation of Al Qaeda. Terrorism should revert to being an ordinary crime and chronic, low-level national security problem. Close GITMO, finally.
Obama won’t buy this, so it’s an issue for selective pressure on Congressional candidates.

5. Appointments
Obama’s failure to appoint staff for his administration has been one of his worst failings. He has dithered on nominations out of misplaced perfectionism, and he has weakly let the GOP Senators turn selective scrutiny into systematic sabotage. So Candidate Obama should declare that on January 1, 2013, he will publish a list of nominations to every single vacancy in his Administration requiring Senate confirmation; set a short deadline for up-or-down votes; and declare his intention to appoint anybody not previously voted down at the first recess of Congress. The only exception will be SCOTUS judges.

6. ACA
Defend it to the death.

7. Debt limit
Declare it to be unconstitutional.

8. Rupert Murdoch
Strip him of his citizenship as a criminal phone tapper and polluter of the airwaves, then break up his empire on antitrust grounds. (Allow me one fantasy.)
* * * * *

Any other ideas, or different ones on these topics?


  1. Byomtov says

    Of course you’re allowed to make political donations.

    Just set up a corporation in the US and fund it. Then JW, Inc. can make contributions. I’m not sure you would even need an American shareholder.

  2. Democrat 4eva' says

    Barely a mention of the deficit? Politically not smart, and (I think) bad for the country.

    • says

      On the substance, the deficit problem is resolved in a 5-year horizon by 1 and 2. On a 10- or 15-year horizon, it’s addressed by 6 (ACA) to the maximum extent that’s necessary and feasible at present. The cost-reduction measures need time to cut in and in the ordinary course of events can be reviewed by Obama’s successor.
      I agree the issue needs much better tactical spin than I’ve given it.

      • says

        Actually, we need to repeal ALL the Bush tax cuts to seriously deal with the deficit. That’s half of the long term debt, and most of that half is the “middle class” tax cuts (much of which actually benefits rich people) that for some reason you and Obama think are sacrosanct.

  3. SamChevre says

    I think that if lower carbon emissions get to be a “core national interest”, it will make pressure for punitive tariffs on non-First-World manufactures harder to resist. I’m on record as supporting equalizing tariffs if the US introduces a carbon tax, but I’m not sure that a replay of Smoot-Hawley is an optimal policy.

  4. Don says

    I love the platform. There are two problems with painting over the Democratic Party with it.

    One is that the Democrats and Republicans routinely ignore their own platforms. There is neither the means, nor the will, to punish any elected official who flouts the party platform, before the election or after. (For an example of non-punishment, Joe Lieberman.) It would be different if the Democrats were willing to withdraw support or ballot status from Democratic candidates who ignore the Democratic platform. They aren’t.

    The other problem is that once you’ve said who you intend to support, you have no leverage to get them to agree with any platform but their own. Obama appreciates your support, and will not be moving leftward to get it. He’ll be too busy moving rightward to get moderate voters.

    • James Wimberley says

      By platform, I don’t mean the written document so much as the central campaign message. On leverage, see Jonathan Zasloff’s advice for selective support – Pelosi yes, Blue Dogs no – which I’ve tried to echo.

    • James Wimberley says

      I rather suspect the profitable or prestigious bits will find ready buyers, and the others will not be missed. The beauty of my proposal is that no other proprietor, including the Rev. Moon, would be as actively destructive as Rupert Murdoch and his acolyte Roger Ailes.

  5. KLG says

    Can we put this in again, just like it was (verbatim) in the 2008 Platform?

    Covering All Americans and Providing Real Choices of Affordable Health Insurance Options. Families and individuals should have the option of keeping the coverage they have or choosing from a wide array of health insurance plans, including many private health insurance options and a public plan. Coverage should be made affordable for all Americans with subsidies provided through tax credits and other means.

    Key words/phrases: “Real Choices” and “Affordable” and “public plan”

    Pretty please?

  6. Brett Bellmore says

    7. You do realize that, were the debt ceiling unconstitutional, we’d revert to the prior system, where the President had to get a bill through Congress for every specific occasion where he was going to borrow money, instead of being able to do it himself until he hit a ceiling they’d authorized in advance?

    I’d be cool with that, they’d be too busy authorizing borrowing to make any more mischief…

    • Dan Staley says

      Sadly, with the co-option of our democratic processes by the corporations, this has become a not-nuts idea. It is also an indicator of the straits we are in.

    • Mrs Tilton says

      I still advocate the Giant $1 Trillion Platinum Coin With Reagan’s Head On It approach to getting past the debt-ceiling problem. I supported the idea back then as a way to get past the debt-ceiling problem. I support it now simply because, hey, Giant $1 Trillion Platinum Coin With Reagan’s Head On It.

    • says

      The President has already to get a bill through Congress for every specific occasion where he is going to levy a tax or spend money. The debt is an accounting consequence of this legislation, in a given economic environment. That’s the way other advanced countries see it, and the sensible way to read the “faith and credit” clause.

      If the Antiques Road Show Georgian legal document that Americans revere, or the superstitions that have grown up round it, really require specific legislative language, you can put a clause in every appropriations bill to the effect that if receipts from the taxes separately authorised by Congress do not cover the newly authorised spending, the President is required to issue debt of such maturity or none and with such interest or none as he or she sees fit, and this debt will be backed through its life by the full faith and credit of the United States. End of non-problem.