What the Democratic Party Platform Actually Says
Democrats on Tuesday night officially approved a new party platform, outlining a sweeping set of policies on key issues including health care, climate change and the economy.
But the platform also reinforced divisions among the party’s moderates and its liberal wing, which has expressed disappointment that the official Democratic agenda does not support “Medicare for all,” the universal, single-payer health care proposal championed by Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont that has become a pillar of the progressive movement. Some refused to vote for the platform as a form of protest.
A largely symbolic document, the party platform does not contain specific legislation or binding commitments. Taken as a whole, however, it provides a broad look at the party’s agenda and the principles and values that Democrats, including former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., embrace.
The platform was written by a drafting committee that included members from the party’s progressive and more moderate wings. The Democratic National Committee’s platform committee then voted on the platform before sending it to all of the delegates who voted remotely on whether to approve it.
Last month in a parallel process, six Biden-Sanders “unity” task forces gave their own broad policy recommendations to the platform committee. The recommendations amounted to a collection of broadly accepted liberal policy proposals — much like the new platform.
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Many of the proposals are broadly consistent with what Democrats have so far supported, including increasing funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and providing more aid to state and local governments for initiatives specific to Covid-19, such as contact tracing.
Democrats also support free coronavirus testing and treatment for everyone, as well as free vaccines when they become available. And they want to expand paid sick leave and unemployment insurance to help workers impacted by the health crisis.
The section on health care is something of a catchall that broadly outlines Democrats’ desire to bring down the cost of prescription drugs, reduce health care costs and improve the quality of care. While it nods to Medicare for all, it stops far short of backing it.
But perhaps the most interesting part of the party’s stance on health care is how exactly it plans to expand coverage. Borrowing language from Mr. Sanders, the platform asserts that “health care is a right for all.” But it seeks to secure universal health care through a public option, not Medicare for all.
“Democrats believe we need to protect, strengthen and build upon our bedrock health care programs, including the Affordable Care Act,” the platform reads. “Private insurers need real competition to ensure they have incentive to provide affordable, quality coverage to every American.”
The section of the platform that is devoted to the economy blends and borrows ideas from across the Democratic Party’s ideological spectrum. There are echoes of Mr. Sanders (“The U.S. economy is rigged against the American people”) and wonky subsections that address “Curbing Wall Street Abuses” and “Tackling Runaway Corporate Concentration” — issues highlighted repeatedly by Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.
Over all, there are few surprises here. Democrats, for instance, support raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2026, a policy already widely backed across the party. They want to invest in infrastructure, including high-speed rail.
Democrats also support aggressive steps to encourage homeownership by increasing affordable housing and by giving a $15,000 tax credit to first-time home buyers, among other initiatives.
Perhaps most notably, the platform promises to “reject every effort to cut, privatize or weaken Social Security.” The pledge is particularly relevant following President Trump’s push to cut payroll taxes, which Democrats said could jeopardize the funding stream for the popular government program.
The party’s platform sets aggressive goals of eliminating carbon pollution from power plants by 2035 and achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions for all new buildings by 2030, with the goal of achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
But the platform makes no mention of the “Green New Deal,” a sweeping congressional resolution to combat climate change that is widely supported by the party’s progressive wing. It also does not call for an end to fossil fuel subsidies — an omission that has frustrated activists — although Mr. Biden’s plan does.
The Democratic Party platform is filled with promises, many of them grand and somewhat vague.
But the lengthy document does contain several specific endorsements, such as supporting statehood for Washington, D.C., and a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
Interestingly, Democrats want to “fast-track this process for those workers who have been essential to the pandemic response and recovery efforts.” The party also wants to end for-profit detention centers and instead “prioritize investments in more effective and cost-efficient community-based alternatives to detention.”
Here is a look at some of the other proposals:
Criminal justice and racial justice
Democrats want to “overhaul the criminal justice system from top to bottom.” But notably, the platform does not include support for defunding the police, which has become a rallying cry for some activists amid the nationwide reckoning over racial justice and police brutality. Instead, Democrats support “national standards governing the use of force” like banning chokeholds. The party also wants to eliminate cash bail.
Democrats support decriminalizing marijuana and legalizing its medical use. But the platform advocates for leaving it up to the states to determine whether to legalize marijuana for recreational use — a position that disappoints many progressives.
Democrats support making public colleges and universities tuition-free for students whose families earn less than $125,000. The proposal does not go as far as the plan proposed by Mr. Sanders, which stipulates tuition-free public colleges and universities for everyone. The platform, however, does support making community colleges and trade schools tuition-free for all students.
Democrats also want to “ban for-profit private charter schools from receiving federal funding.”
Democrats support a two-state solution that would establish an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel. Democrats also believe Jerusalem should remain the capital of Israel. Some activists have expressed disappointment with the platform because it does not criticize Israel’s “occupation” of Palestine.