Much was made of the notable absences in the Democratic Party platform released at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. All references to God were removed from the lengthy document as well as the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. God and Jerusalem were then reinstated to the platform amid a loud chorus of boos from the DNC crowd.
What is perhaps an even bigger problem with the Democratic Party platform is that there are no mentions of the Declaration of the Independence and only a few passing references to the Constitution. It is quite shocking that a political party that often traces its lineage to Thomas Jefferson and holds a Thomas Jefferson-Andrew Jackson Day party every year would leave out references to the Declaration, which is the bedrock of American principles.
The Democratic Party platform is such a far cry from its origins that its principles seem to be nearly inverted. Here is the opening line of the very first Democratic Party platform from 1840—which also happens to be the first party platform in American history:
Resolved, That the federal government is one of limited powers, derived solely from the constitution, and the grants of power shown therein, ought to be strictly construed by all the departments and agents of the government, and that it is inexpedient and dangerous to exercise doubtful constitutional powers.
The 1840 Democratic Party platform goes on to state that the federal government does not have the power to carry out a “general system of internal improvements”—which means infrastructure. It was against the re-establishment of a central bank. It was against the accumulation of federal debt. And it embraced the “liberal principles embodied by Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence.” These “liberal principles” were the individual rights of life, liberty and property not the very opposite modern day version of liberalism that believes that the government owns individuals.
The Democratic Party used to cling to a strict interpretation of the Constitution and was for limited government, far more limited than even the Republican Party of today; however, this is not to say that the Republican Party of the antebellum era was not a party of limited government and adherence to the natural rights doctrines of the Declaration of Independence.
The first Republican Party platform in 1856 states:
Resolved: That the maintenance of the principles promulgated in the Declaration of Independence, and embodied in the Federal Constitution are essential to the preservation of our Republican institutions, and that the Federal Constitution, the rights of the States, and the union of the States, must and shall be preserved.
Today’s two major political parties were rooted in the political thought of the Founding Fathers and were committed to adhering to the Constitution as the primary goal of their existence. And for most of American history the two parties at least stood for America’s founding principles, even if they were separated by critical policy differences.
The 2012 Democratic Party platform states its “universal values”:
America’s leadership extends beyond our economic prosperity and military might – it is also rooted in our enduring commitment to advancing a core set of universal values. These include an individual’s freedom to speak their mind, assemble without fear, have access to information, worship as they please, and choose their own leaders. They also include dignity, tolerance, and equality among all people, and the fair and equitable administration of justice. The United States was founded upon a belief in these values, and people of every race, region, and religion around the globe have claimed these principles as their own.
Although these “universal values” seem positive on the surface, they have been entirely stripped of their teeth and roots in the natural rights doctrine of the founding. Gone is the mention that it is a self-evident truth that all men are created equal and that they are endowed by their Creator with unalienable rights. Also missing is any statement that the Democratic Party is committed to protecting private property, which is at the bedrock of American civilization and American values. It is false to assume that people of “every race, region, and religion around the globe” have accepted America’s values. They certainly didn’t in Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union or in the modern day despotic regimes of the Middle East.
The 2012 Republican Party platform makes it clear where it at least claims the party should stand:
We possess an owner’s manual: the Constitution of the United States, the greatest political document ever written. That sacred document shows us the path forward. Trust the people. Limit government. Respect federalism. Guarantee opportunity, not outcomes. Adhere to the rule of law. Reaffirm that our rights come from God, are protected by government, and that the only just government is one that truly governs with the consent of the governed.
The Democratic Party platform is full of statements about how Americans need government intervention, regulation and control to get ahead in life and, over and over again, blames America’s problems on the “wealthy”. The Democratic National Convention showed just what kind of values the party now stands for and it happens to be more Left-wing than at any time in its history . The Republican Party platform declares its adherence to the Constitution and embraces the principles of the Declaration of Independence unequivocally while promoting policies to promote equality of opportunity.
It must be quite clear that the two American parties are divided by more than just competing policies, but two entirely divergent governing philosophies.
In one critical area, the Democratic Party does adhere to its roots. Just like the Democratic Party of the Antebellum era, the modern Democratic Party degenerated into attacking one on the core rights imbued in the Declaration of Independence. The Democratic Party, as the Civil War approached, came to question the philosophy of the founding, that “all men are created equal,” denied the rights of black Americans both free and slave, and tried to preserve the institution of slavery that the Founding Fathers wanted to put on a path to extinction; it became militantly pro-slavery.
Today’s Democratic Party is militantly pro-abortion; it doesn’t even attempt to grapple with the philosophical and moral implications of where life begins. The platform says, “The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to make a decisions regarding her pregnancy, including a safe and legal abortion, regardless of her ability to pay.” Not only does the Democratic Party support abortion under any circumstance, including after birth, but it wants taxpayers to fund ones that the mother can’t pay for. This radical doctrine is at odds with mainstream Americans and is alienating pro-life Democrats.
In his inaugural address in 1800, Thomas Jefferson said, after the first peaceful transfer of power between political parties in human history, “We have called by different names brethren of the same principle. We are all republicans—we are all federalists.” He said this to affirm that while he and his Jeffersonian-Republican supporters disagreed with the policies and ideas of rival Federalists, that they were in fact united, at least, in the belief in the core republican principles of the American Revolution.
The philosophical differences between the two parties are perhaps greater than any time since the Civil War, and the choice between those two parties in the upcoming presidential election may be the most dramatic since the contest between Abraham Lincoln and his opponents in the election of 1860.