Key Moral Issues Arise in Democratic Platform


The Democratic platform will define the party and guide its candidates and activists over the next four years, Kaylor reports. (Photo: Gage Skidmore / Wikimedia Commons)

A key item of business is adopting the Democratic Party's platform during the convention's gathering this week in Philadelphia.

Like the Republican Party's platform passed last week, the Democratic platform will define the party and guide its candidates and activists over the next four years.

Political science research shows platform debates can impact parties and public policy decisions.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, who lost his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, flexed his political capital to make several significant shifts in the party's platform.

The final version of the Democratic platform, passed by the delegates on Monday, runs 55 pages. It clashes at times with positions of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

On economic issues, the platform calls for more rights and benefits for workers to combat "today's extreme levels of income and wealth inequality."

One part of working "[t]o restore economic fairness" for Democrats is to "fight against the greed and recklessness of Wall Street."

The platform includes a call for "a family and medical leave that would provide all workers at least 12 weeks of paid leave to care for a new child or address a personal or family member's serious health issue." It also calls - for the first time - for a minimum wage of at least $15 an hour to make it "a living wage."

Another economic moral issue includes a call to protect the work of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), which recently met to issue guidelines regulating payday loans.

Politicians in both parties have supported the payday loan industry, including Democratic Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (who has served as chairperson of the Democratic National Committee).

"Democrats condemn predatory payday lending, and will protect consumers by defending the CFPB and implementing strong new regulations," the platform notes.

On abortion, the Democratic platform sparked controversy this year with new language urging a repeal of the Hyde Amendment, which bars taxpayer money from being used to pay for abortions.

Some Democrats quickly criticized the move, arguing it takes choice away from taxpayers who disagree with abortion. Among those criticizing it are Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

Like the previous Democratic platform, this year's version offers no suggestion that Democrats will work to reduce the number of abortions.

Bill Clinton and other Democrats used to urge for making abortion "safe, legal and rare." Hillary Clinton also used to invoke such language. Now she and the platform instead speak merely of "safe and legal abortion."

While the GOP platform called pornography "a public health crisis that is destroying the lives of millions," it was not addressed in the Democratic platform.

On immigration, the platform calls for ways "to urgently fix our broken immigration system." It offers support for President Barack Obama's executive actions on immigration.

It also urges fewer deportations of undocumented immigrants, especially when it breaks up families or involves individuals who do not "pose a threat to the safety of our communities."

Some Hispanic leaders have criticized Obama as "deporter-in-chief" since the number of deportations spiked during his presidency.

Although Clinton previously argued that unaccompanied minors crossing the borders should be sent back, the Democratic platform instead urges an increase in humanitarian treatment for these children.

"We should ensure due process for those fleeing violence in Central America and work with our regional partners to address the root causes of violence," the platform explains. "We must take particular care with children, which is why we should guarantee government-funded counsel for unaccompanied children in immigration courts."

Democrats also reject religious-based discrimination, like politicians calling for a ban on Muslims entering the nation.

"We reject attempts to impose a religious test to bar immigrants or refugees from entering the United States," the platform offers. "It is un-American and runs counter to the founding principles of this country."

In a first, the platform calls for an end to the death penalty. While Sanders opposes the death penalty, Clinton supports its use. Her running mate, Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, opposes the death penalty and argued pro-bono cases for individuals on death row before he ran for public office.

"We will abolish the death penalty, which has proven to be a cruel and unusual form of punishment," the platform promises. "It has no place in the United States of America. The application of the death penalty is arbitrary and unjust. The cost to taxpayers far exceeds those of life imprisonment. It does not deter crime. And, exonerations show a dangerous lack of reliability for what is an irreversible punishment."

Addressing climate change, Democrats call it "an urgent threat and a defining challenge of our time." They also recognize "[c]limate change poses an urgent and severe threat to our national security" as it "is already contributing to new conflicts over resources."

The platform pledges support for "the landmark Paris Agreement, which aims to keep global temperature increases to 'well below' two degrees Celsius and to pursue efforts to limit global temperature increases to 1.5 degrees Celsius." The Paris Agreement, the first universal climate agreement, emerged out of climate talks in France last December.

The platform also condemns torture and calls for closing the prison at Guant√°namo Bay. It does not, however, even address drone warfare that some liberals have criticized Obama for using.

The platform calls for an end to "the scourge of human trafficking and modern slavery." Additionally, it supports the recent Iran nuclear deal and promotes efforts to fight ISIS while also keeping "a limited troop presence" in the region. The persecution of religious minorities by ISIS is also noted.

The platform includes several religious references, including pledging to prevent religious discrimination and ensuring "every child can live up to his or her God-given potential." It urges religious liberty, but in a way that balances the rights of others like the LGBT community.

"Democrats know that our nation, our communities, and our lives are made vastly stronger and richer by faith in many forms and the countless acts of justice, mercy, and tolerance it inspires," it reads. "We believe in lifting up and valuing the good work of people of faith and religious organizations and finding ways to support that work where possible."

"We support a progressive vision of religious freedom that respects pluralism and rejects the misuse of religion to discriminate," the platform adds.

Brian Kaylor is a contributing editor for EthicsDaily.com. You can follow him on Twitter @BrianKaylor.

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