Too often, the Democratic and Republican party platforms that are painstakingly hammered out at the national conventions are simply ignored. They get a day or two of coverage if there is any controversy, and then are promptly forgotten by the media.
But they shouldn’t be. Even if these documents aren’t followed to the letter, they provide us crucial information. They are the fruit of intense negotiations among the most powerful, active and dedicated members of each political party -- those who worked and fought for the chance to be national party delegates. To use a geological metaphor, platforms provide a core sample of the beliefs of a party’s leaders, movers and shakers. They tell us who makes up the party, and where it may be headed.
For instance, when the GOP first adopted a pro-life platform in 1980 at Ronald Reagan’s insistence, the party was still quite divided on that issue. Twenty years later, pro-lifers had a clear majority. Now they lead and dominate the party, and a pro-choice stance is enough to kill the hopes of a presidential candidate.
So platforms do tell us something. And this year, on that same life issue, they tell us everything.
The Democrats: Keeping the Unborn Invisible
The number of words devoted to unborn life in the Democrat platform is zero. Unlike past Democratic platforms, which were obliged by the presence of pro-life Democratic politicians to acknowledge the controversy over the issue, the 2016 document treats the issue as settled, beyond the pale of legitimate dissent. The word "abortion" itself is used only three times in the relevant plank, which appears, bizarrely, right after a plank guaranteeing support for Americans with autism. The rhetoric surrounding the issue sounds like one of Immanuel Kant’s invented "imperatives," re-translated by Star Trek’s United Federation of Planets. Imagine Captain Kirk delivering the following actual lines from the the 2016 Democratic platform:
Securing Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice
Democrats are committed to protecting and advancing Reproductive Health, rights, and justice. We believe unequivocally, like the majority of Americans, that every woman should have access to quality reproductive health care services …
But then Captain Kirk falls silent, and what we hear next is instead the voice of The Borg -- the vast, crushing, all but unanimous chorus of Democrat activists, officeholders and donors to whom unborn children literally do not exist. So the unborn go unmentioned. You’d think that someone in one of those platform meetings would have realized that tiny, fully-formed babies with brainwaves, children unprotected by law from being killed for their organs by profiteers, constitute a "vulnerable minority.” Yes, but such a person would have been driven out of the room, perhaps shoved into an airlock then vented into space.
The Borg next announces -- again quoting from the Democrats’ 2016 platform -- that the services promised each American woman include
safe and legal abortion -- regardless of where she lives, how much money she makes, or how she is insured. We believe that reproductive health is core to women's, men's, and young people's health and wellbeing. We will continue to stand up to Republican efforts to defund Planned Parenthood health centers, which provide critical health services to millions of people. We will continue to oppose -- and seek to overturn -- federal and state laws and policies that impede a woman's access to abortion, including by repealing the Hyde Amendment. We condemn and will combat any acts of violence, harassment, and intimidation of reproductive health providers, patients, and staff. We will defend the ACA, which extends affordable preventive health care to women, including no-cost contraception, and prohibits discrimination in health care based on gender.
But free and unfettered access to abortion for Americans isn’t sufficient for the Democrats. All must be assimilated:
We will support sexual and reproductive health and rights around the globe. In addition to expanding the availability of affordable family planning information and contraceptive supplies, we believe that safe abortion must be part of comprehensive maternal and women's health care and included as part of America's global health programming. Therefore, we support the repeal of harmful restrictions that obstruct women's access to health care information and services, including the "global gag rule" and the Helms Amendment that bars American assistance to provide safe, legal abortion throughout the developing world.
The Democrat platform could not be more unequivocally committed on this issue if the Convention voted to rename it the Abortion Party.
Just to recap: The Democrat party is absolutely committed to keeping abortion legal for any reason, including sex selection, for all nine months of pregnancy. You as a taxpayer will have to pay for it, and you had better not try to protest outside abortion clinics. You will even pay to subsidize Planned Parenthood’s trafficking in tiny human organs. If you want to run a business, your insurance will have to pay for the abortion pill. Not only will you have to pay for abortions right here at home, you will also have to pay for promoting it around the world, including the use of U.S. foreign aid to pressure other sovereign countries such as El Salvador or Poland to repeal their democratically enacted pro-life laws. Have you got that?
You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile.
The Republicans: Restoring Self-Government, the Constitution, and Respect for Life
In contrast to the deep moral confusion and unhinged utopianism of the Democrat document, the Republican platform stands firmly in the Anglo-American tradition of ordered liberty. Fittingly, the GOP lays out its section on basic rights according to the Article of the U.S. Constitution which guarantees each one. Early on, the platform offers a practical observation that also touches on the deeper issue of judicial tyranny:
Only by electing a Republican president in 2016 will America have the opportunity for up to five new constitutionally-minded Supreme Court justices appointed to fill vacancies on the Court. Only such appointments will enable courts to begin to reverse the long line of activist decisions -- including Roe, Obergefell, and the Obamacare cases -- that have usurped Congress's and states' lawmaking authority, undermined constitutional protections, expanded the power of the judiciary at the expense of the people and their elected representatives, and stripped the people of their power to govern themselves.
Once it has established that millions of American voters, not five appointed judges, ought to be making our laws, this section of the platform declares -- still in plain Earth language, which we inherited from our Founders:
Faithful to the "self-evident" truths enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, we assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed. We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment's protections apply to unborn children. We oppose using public revenues to promote or perform abortion or fund organizations which perform or advocate it and will not fund or subsidize health care which includes abortion coverage. We support the appointment of judges who respect traditional family values and the sanctity of innocent human life. We oppose the non-consensual withholding or withdrawal of care or treatment, including food and water, from people with disabilities, including newborns, as well as the elderly and infirm, just as we oppose active and passive euthanasia and assisted suicide.
A clearer, more principled assertion of the basic facts would be hard to find: Human children are human. They are not "globs of cells" or "products of conception." We must protect our children, not kill them for our convenience. There are no moral shades of gray here, and this is not a complicated question. If human life has value -- if the adults making laws and performing abortions have any value either -- then abortion is wrong. So is killing the weak, the sick and the old.
That one of our two major parties denies these truths is bitterly sad. Set before us is the starkest of choices, between “life and death, blessings and curses.” (Deut. 30:20) How will Americans choose?
Note: This is the first in a Stream series comparing the official party platforms of the Republican and Democratic parties, plank by plank.