In 2012, I wrote a post titled “A Preëmptive Political Post.” My intention in doing so was to head off feeling the need to write individual posts on a variety of issues likely to surface in the 2012 presidential campaign. The post did not set out a platform for the Democratic Party. Instead, it offered a series of assertions about the way things are and about how they should be. The post has attracted many visitors, but I cannot say how much those visitors read.A Litany for the Democratic Presidential Candidate.” The items on my list this time looked more like conventional planks on a political platform. The list was very long, however, and it was more wish list than platform.
Twenty twenty-two is not a presidential contest year, of course, but the fall elections could have monumental significance. Democrats fear that they could lose their majority in the House and their at-least-theoretical majority in the Senate. Such an outcome would further cripple the legislative process and provide a ready excuse for electing a Republican president in 2024. How can Democrats fashion a campaign strategy to engage their base and attract the votes of independents and sane Republicans?
My purpose here is to suggest such a strategy. In constructing the list below, as opposed to the long enumerations I offered in 2012 and 2020, I was guided by these principles:
- Democrats should campaign on relatively few issues. They should be dismissive of other matters raised by their opponents and avoid being dragged into complex arguments they are unlikely to win.
- Democrats must all run on the same platform, even if individual candidates are personally opposed to certain planks or believe voters in their district are.
- Democrats should avoid issues seen by many as far-left.
- Democrats should embrace issues for which there already is broad support.
- Democrats should make promises that seem reasonable, practical, and achievable.
- Democrats should emphasize that not only their program but democracy itself is contingent on electing Democrats and displacing Republicans from office.
Item (2) will be a hard sell for some candidates, perhaps even for most. Many voters seem uncertain about what Democrats stand for, and having all candidates singing from the same hymnal will send a strong and coherent message. Arguably, item (3) is entailed by item (5), but it seemed worthwhile to make it explicit. Item (6) represents more of an attitude than a policy. It is a message that candidates must send at every opportunity. Implicit in all the proposed policies is the notion that government can and should make life in the United States better for its citizens.
My list of campaign issues for Democrats follows. It is a list of what a candidate promises to support. Even this list may be too long and may need to be pared down. The list is intended to be in order of importance, with the more urgent issues at the top. My ordering is a best guess, and individual candidates (and even the party at large) may need to adjust the emphasis to better appeal to the electorate. Perhaps each candidate may be allowed to advocate one or two measures not on the list, as long as they are compatible with other positions. Such measures could include tax reform, support for children, and more aggressive antitrust measures.
My Proposed Democratic Platform
- Enact reasonable gun regulations. This would include effective background checks for all sales and transfers, however made. Sale or possession of assault weapons, defined by function rather than by model number, will be prohibited to anyone under the age of 21. How candidates should treat this issue will depend on what, if anything, Congress does in this area before or during campaigning.
- Protect the right to abortion. What this looks like depends upon the forthcoming decision from the Supreme Court. It is important to not get carried away here, even though one can make a rational case for a very expansive right. Following Roe and clarifying Casey seems like a good approach.
- Enact legislation regarding climate change: work to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and provide funds to mitigate damage caused by climate change.
- Continue to support Ukraine in its war with Russia. If the war concludes, support reconstruction for Ukraine. This and closely related issues are probably enough of foreign policy for Democratic candidates.
- Improve availability and affordability of prescription drugs. It is important to not make this sound too complicated, but the general idea is bound to be popular. The government can negotiate the prices it pays for drugs, subsidize low-margin drugs that companies are reluctant to make, change patent policies that have resulted in patents being issued for trivial variations of drugs that are losing patent protection, and outlaw drug prices significantly higher than those for the same pharmaceuticals sold overseas.
- Work for comprehensive immigration reform. What this looks like will have to be negotiated, and it is difficult to know how legislation should look. We can suggest useful principles. Dreamers should be given a path to citizenship. Long-time unlawful residents should be required to pay a penalty but should be allowed to stay. (We cannot deport them all.) Those wanting to enter the country (and particularly those with an asylum claim) deserve to have their cases adjudicated in a timely manner. Such changes will require more personnel and more money.
- Expand voting rights. The franchise should be automatic with citizenship. Voting law changes in all states should be subject to Department of Justice review to assure fairness. Apparently, this would pass Supreme Court muster.
- Senate candidates should promise to vote to eliminate the filibuster, a major impediment to democratic government.