Black–or White?

This op-ed piece from the Wall Street Journal is a concise, well-written description of the Democratic convention platform as it has evolved. It is accurate, informative–and like all views from the right, the obverse of the view from the left. Their black is our white–what we see as virtues, they deplore, and vice-versa. It’s a wonderful world. Their principal criticism with Hillary’s platform is she doesn’t acknowledge the slow pace of recovery from the Great Recession–a disaster for which they are chiefly to blame. Instead, they deride her concern with income inequality, an issue which, aside from global warming, is paramount today

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The Democratic Platform’s Sharp Left Turn

By WILLIAM A. GALSTON, for the Wall Street Journal, July 12, 2016

In parliamentary systems, party platforms are blueprints for governance. In the U.S., they reflect the preferences of each party’s base—the activists and interest groups to which the party must pay attention. Changes in party platforms from one election to the next reveal shifts in thinking and—even more—the balance of power within the base as new groups surge and established forces give way.

That is why the 2016 Democratic platform is so significant. The platform committee hasn’t made public the text that will be taken to the Democratic convention in less than two weeks. But at this stage, based on the July 1 draft and 82 amendments to its text adopted by the end of the final platform committee meeting in Orlando, Fla., we know with near-certainty what the platform will say—and what it means.

The party that Hillary Clinton will lead into battle this fall is not Bill Clinton ’s Democratic Party. In important respects it is not even Barack Obama ’s Democratic Party. It is a party animated by the frustrations of the Obama years and reshaped by waves of economic and social activism.

Not surprisingly, the document endorses a range of Hillary Clinton’s campaign proposals, including a massive infrastructure-investment program, new incentives for small business, expanded profit-sharing to increase workers’ earnings, a tax on high-frequency financial transactions, paid family and medical leave, an enhanced earned-income tax credit for young workers without children, access to computer-science education for all K-12 students, and measures to make college education more affordable.

Neither is it surprising that the draft incorporates some of Bernie Sanders ’s key proposals—most notably, a $15 per hour minimum wage—and that it doesn’t take sides on issues that divided the party, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement and a broad tax on financial transactions, where neither side would give way.

In other respects, however, the draft is truly remarkable—for example, its near-silence on economic growth. The uninformed reader would not learn that the pace of recovery from the Great Recession has been anemic by postwar standards, or that productivity gains have slowed to a crawl over the past five years or that firms have been reluctant to invest in new productive capacity.  Rather, the platform draft’s core narrative is inequality, the injustice that inequality entails, and the need to rectify it through redistribution.

In her speech announcing her candidacy last year, Mrs. Clinton identified government reform as one of the four “fights” she would wage on behalf of the American people. She said that government “is never going to have all the answers—but it has to be smarter, simpler, more efficient, and a better partner. That means access to advanced technology so government agencies can more effectively serve their customers, the American people.” She added: “We need expertise and innovation from the private sector to help cut waste and streamline services.”

Four years ago, the Democratic platform contained a detailed section on “21st Century Government,” including a discussion of cost-effective regulatory reform, but this section finds no parallel—indeed, barely an echo—in the 2016 draft. One would never guess that Americans’ trust in the federal government is scraping bottom and that confidence-building measures are desperately needed.

Instead, this year’s platform will be suffused with proposals to expand the government’s reach and cost—and with confidence that today’s government is up to the job. As long as Americans don’t regard their national institutions as effective instruments of public purpose, many of these proposals—not all—will be a hard sell.

Another notable feature of the 2016 draft is its intensified social liberalism. The 2012 platform declared that the death penalty must not be “arbitrary”; this year, the platform will demand—for the first time ever—the death penalty’s abolition. The 2012 platform called for the reasonable regulation of guns but pledged to preserve “Americans’ Second Amendment Right to own and bear firearms.” There is no reference to the Second Amendment this time.

Calling for “constitutionally sound, evidence-based partnerships” with faith-based institutions, the 2012 platform declared that “there is no conflict between supporting faith-based institutions and respecting our Constitution.” Such language appears nowhere in the 2016 draft. But the document does call for a constitutional amendment that would make it possible to overturn decades of Supreme Court decisions on campaign finance.

The 2012 platform contained a handful of muted references to racial issues; this year’s draft places them in the foreground. The document pledges the Democratic Party to promote racial justice as well as environmental and climate justice, to advocate for criminal-justice reform, and to push for a “societal transformation” to make it clear that “black lives matter and there is no place for racism in our country.”

In this document, Hillary Clinton has made her peace with the Democratic Party as she found it in this tumultuous political year. Whether she would be able to lead a badly divided country on this basis—or whether she would choose to do so—is another matter.

 

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