What the Democrats Stand For

There is a significant difference in tone between the Democratic and Republican platforms--one that probably has been discernible for 35 years now. Democrats give you wish lists of things they sincerely would like to do if nothing (such as the desires of a major contributor) gets in the way. Republicans lie; they pay lip service to principles, like equality, in which they do not really believe. The Democratic platform may be full of things that will never happen, but it isn't full of the "buts" with which the Republican platform is replete, as in "We believe in equality, but...." or "We are against sexual harassment, but..."

Economic growth. Since Bill Clinton became President, America has seen an explosion of job growth, economic renewal, and opportunity. The American people have created more than 10 million new jobs. After trailing Japan for 14 years, America once again became the world's leading manufacturer of automobiles in 1994, and remained number one last year. The combined rate of inflation, unemployment, and mortgage interest rates is the lowest in three decades. Now, 4.4 million more Americans own their own home, and Americans have started a record number of new small businesses in each of the last three years.

"Its the economy, stupid." In the end, this seems to be the major, maybe the only factor, that decides elections. Several people I know who voted for Bush in '92 are voting for Clinton this time. They know he's dishonest and has an "as if" personality, but the economy's fine, so why rock the boat? There are millions like them in the country. It is rarely possible to know with certainty whether a president is the ,i>benefactor or beneficiary of a strong economy, but, if "it ain't broke, don't fix it."

President Clinton and Vice President Gore fought for, and the President signed, a sweeping telecommunications reform bill that will unleash the creative power of the information industry to create millions of high-wage American jobs.

The telcom bill invites a bloodbath; the last companies standing will be virtual monopolies, owning (pick several or all) your phone service, cable service, Internet access, and a significant amount of the content carried over these last two. We are very likely to see a resurgent attempt to impose a broadcast style model on the Internet; content like the Ethical Spectacle will either be nowhere to be found, or will be much harder to access than the Time Warner pages. The telcom bill, in short, is classic Republican-style deregulation; nothing Democratic, or democratic, about it.

The telcom bill, of course, contained the Communications Decency Act, which the President (via the attorney general) zealously defended in court, illustrating the fact that he regards the First Amendment as being as much a hostage to fortune as the poor, gays and immigrants.

We must do everything we can to make sure that the victims of violent crime are treated with the respect and the dignity they deserve. We support the President's call for a constitutional amendment to protect the rights of victims. We believe that when a plea bargain is entered in public, a criminal is sentenced, or a defendant is let out on bail, the victims ought to know about it, and have a say. A constitutional amendment is the only way to protect those rights in every courtroom in America.

The President apparently wasn't content with the Republicans' corner on the constitutional amendment market. Lets leave the document alone; it doesn't need a sheaf of amendments, which will turn it into a patchwork quilt, and most of which are intended to gut existing pieces of it, such as the First and Fifth amendments.

However, as we work to stop illegal immigration, we call on all Americans to avoid the temptation to use this issue to divide people from each other. We deplore those who use the need to stop illegal immigration as a pretext for discrimination. And we applaud the wisdom of Republicans like Mayor Giuliani and Senator Domenici who oppose the mean-spirited and short-sighted effort of Republicans in Congress to bar the children of illegal immigrants from schools -- it is wrong, and forcing children onto the streets is an invitation for them to join gangs and turn to crime. Democrats want to protect American jobs by increasing criminal and civil sanctions against employers who hire illegal workers, but Republicans continue to favor inflammatory rhetoric over real action. We will continue to enforce labor standards to protect workers in vulnerable industries. We continue to firmly oppose welfare benefits for illegal immigrants. We believe family members who sponsor immigrants into this country should take financial responsibility for them, and be held legally responsible for supporting them.

The President shouldn't have signed the recent bill denying social benefits such as food stamps and SSI to legal immigrants; he did, so any pro-immigrant rhetoric is so much hot air.

Now, because of the President's leadership and with the support of a majority of the Democrats in Congress, national welfare reform is going to make work and responsibility the law of the land. Thanks to President Clinton and the Democrats, the new welfare bill includes the health care and child care people need so they can go to work confident their children will be cared for. Thanks to President Clinton and the Democrats, the new welfare bill imposes time limits and real work requirements -- so anyone who can work, does work, and so that no one who can work can stay on welfare forever. Thanks to President Clinton and the Democrats, the new welfare bill cracks down on deadbeat parents and requires minor mothers to live at home with their parents or with another responsible adult.

We know the new bill passed by Congress is far from perfect -- parts of it should be fixed because they go too far and have nothing to do with welfare reform. First, Republicans cut too far into nutritional assistance for working families with children; we are committed to correcting that. Second, Republicans insisted on using welfare reform as a vehicle to cut off help to legal immigrants. That was wrong. Legal immigrants work hard, pay their taxes, and serve America. It is wrong to single them out for punishment just because they are immigrants. We pledge to make sure that legal immigrant families with children who fall on hard times through no fault of their own can get help when they need it. And we are committed to continuing the President's efforts to make it easier for legal immigrants who are prepared to accept the responsibilities of citizenship to do so.

Here the President is denying a most shameful action. History will not remember him well for ending, rather than fixing, a federal safety net that had existed for more than sixty years. Block grants are not a substitute; they permit the states to engage in a contest: by giving fewer benefits than your neighbors, you can drive the poor next door. For this reason, welfare is the quintessential example of a problem that must be addressed by a federal policy. Republicans and Democrats are in remarkable agreement on the number of children-- five million--who will be driven into abject poverty as a result of this decision.

But we must take further strong action. The President and the Democratic Party support the bipartisan McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill. It will limit campaign spending, curb the influence of PACs and lobbyists, and end the soft money system. Perhaps most important of all, this bill provides free TV time for candidates, so they can talk directly to citizens about real issues and real ideas. Unfortunately, Republicans in Congress will not even let this bill come up for a vote. We call on them to stop stonewalling. It is time to take the reins of democracy away from big money and put them back in the hands of the American people, where they belong. We applaud efforts by broadcasters and private citizens alike, to increase candidates' direct access to voters through free TV.

This is a likely story. Democrats too have thrived on soft money; loosely speaking, Whitewater and Mrs. Clinton's commodity account represent the softest money there is.

Responsible entertainment. President Clinton and Vice President Gore have led the fight to help parents control what their children see on television. Because of their leadership, Congress passed a law requiring all new televisions to include a device called a V-chip that will block violent programs when it is activated by an adult. Senator Dole likes to talk about TV violence, but when it came time to act, he stood with a small minority to oppose the bipartisan V-chip bill. The President achieved a breakthrough agreement with the media and entertainment industries to develop a rating system for TV shows similar to the motion picture rating system, so parents can make informed decisions about what they want their children to watch. When parents control the remote, it is not censorship, it is personal responsibility for their children's upbringing.

This is essentially a Republican position, even if Dole didn't support it. While parent-programmable devices and third party "preference" servers promote parental responsibility, government-encouraged rating systems infringe free speech. How would you rate a graphic documentary on the Holocaust? All audiences? Adults only?

Fighting discrimination and protecting civil rights. Today's Democratic Party knows we must renew our efforts to stamp out discrimination and hatred of every kind, wherever and whenever we see it.

We continue to lead the fight to end discrimination on the basis of race, gender, religion, age, ethnicity, disability, and sexual orientation. We support continued efforts, like the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, to end discrimination against gay men and lesbians and further their full inclusion in the life of the nation.

This is beautiful talk--but the President's cowardly support of the Defense of Marriage Act gives the lie to it.

Americans have a right to express their love of God in public, and we applaud the President's work to ensure that children are not denied private religious expression in school. Whenever the religious rights of our children -- or any American -- are threatened, we will stand against it.

The President, co-opting a Republican anti-First Amendment position again. Its a sad day for Democracy when neither the legislative or executive branches seem to have read the First Amendment, and even the Supreme Court can't make up its mind what it means.