There’s a lot of talk of how the country is more polarized politically now than at any point in our nation’s history. And while there’s no way to prove such a claim, a quick look at the party platforms of the Republicans and Democrats supports the idea that the right and the left have little common ground in ideas or beliefs.
Take Medicare, for example. The Democratic party platform says the party opposes “any efforts to privatize or voucherize” the program. Republicans, on the other hand, want to gut the program for those under 55, changing it to an “income-adjusted contribution toward a health plan of the enrollee’s choice.” And Medicaid? Forget it. The whole thing is unconstitutional, say Republicans.
The same is true for Social Security, of course. If Republicans are offering the equivalent of health savings accounts for Medicare patients they want Social Security turned over to Wall Street in the form of “personal investment accounts” that supplement the Social Security system.
Translated out of political-speak, Republicans want to privatize the whole lot.
There were a few surprise differences though. Republicans made a lot of hay out of the fact the original Democratic plank language didn’t mention Jerusalem or “God” Democrats quickly obliged the posturing to amend those planks and appease their critics.
Where else to the parties differ? Well, just about everywhere. Democrats believe global warming is a real and serious threat that needs swift legislative action. Republicans do not. Democrats believe women have a fundamental life to make their own health care decisions. Republicans do not. Democrats believe the pro-life position supports families beyond birth. Republicans do not. Democrats believe in marriage equality and Republicans do not.
But at the heart of the difference is a clash of vision. The Republican platform is a constrictive document with a bleak future that pines for the days when Jim Crow was the law and women knew their place.
The Democratic platform, by contrast, is a vision of the future, a world where parenting is a shared responsibility, where equality means equality for all races and genders and where opportunity for economic advancement is still possible, even for the children of undocumented immigrants.
So for the undecided voters out there, if there are any, they need to decide what vision of America they support. These platforms are not just campaign tools, they are articulations of a vision of leadership and beliefs for this country. And in less than three months when we elect a new president, these platforms will be the touchstone for future policy.
Photo from springhill2008 via flickr.