From time-to-time it becomes necessary to engage friends and colleagues on Facebook regarding the current Presidential election. This can be an exasperating experience, especially when dealing with the very Christians I’ve written about in my new book, The Gospel of Self: How Jesus Joined the GOP. I can handle most debates, but recently a woman forced me to silence with the question: “Have you actually read the Democratic Party Platform? Has anybody actually read it?” She went on to note that if we had “actually read it,” we wouldn’t say some of things we were saying. In this woman’s mind, the document is so disgustingly anti-Christian that nobody would ever vote for Hillary, no matter what.
This bothered me, because I consider myself relatively well informed, so this past weekend, I took the time to read both party platforms that came out of the conventions, and I’m prepared to state my case as such.
The Democratic Party platform is an easy read. The GOP’s is not at all. The Democrats seem to easily and directly state their positions, while Republicans find it necessary to embellish and qualify every position with the use of hyperbole and grand narratives, such as constitutional originalism – a product of the 1980s – claims of being the law and order party and the party of religious liberty, and through other embellishments and narratives, especially regarding the military. Among these are mixed certain telltale issues that speak to the foundational GOP, which is the party of unbridled capitalism and concern for corporate profits. Why else sandwich repeal of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act – enacted so the IRS could find and tax offshore accounts – between keeping and bearing arms and abortion? Clever, huh?
I’m not a constitutional or legal expert, but I am a marketer, and I recognize marketing tricks and techniques that may be hidden from others. I can also fact check items in either document when I suspect hyperbole is used as a substitute for facts. Take a look, for example, at this attempt in the Republican document to seize a position of being pro-women while against a woman’s right to choose an abortion:
Through Obamacare, the current Administration has promoted the notion of abortion as healthcare. We, however, affirm the dignity of women by protecting the sanctity of human life. Numerous studies have shown that abortion endangers the health and wellbeing of women, and we stand firmly against it.
Then there’s the matter of the military and the military budget. Many pages are dedicated to what its writers believe is a Reagan legacy that they wish to enjoin. Here’s just one important (and often quoted) paragraph:
In all of our country’s history, there is no parallel to what President Obama and his former Secretary of State have done to weaken our nation. Our aging naval capabilities are inadequate for their job. The Air Force fields the smallest and oldest force of combat aircraft in its history. The Marines have only two-thirds the number of battalions they have historically needed to meet day to day operational demands. The Army is at its lowest troop levels since before World War II. Our U.S. Ambassador and American personnel were left without adequate security or backup halfway across the world in Benghazi. In summary, we have returned to the hollow force days of Jimmy Carter.
This paragraph is not only a staggering degree of hyperbole, but it also is a gross misrepresentation of the facts, which are available to anyone who feels it important to spend the time looking. The two biggest reasons, for example, for a drop in military spending are the removal of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan and across-the-board cuts that went into place in 2011, when congress and the President deadlocked on the budget (sequestration). Both parties, as a result, must share the blame. Moreover, the President has proposed a 7.8% spending increase for the Defense Department between 2015 and 2016. Nevertheless, the specific claims regarding individual branches of the military conveniently lack context, and that’s why they must be rejected. The aging naval capabilities claim is laughable for two reasons. One, each ship today can do so much more than even those of World War II that any comparison cannot be made with a straight face. Two, the Navy is increasing its fleet size, including twelve ballistic missile submarines, from a formal process completed in 2014. The Air Force claim, too, is absurd. We’re in the largest aircraft procurement in history for the F-35, over 100 new jets per year over the next 20 years. The new long-range bomber project is on hold due to a protest by Boeing, but that’s hardly the administration’s fault. And let’s not even get started on Benghazi, for it was cuts by a Republican-led congress that put all embassies in harm’s way.
The Democratic Party platform presents a hyperbole-less prose for supporting the troops and the military:
We must prioritize military readiness by making sure our Active, Reserve, and National Guard components remain the best trained and equipped in the world. We will seek a more agile and flexible force and rid the military of outdated Cold War-era systems.
We must end waste in the defense budget. We will audit the Pentagon, launch a high-level commission to review the role of defense contractors, and take greater action against those who have been involved in fraud. And we will ensure that the Department of Defense invests its budget wisely.
That last paragraph takes a shot at defense contractors who had their heyday during the Republican administration of George Bush, whose Vice President was a major player in the entire defense industry. Democrats also seek the flexibility to act in our best interests at a moment’s notice, something the GOP doesn’t like under Democratic party leadership at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Here’s the quote:
Democrats will seek an updated Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) that is more precise about our efforts to defeat ISIS and that does not involve large-scale combat deployment of American troops.
There are three political issues that are of extreme importance to me personally:
- Net Neutrality is the single most important issue for those who care about the short and long term future of horizontal connectivity. This is vastly more important that most people realize, for it involves the nature of the ability that everyday people have to participate in managing their own lives and not be at the mercy of the hierarchical self-interests of others. This is what’s disrupting everything today, and only through net neutrality will it continue without interruption. Here, I support the Democrats’ position:
Democrats support a free and open internet at home and abroad, and will oppose any effort by Republicans to roll back the historic net neutrality rules that the Federal Communications Commission enacted last year.
The FCC got it right, but the interests of big money cable and telecoms will continue to fight it. What they want is to turn the network into a series of dumb pipes over which they will dictate complete control. Corporate profit is what drives this, and it’s why I’ve used my own money to support opposition groups. I want my children and grand children to grow up with a free Internet, and this is a key area where political parties – and especially their representatives in Congress – need to have their power checked. Hell, the GOP is so controlled by corporate profiteers and their lobbyists that they will never vote against their interests. That alone scares the heck out of me.
Here’s a portion of the Republican Party Platform regarding this issue. Notice its broad use of fear and hyperbole to sell its message of private sector control of the web. As you’re doing that, also know without a doubt that the U.S. doesn’t own the WORLD Wide Web.
The survival of the internet as we know it is at risk. Its gravest peril originates in the White House, the current occupant of which has launched a campaign, both at home and internationally, to subjugate it to agents of government. The President ordered the chair of the supposedly independent Federal Communications Commission to impose upon the internet rules devised in the 1930s for the telephone monopoly. He has unilaterally announced America’s abandonment of the international internet by surrendering U.S. control of the root zone of web names and addresses. He threw the internet to the wolves, and they — Russia, China, Iran, and others — are ready to devour it.
We salute the Congressional Republicans who have legislatively impeded his plans to turn over the Information Freedom Highway to regulators and tyrants. That fight must continue, for its outcome is in doubt. We will consistently support internet policies that allow people and private enterprise to thrive, without providing new and expanded government powers to tax and regulate so that the internet does not become the vehicle for a dramatic expansion of government power. The internet’s independence is its power. It has unleashed innovation, enabled growth, and inspired freedom more rapidly and extensively than any other technological advance in human history. We will therefore resist any effort to shift control toward governance by international or other intergovernmental organizations.
- The second issue that concerns me greatly is the conflict between Israel and its neighbors, the Palestinians. Those who are regular readers will know that I have Palestinian family living in Amman, Jordan, so this issue is quite personal, and my window on the Middle East is wider than those (American) who cover events entirely through the Israeli narrative. In this particular issue, I find fault with both parties, for neither party platform expresses support for Palestinians, especially when it comes to the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement (BDS). There are other reasons I can’t support either position. The Democrats will “continue to work toward as two-state solution.” This is fantasy, for Israel will never agree to it. Therefore, the only solution can be one-state, but that will require a completely different mindset, especially among the Jews who make up the vast majority population in the current state of Israel.As a taxpayer, I am offended that we should send $4.5 billion in annual aid to Israel without oversight or stipulation as to how it is used. We give Israel a free pass to behave in any manner they choose with regards to “protecting its borders.” I have many Christian friends who passionately love Israel, and their love is genuine. It is truly a remarkable place in all the earth. But you know what? My family used to love living there, too, because its name isn’t what makes it remarkable, and for us to look the other way while right wing expansionists engage in genocide against the Arabs who used to live there is unacceptable to me. While I’m not happy with either party on this, it is the Republican Party platform that “condemns” BDS as anti-Semitic and should be denounced by those who favor academic freedom. The GOP document suggests that you cannot be against ISIS and not “for” Israel and calls Israel “an expression of Americanism, and it is the responsibility of our government to advance policies that reflect Americans’ strong desire for a relationship with no daylight between America and Israel.” It also calls for moving the American embassy to Jerusalem, a very dangerous proposition. “Our party is proud to stand with Israel now and always.”
- My final important personal issue has to do with drugs and drug enforcement, especially the changes in the last year from the DEA regarding opiates and prescription pain medications. Just last month, I was denied insurance coverage for cough medicine containing codeine, even though I was bordering on pneumonia. I could not afford to pay for it absent insurance, but both Medicare and my insurance company refused. I used to be a chronic pain patient, and I wrote two years ago about the senseless restrictions being placed on pharmacies and patients in the DEA’s reclassifying hydrocodone as a schedule three narcotic. I’ve argued that the people making these rules have never been inside a pain clinic and that the move was entirely politically based on fear and hyperbole about opiate misuse impacting, what else, our children. This move criminalized even legal use of the drug, so that drug enforcement – and especially out-of-control federal prosecutors – could swing their dicks.And wouldn’t you know, this issue is written into the Republican Party platform.
Heroin and opioid abuse touches our communities, our homes, and our families in ways that have grave effects on Americans in every community. With a quadrupling of both their sales and their overdose deaths, the opioid crisis is ravaging communities all over the country, often hitting rural areas harder than urban. Because over-prescription of drugs is such a large part of the problem, Republican legislation now allows Medicare Part D and Medicare Advantage plans to limit patients to a single pharmacy. Congressional Republicans have also called upon the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to ensure that no physician will be penalized for limiting opioid prescriptions. We look for expeditious agreement between the House and Senate on the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, which addresses the opioid epidemic from both the demand and supply sides of the problem.
This paragraph alone makes me question the intelligence of the entire document. It is fear-mongering, and it handcuffs the entire medical profession in ways that are draconian and autocratic, all to make a few more law enforcement bureaucrats feel more secure in their positions. Honestly, folks, what have we come to? Now that marijuana laws are being viewed in a different light, the DEA has to have something equally antagonistic in order to justify its budget. Besides, the core of this entire issue is poverty. The drugs are just a symptom, and “cracking down” only hurts people with legitimate needs for the medications.
The Republican Party Platform mentions Hillary Clinton only twice, once about human rights and the other about abortion. However, it refers to President Obama twenty times, while the Democratic Party Platform mentions Donald Trump by name thirty-two times. While Mr. Trump is running against Mrs. Clinton, his party is positioning itself as running against the outgoing administration. I find this fascinating, for as I read the platform of the GOP, I kept thinking, this platform in the hands of anybody other than Donald Trump might actually work to manipulate voters to a Republican administration for the next four years. This is further evidenced by how the Democratic Party platform pounds away at the Trump candidacy by going after the man’s ignorant rants and by exploiting outrageous statements and beliefs that are no where to be found in his own party’s platform. This is likely why so many republicans even have trouble with Mr. Trump.
But don’t just listen to me. Go read these documents for yourself. And FACT CHECK. Don’t take either side’s statements as fact, just because they sound like what you’re used to hearing.