From a reader of this page:
In a time of such division and strife, I thought that reviewing the two-party platforms from 2008 could prove to be a valuable mental exercise, specifically the opening Preambles. In reviewing the 2020 Republican Party Platform, it quickly becomes evident that the GOP adopted the 2016 Party Platform without changes. Is this standard operating procedure for a major party? Former President Obama’s Presidency and what was written as the party platform in 2008, with the eye and understanding of hindsight from 2021, is worth reading.
All historical Party Platforms can be found at The American Presidency Project, and while the platforms do not appear to be easily downloaded in their native formatting, they are available to read and print to PDF.
On the surface, the platforms appear to be very similar. The Democratic Platform equates to 71 pages, while the Republican Party Platform comes in at a tidy 75 pages. The RPP opens with a quote from America the Beautiful by Katharine Lee Bates, and the DPP opens with the title “Renewing America’s Promise.”
Are there any similarities between that slogan and “Make America Great Again” of former President Donald Trump’s 2016 Republican Campaign? For local reference, as I’m sure many readers are probably well aware, the lyrics to America the Beautiful were originally penned as the poem by Katharine Lee Bates while she taught a summer course at Colorado College.
DEMOCRATIC PARTY PREAMBLE
The Democratic Party Platform opens its Preamble with statements that America has defeated fascism and communism, and it holds the belief that every American, regardless of background, should have the chance to secure education, jobs with good wages, provide for families, live in a safe place, and retire with security. The preamble goes on to articulate that affordable health care is a “basic right,” and that with hard work, Americans can “enjoy a brighter future.”
The opening message definitely feels light and airy with a strong noble sense of patriotism. The next line, though, simply states that “We Can Do Better,” another eerie link to the Make America Great Again mantra of the 2016 Republican Campaign. The Democratic Party Platform further asserts that the 2000-2008 Bush Administrations failed to respond adequately to the many disasters from financial, weather, to man-made disasters in the form of many foreign wars. The implication of the platform is that the politics of former President George Bush’s Administration “have taken their toll on (the) economy, our security, and our reputation.”
Considering that the party’s platform is filled with platitudes and speaks directly to the party loyalists, the preamble then unfolds with untrue statements relating to the various disasters. For instance, the massive devastation of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, with accounts of homeowners trapped on rooftops, is portrayed as a failure of the Bush administrations. While tragic, the situations that harrowed Katrina are filled with nuances and complexities that simply cannot be traced to a single source but rather attributed to a massive government bureaucracy.
As the Democratic Party Preamble comes to a close, the word “change” appears five times in the closing remarks. Overall, “change” makes 36 appearances compared to the 21 appearances in the Republican Party document.
REPUBLICAN PARTY PREAMBLE
The Republican Party’s Preamble wastes no time reminding voters about the attacks of September 11th – the opening line of the Preamble jumps straight to the point that “the 9/11 attacks were a pivotal point in our national experience.” Considering the year 2008 was just a mere seven years after the attacks and left a fresh scar, the nation had experienced many other national and worldwide trauma in the years that passed. The Republican Party Platform equates the 9/11 attacks with a commitment to National Defense and Rule of Law. That term, “Rule of Law,” is repeated 14 times throughout the document (appearing just three times in the Dem Preamble).
The common feelings represented in the Republicans’ Preamble are sorrow, strength, and faith. Uncertainty is mentioned, but it is asserted that the GOP is the party that can lead through the uncertainty, while “reckless political forces could imperil that goal and endanger our nation.” That thought is presented to the reader at the start of the second paragraph. The GOP Preamble describes the values of the Republican Party and attempts to convince the reader that the Republican Party represents independent minds, and the GOP is accepting of Americans of all political persuasions. “We do not fear disagreement, and we do not demand conformity,” the Preamble continues, suggesting that certain segments may disagree, at least perceptually.
As the Republican Party Preamble draws to a close, respect and honor are paid to the previous Bush Administration. The Preamble also features an introduction and homage to the late Senator, John McCain, the party’s 2008 nominee. Gratefulness to Almighty God is given (God appears once in the Democratic Party Platform as the adjective “God-given”). It is interesting to note that former President Barrack Obama is not introduced until much later in the Democratic Party Platform.
Author Michael Kinsley penned an OpEd in 2008 in which he offers a reading guide to decoding the Democratic Party Platform. Reading his OpEd and reading both documents side by side may prove to be a valuable exercise in decoding the meanings and goals of both parties.
We now have the benefit of knowing how the decade that followed unfolded. We’re still here. Perhaps, we are barely here at times, but optimistically most of us will still be here in another decade. One thought that does jump out to me is knowing that there are 330 Million of me and my fellow brethren Americans, each of us with an opinion of the National Political Stage; sometimes it’s best to recall the Serenity Prayer.
“God, grant me Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, and Wisdom to know the difference.”