WHAT IS A PLATFORM AND HOW DO WE UNDERSTAND IT?
WHAT IS A PLATFORM AND HOW DO WE UNDERSTAND IT?
I’m starting to hear rumblings about the need for candidate platforms soon, to help guide us in our voting in the 2018 elections. One problem has been we haven’t had a clear picture of just who’s running. Now that the filing date for running in 2018 has passed, maybe we’ll get some answers.[Correction: the deadline for filing to be on the ballot in Illinois and Texas has come and gone. Other states have later dates, with the latest being New Hampshire on June 15, 2018. https://ballotpedia.org/Filing_requirements_for_congressional_candidates.] It might be a good idea to watch for a rash of new candidates as many unknowns are looking into filing procedures. So let’s look at what a platform is all about, and what to look for from our candidates as they emerge.
Every major party puts together a platform to describe what their goals and plans are for the coming election period. This is done every four years. Below are two comparable excerpts from our two major parties, covering the period from 2016 to 2020. Each party writes short passages like these about their major tenets, then provides outlines for planning, with a longer description called a “plank” for each subject. Note that these are the platforms we are all operating under right now.
Quote from the 2016 Democratic Party Platform: https://www.democrats.org/party-platform
“It’s a simple but powerful idea: we are stronger together.
Democrats believe we are stronger when we have an economy that works for everyone—an economy that grows incomes for working people, creates good-paying jobs, and puts a middle-class life within reach for more Americans. Democrats believe we can spur more sustainable economic growth, which will create good-paying jobs and raise wages. And we can have more economic fairness, so the rewards are shared broadly, not just with those at the top. We need an economy that prioritizes long-term investment over short-term profit-seeking, rewards the common interest over self-interest, and promotes innovation and entrepreneurship.”
From the 2016 Republican Platform we see: https://prod-cdn-static.gop.com/media/documents/DRAFT_12_FINAL%5b1%5d-ben_1468872234.pdf
“Republicans consider the establishment of a pro-growth tax code a moral imperative. More than any other public policy, the way government raises revenue — how much, at what rates, under what circumstances, from whom, and for whom — has the greatest impact on our economy’s performance. It powerfully influences the level of economic growth and job creation, which translates into the level of opportunity for those who would otherwise be left behind. Getting our tax system right will be the most important factor in driving the entire economy back to prosperity.”
The full preamble, outlines and statements can be read by following the links above if you want to see the specifics.
To a lesser degree, candidates at all levels usually have their own platforms, based loosely around that of their preferred party. If they’re running for United States Congress (either Senate or House) they’re likely to hug their party line more tightly. But they should also be concerned with issues that directly affect their state and its population. This would mean something like keeping a strategic military base in their district, securing needed infrastructure repairs, or maybe some local concern with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) or the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Some candidates take on special priorities, as well. They may have interests in foreign policy, economic trade policy, law enforcement or education, to illustrate a few. Incumbents will have a voting record that they may use to show their effectiveness (or lack, thereof). Even if they don’t mention it, you should go to the government website and check it to see if they’ve voted as they portray themselves.
This link shows all recorded voting per each bill. https://www.govtrack.us/congress/votes
This is the link for general “report card” information, and is really useful in checking to see how your representatives are performing. It lists bill sponsors, committees and so forth: https://www.govtrack.us/congress/members/report-cards/2016
In addition, most Senators and Representatives have a webpage that contains their individual voting records.
The webpage of each Senator or House Representative should tell you several things. First, it should tell you a little bit about the person – age, basic education, family status, military experience, previous job experience, etc. Then it should tell you about any special experience, education or talent that might give his or her qualifications an additional boost. Lastly, it should provide the platform, or at least a few paragraphs on what the intended accomplishments will be if elected to office.
Here are some ideas on the topics that might be covered in a party platform:
- Do an evaluation on redundant social programs, merge where possible.
- Rate needs and set a plan for infrastructure improvements, including nuclear plants, dams, the electrical grid, oil pipelines and water / sewage plants.
- Send engineers and project managers to all Territories and evaluate their infrastructure needs – especially the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico as relates to recent hurricanes.
- Consider adding Puerto Rico as 51st state.
- Develop a stronger Bureau of Indian Affairs / Reevaluate and strengthen tribal agreements.
It’s not just Congressional Senators and Representatives that we need to follow. We also elect Governors, State Legislators, and other state officials such as Treasurer, Secretary, etc. In addition, we should do our due diligence on the lower levels of government, as well. When we vote, we are choosing the people who will determine how our taxes are raised or lowered, what businesses our community attracts, how educational needs are addressed, and so much more. We elect officials to our county, our city or township, and even to our school boards, as well as local judges.
Each one of these people should be presenting an overview of their positions on all the current concerns – A Platform. Most will only be a paragraph or two after a short bio. Many states send out a booklet prior to elections that list the candidates and an abbreviated platform to save us from having to do a lot of research. Some of us simply don’t have the time to look everyone up online. That’s when these booklets can come in handy. If we want to know more after looking that over, then we can go look up someone or something specific that we need to investigate.
The candidates who hold town halls or speak at rallies will have “talking points” which are the more popular considerations in that given area. On the west coast, a talking point might be innovation and technology. In the Midwest, it might be farming subsidies. On the East coast it could be climate concerns, and in the south it might involve oil rigs in the gulf. These may or may not be part of their actual platform.
In today’s world, we’re fortunate to have the Internet, and the ability to read and research without going to the library or waiting to hear a speech. But we must use it! If we vote blindly, we risk setting our own needs back by years because we didn’t find out first what the person we want to vote for will do with the power we give them. It’s our job as constituents to hold them to their promises, and vote them out if they don’t follow their own platforms. – END