Comparing the Platforms
It's perhaps telling that the party platform for the Democrats, titled "Renewing America's Promise," begins with a section called, "Renewing the American Dream," addressing the weak economy and how the party proposes to help the poor, the uninsured, the elderly, the unemployed. The Republican platform, meanwhile, opens with a section on national security titled, "Defending Our Nation, Supporting Our Heroes, Securing the Peace," discussing the conflict abroad, Homeland Security, terrorism, and other similar issues.
The differences between the two parties' platforms don't stop with what they choose to emphasize up front, of course. The platform issues sometimes have huge differences between the parties, sometimes minor disparities.
What follows is a comparison between the platforms on several key social issues likely to be most relevant to evangelicals. For a closer look at both platforms, see the Republicans' draft platform at National Review Online, here, and the Democrats' platform at the convention website.
Democrats: "The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman's right to choose a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay, and we oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right.
"The Democratic Party also strongly supports access to comprehensive affordable family planning services and age-appropriate sex education, which empower people to make informed choices and live healthy lives. We also recognize that such health care and education help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and thereby also reduce the need for abortions.
"The Democratic Party also strongly supports a woman's decision to have a child by ensuring access to and availability of programs for pre- and post-natal health care, parenting skills, income support, and caring adoption programs."
Republicans: "Faithful to the first guarantee of the Declaration of Independence, we assert the inherent dignity and sanctity of all human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed. We support a human life amendment to the Constitution, and we endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment's protections apply to unborn children. We oppose using public revenues to promote or perform abortion and will not fund organizations which advocate it. We support the appointment of judges who respect traditional family values and the sanctity and dignity of innocent human life.
"We have made progress. The Supreme Court had upheld prohibitions against the barbaric practice of partial-birth abortion, the Born Alive Infants Protection Act has become law, and states are now permitted to extend health care coverage to children before birth. We invite all persons of good will, whether across the political aisle or within our party, to work together to reduce the incidence of abortion; to protect girls from exploitation and statutory rape through a parental notification requirement; and to oppose sex selection abortions. We all have a moral obligation to assist, not to penalize, women struggling with the challenges of an unplanned pregnancy. We salute those who provide them alternatives, including crisis pregnancy centers, and we take pride in the tremendous increase in adoptions that has followed Republican legislative initiatives."
Internationally, the GOP "asserts the rights of families in all international programs and will not fund organizations involved in abortion. We reject any treaty or agreement that would violate those values. That includes the UN convention on women's rights… and the UN convention on the rights of the child."
Democrats: "U.S. engagement with Africa should reflect its vital significance to the U.S. as well as its emerging role in the global economy. We recognize Africa's promise as a trade and investment partner and the importance of policies which can contribute to sustainable economic growth, job creation and poverty alleviation. We are committed to bringing the full weight of American leadership to bear in unlocking the spirit of entrepreneurship and economic independence that is sweeping across markets of Africa.
"We believe that sustainable economic growth and development will mitigate and even help to reverse such chronic and debilitating challenges as poverty, hunger, conflict and HIV/AIDS. We are committed to bringing the full weight of American leadership to bear to work in partnership with Africa to confront these crises. We will work with the United Nations and Africa's regional organizations to prevent and resolve conflict and to build the capacity of Africa's weak and failing states. We must respond effectively when there is a humanitarian crisis–particularly at this moment in Sudan where genocide persists in Darfur and the Comprehensive Peace Agreement is threatened.
"Many African countries have embraced democratization and economic liberalization. We will help strengthen Africa's democratic development and respect for human rights, while encouraging political and economic reforms that result in improved transparency and accountability. We will defend democracy and stand up for rule of law when it is under assault, such as in Zimbabwe."
Republicans: "The great promise of Africa has been dimmed by disease, hunger, and violence. Republicans have faced up to each of those challenges because, in addition to humanitarian concerns, the U.S. has important security interests in the stability and progress of African nations. The devastating toll of HIV/AIDS threatens to destabilize entire societies through large numbers of orphaned youths. In response, the U.S. has become the unrivaled leader in fighting the diseases that are the scourge of much of the continent. Republican-sponsored legislation has brought jobs and investment to sub-Saharan Africa. To continue that progress, we advocate continued expansion of trade with African nations.
"Genocide must end. The horrendous suffering of the people in the Darfur region of Sudan, as well as less publicized human tragedies elsewhere, calls for a far more energetic and determined response from Africa's elected leaders. The United States stands ready to assist them with material, transportation, and humanitarian supplies. We will continue America's diplomatic efforts to secure a comprehensive and humane settlement for the people of the southern and western Sudan."
Democrats: "We must end the tyranny of oil in our time. This immediate danger is eclipsed only by the longer-term threat from climate change, which will lead to devastating weather patterns, terrible storms, drought, conflict, and famine. That means people competing for food and water in the next fifty years in the very places that have known horrific violence in the last fifty: Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia. That could also mean destructive storms on our shores, and the disappearance of our coastline. We understand that climate change is not just an economic issue or an environmental concern–this is a national security crisis. …
"Global climate change is the planet's greatest threat, and our response will determine the very future of life on this earth. Despite the efforts of our current Administration to deny the science of climate change and the need to act, we still believe that America can be earth's best hope, not its greatest impediment. We will implement a market-based cap-and-trade system to reduce carbon emissions by the amount scientists say is necessary to avoid catastrophic change and we will set interim targets along the way to ensure that we meet our goal. We will invest in advanced energy technologies, to build the clean energy economy and create millions of new, good, 'Green Collar' American jobs. Because the environment is a truly global concern, the U.S. must be a leader in combating climate change around the world, including exporting climate-friendly technologies to developing countries. We will use innovative measures to dramatically improve the energy efficiency of buildings, including establishing a grant program for early adopters and providing incentives for energy conservation. We will encourage local initiatives, sustainable communities, personal responsibility, and environmental stewardship and education nationwide."
Republicans: "The same human economic activity that has brought freedom and opportunity to billions has also increased the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. Increased atmospheric carbon has a warming effect on the earth. While the scope and long-term consequences of this warming effect are the subject of ongoing scientific research, we believe the United States should take measured and reasonable steps today. Those steps, if consistent with our global competitiveness, will also be good for our "national security, our energy independence, and our economy.
As part of a global climate change strategy, Republicans support technology-driven, market-based solutions that will decrease emissions, reduce excess greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere, increase energy efficiency, mitigate the impact of climate change where it occurs, and maximize any ancillary benefits climate change might offer for the economy. …
"Republicans caution against the doomsday climate change scenarios peddled by the aficionados of centralized command-and-control government. We can—and should—address global warming without succumbing to the no-growth radicalism that treats climate questions as dogma rather than as situations to be managed responsibly.
A robust economy will be essential to dealing with climate change, and we will insist on reasonable policies that do not force Americans to sacrifice their way of life or trim their hopes and dreams for their children. This perspective serves not only the people of the United States but also the world's poorest peoples, who would suffer terribly if climate change is severe—just as they would if the world economy itself were to be crippled. We must not allow either outcome."
Democrats: "Research should be based on science, not ideology. We need to invest in biomedical research and stem cell research, so that we are at the leading edge of prevention and treatment.… We will lift the current Administration's ban on using federal funding for embryonic stem cells—cells that would have otherwise have been discarded and lost forever—for research that could save lives. We will ensure that our patent laws protect legitimate rights while not stifling innovation and creativity. We will end the Bush Administration's war on science, restore scientific integrity, and return to evidence-based decision-making."
Republicans: "Taxpayer-funded medical research must be based on sound science, with a focus on both prevention and treatment, and in accordance with the humane ethics of the Hippocratic Oath. In that regard, we call for a major expansion of support for the stem-cell research that now shows amazing promise and offers the greatest hope for scores of diseases—with adult stem cells, umbilical cord blood, and cells reprogrammed into pluripotent stem cells—without the unethical destruction of embryonic human life. We call for a ban on human cloning, the creation of human embryos for research purposes."
Democrats: "Like our Founders, we believe that our nation, our communities, and our lives are made vastly stronger and richer by faith and the countless acts of justice and mercy it inspires. We believe that change comes not from the top-down, but from the bottom-up, and that few are closer to the people than our churches, synagogues, temples, and mosques. To face today's challenges—from saving our planet to ending poverty—we need all hands on deck. Faith-based groups are not a replacement for government or secular non-profit programs; rather, they are yet another sector working to meet challenges of the 21st century. We will empower grassroots faith-based and community groups to help meet challenges like poverty, ex-offender reentry, and illiteracy. At the same time, we can ensure that these partnerships do not endanger First Amendment protections and that public funds are not used to proselytize or discriminate. We will also ensure that taxpayer dollars are only used on programs that actually work."
Republicans: "We affirm every citizen's right to apply religious values to public policy and the right of faith-based organizations to participate fully in public programs without renouncing their beliefs, removing religious objects or symbols, or becoming subject to government-imposed hiring practices. …
"Bureaucracy is no longer a credible approach to helping those in need. This is especially true in light of alternatives such as faith-based organizations, which tend to have a greater degree of success than others in dealing with problems such as substance abuse and domestic violence. To accomplish their missions, those groups must be able to rely upon people who share their faith; their hiring must not be subjected to government regulation and mandates."
Democrats: "The United States has a direct national security interest in dramatically reducing global poverty and joining with our allies in sharing more of our riches to help those most in need. It is time to make the U.N. Millennium Development Goals, which aim to cut extreme poverty in half by 2015, America's goals as well. …
"We will double our annual investment in meeting these challenges to $50 billion by 2012 and ensure that those new resources are directed toward worthwhile goals. But if America is going to help others build more just and secure societies, our trade deals, debt relief, and foreign aid must not come as blank checks. We will couple our support with an insistent call for reform, to combat the corruption that rots societies and governments from within. As part of this new funding, we will create a $2 billion Global Education Fund that will bring the world together in eliminating the global education deficit with the goal of supporting a free, quality basic education for every child in the world. Education increases incomes, reduces poverty, strengthens communities, prevents the spread of disease, improves child and maternal health and empowers women and girls."
The Democrats also emphasize poverty at home: "One in eight Americans live in poverty today. Nearly 13 million of the poor are children. We can't allow this kind of suffering and hopelessness to exist in our country. It's not who we are.
"Working together, we can cut poverty in half within ten years. We will provide all our children a world-class education, from early childhood through college. We will develop innovative transitional job programs that place unemployed people into temporary jobs and train them for permanent ones. To help workers share in our country's productivity, we'll expand the Earned Income Tax Credit, and raise the minimum wage and index it to inflation. The majority of adults in poverty are women, and to combat poverty we must work for fair pay, support for mothers, and policies that promote responsible fatherhood. We'll start letting our unions do what they do best again—organize and lift up our workers. We'll make sure that every American has affordable health care that stays with you no matter what happens. We will assist American Indian communities, since 10 of the 20 poorest counties in the U.S. are on Indian lands. We'll bring businesses back to our inner-cities, increase the supply of affordable housing, and establish 'promise neighborhoods' that provide comprehensive services in areas of concentrated poverty."
Republicans: "No nation spends more in combined public and private efforts to combat disease and poverty around the world, and no nation works harder to ensure the continued vitality of the global economy. Our reasons for doing so are both moral and practical, for a world where half of the human race lives on a few dollars a day is neither just nor stable. Including the world's poor in an expanding circle of development is part and parcel of the Republican approach to world trade through open markets and fair competition. It must also be a top priority of our foreign policy. Decades of massive aid have failed to spur economic growth in the poorest countries, where it has often propped up failed policies and corrupt rulers. We will target foreign assistance to high-impact goals: fostering the rule of law through democratic government, emphasizing literacy and learning, and concentrating on the foundations for economic development: clean water, agricultural improvement, and microcredit funding for small enterprises."
The Republican platform doesn't directly address poverty in the U.S., but includes promises of tax cuts for families and for lower-income earners, and as well as creating more jobs and helping struggling homeowners.
Democrats: "We must fight HIV/AIDS in our country and around the world. We support increased funding into research, care and prevention of HIV/AIDS, and support providing Medicaid coverage to more low-income HIV-positive Americans."
Internationally, the platform calls HIV/AIDS "a massive human tragedy. It is also a security risk of the highest order that threatens to plunge nations into chaos. There are an estimated 33 million people across the planet infected with HIV/AIDS, including more than 1 million people in the U.S. We must do more to fight the global HIV/AIDS pandemic, as well as malaria, tuberculosis, and neglected tropical diseases. We will provide $50 billion over five years to strengthen existing U.S. programs and expand them to new regions of the world, including Southeast Asia, India, and parts of Europe, where the HIV/AIDS burden is growing. We will increase U.S. contributions to the Global Fund to ensure that global efforts to fight endemic disease continue to move ahead."
Republicans: The Republican platform states that in Africa, "HIV/AIDS threatens to destabilize entire societies through large numbers of orphaned youths. In response, the U.S. has become the unrivaled leader in fighting the diseases that are the scourge of much of the continent." After noting its good track record on spending to fight global disease and poverty, the platform says that "maternal and child health, especially safer childbirthing and nutrition, must be priorities, especially in countries affected by epidemics of HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis."
Democrats: "We will address human trafficking—both labor and sex trafficking—through strong legislation and enforcement to ensure that trafficking victims are protected and traffickers are brought to justice. We will also address the root causes of human trafficking, including poverty, discrimination, and gender inequality, as well as the demand for prostitution."
Republicans: "Generations after the end of slavery in America, new forms of bondage have emerged to exploit men, women and children. We salute those across the political spectrum who have come together to end the commerce in our fellow human beings. We advocate the establishment of an Inter-Agency Task Force on Human Trafficking, reporting directly to the President, and call for increased diplomatic efforts with foreign governments that have been negligent toward this evil. The principle underlying our Megan's Law—publicizing the identities of known offenders—should be extended to international travel in order to protect innocent children everywhere."
Democrats: "Our starting point must always be our special relationship with Israel, grounded in shared interests and shared values, and a clear, strong, fundamental commitment to the security of Israel, our strongest ally in the region and its only established democracy. That commitment, which requires us to ensure that Israel retains a qualitative edge for its national security and its right to self-defense, is all the more important as we contend with growing threats in the region—a strengthened Iran, a chaotic Iraq, the resurgence of al Qaeda, the reinvigoration of Hamas and Hezbollah. We support the implementation of the memorandum of understanding that pledges $30 billion in assistance to Israel over the next decade to enhance and ensure its security.
"It is in the best interests of all parties, including the United States, that we take an active role to help secure a lasting settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with a democratic, viable Palestinian state dedicated to living in peace and security side by side with the Jewish State of Israel. To do so, we must help Israel identify and strengthen those partners who are truly committed to peace, while isolating those who seek conflict and instability, and standing with Israel against those who seek its destruction. The United States and its Quartet partners should continue to isolate Hamas until it renounces terrorism, recognizes Israel's right to exist, and abides by past agreements. Sustained American leadership for peace and security will require patient efforts and the personal commitment of the president of the United States. The creation of a Palestinian state through final status negotiations, together with an international compensation mechanism, should resolve the issue of Palestinian refugees by allowing them to settle there, rather than in Israel. All understand that it is unrealistic to expect the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949. Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel. The parties have agreed that Jerusalem is a matter for final status negotiations. It should remain an undivided city accessible to people of all faiths."
Republicans: "The momentum of change in the Middle East has been in the right direction. From Morocco to the Gulf States, the overall trend has been toward cooperation and social and economic development, especially with regard to the rights of women. We acknowledge the substantial assistance the U.S. has received from most governments in the region in the war on terror. Those countries that have made peace with Israel, whether officially or in fact, deserve our appreciation and assistance. We urge the continued isolation of groups like Hamas and Hezbollah because they do not meet the standards of the international community. We call for the restoration of Lebanon's independence and sovereignty and the full implementation of all UN resolutions concerning that country. …
"We reaffirm America's commitment to Israel's security and will ensure that Israel maintains a qualitative edge in military technology over any potential adversaries. We recognize Israel's need for secure, defensible borders and its right to exist as a Jewish state able to defend itself against homicide bombings and other attacks against its people. We support the vision of two democratic states living in peace and security: Israel, with Jerusalem as its capital, and Palestine. For that to become a reality, the Palestinian people must support leaders who reject terror, embrace the ethos of democracy, and respect the rule of law. We call on Arab governments throughout the region to help advance that goal. The U.S. seeks a comprehensive and lasting peace in the Middle East, negotiated between the parties themselves, without the imposition of an artificial timetable, and without the demand that Israel deal with entities which continue to pledge her destruction. … Part of that [negotiation] process must be a just, fair, and realistic framework for dealing with the Palestinian refugee issue."
"Discrimination against Israel at the UN is unacceptable. We welcome Israel's membership in the Western European and Others Group at the UN headquarters and demand its full acceptance and participation at all UN venues."
Democrats: "We support the full inclusion of all families in the life of our nation, and support equal responsibility, benefits, and protections. We will enact a comprehensive bipartisan employment non-discrimination act. We oppose the Defense of Marriage Act and all attempts to use this issue to divide us."
Republicans: "Because our children's future is best preserved within the traditional understanding of marriage, we call for a constitutional amendment that fully protects marriage as a union of a man and a woman, so that judges cannot make other arrangements equivalent to it. In the absence of a national amendment, we support the right of the people of the various states to affirm traditional marriage through state initiatives.
"Republicans have been at the forefront of protecting traditional marriage laws, both in the states and in Congress. A Republican Congress enacted the Defense of Marriage Act, affirming the right of states not to recognize same-sex marriages licensed in other states. To safeguard that victory, a Republican House of Representatives passed legislation withdrawing jurisdiction over DOMA from the federal courts. We urge renewed use of that Article III power to prevent activist federal judges from imposing upon the rest of the nation the judicial activism in Massachusetts and California. …
"We lament that judges … are undermining traditional 25 marriage laws from coast to coast."
Democrats: "We honor the central place of faith in our lives. … We will increase our support for … religious freedom.
"We will restore vigorous federal enforcement of civil rights laws in order to provide every American an equal chance at employment, housing, health, contracts, and pay. We are committed to banning racial, ethnic, and religious profiling and requiring federal, state and local enforcement agencies to take steps to eliminate the practice."
The Democrats also encourage China to "promote greater respect for human rights, including freedom of religion … "
Republicans: "Our Constitution guarantees the free exercise of religion and forbids any religious test for public office, and it likewise prohibits the establishment of a state-sponsored creed. The balance between those two ideals has been distorted by judicial rulings which attempt to drive faith out of the public arena.
"We affirm every citizen's right to apply religious values to public policy and the right of faith-based organizations to participate fully in public programs without renouncing their beliefs, removing religious objects or symbols, or becoming subject to government-imposed hiring practices. We support the First Amendment right of freedom of association on the part of the Boy Scouts of America and other service organizations whose values are under assault, and we call upon the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to reverse its policy of blacklisting religious groups which decline to arrange adoptions by same-sex couples. Respectful of our nation's diversity in faith, we urge reasonable accommodation of religious beliefs in the private workplace. We deplore the increasing incidence of attacks against religious symbols, as well as incidents of anti-Semitism on college campuses. …
"Republican leadership has made religious liberty a central element of U.S. foreign policy. Asserting religious freedom should be a priority in all America's international dealings. We salute the work of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and urge special training in religious liberty issues for all U.S. diplomatic personnel."
"All who are engaged in the healing arts—doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and others—must be free to obey their conscience while performing their professional duties. This is especially true of the religious organizations which deliver a major portion of America's health care, a service rooted in the charity of faith communities. …
"We ask all to join us in rejecting the forces of hatred and bigotry and in denouncing all who practice or promote racism, anti-Semitism, ethnic prejudice, or religious intolerance."
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