CLEVELAND – While they didn’t achieve their ultimate goal, the runners-up in the two major presidential nomination battles have left their mark on the official policies and positions of their respective parties, the 2016 Democratic Party Platform and the 2016 Republican Party Platform.
Sen. Bernie Sanders said Monday night in his speech at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia that after “significant coming together” between his campaign and the Hillary Clinton campaign, “we produced, by far, the most progressive platform in the history of the Democratic Party.”
Meanwhile, in Cleveland last week, delegates for Sen. Ted Cruz dominated the platform committee, influencing what Texas delegate and platform committee member David Barton described as “the most conservative” GOP platform in his lifetime.
Barton, known for his research and writing on America’s founding, told WND in an interview that he also has read many of the party platforms issued before his lifetime, and the 2016 edition may be the most conservative ever.
“From a principles standpoint, I don’t know that there’s a platform more conservative than what we have here,” said Barton, founder and president of the Aledo, Texas-based group WallBuilders.
“It’s the most pro-life platform that Republicans have ever had,” he continued. “I think it’s the strongest pro-family, traditional family platform we’ve ever had. The position it takes on rebuilding the military, military strength is exceptionally good.”
Barton was director of Keep the Promise PAC, which supported Sen. Ted Cruz for president, and he formerly served as vice chairman for the Republican Party of Texas.
The GOP platform declares regarding the family: “Traditional marriage and family, based on marriage between one man and one woman, is the foundation for a free society and has for millennia been entrusted with rearing children and instilling cultural values.”
Sanders on Monday night boasted of the Democrat platform’s “progressive” features. They include tougher financial oversight for big banks, a requirement that the Justice Department “investigate all questionable or suspicious police-involved shootings,” raising the minimum wage “over time” to $15 and hour and repealing the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits tax dollars from being used to fund abortion.
Barton, whose books about the Founders include “The Jefferson Lies: Exposing The Myths You’ve Always Believed about Thomas Jefferson” and “Benjamin Rush: Signer Of The Declaration of Independence,” said the Republican platform’s foundation is the constitutional principle that there are 17 powers enumerated to the federal government, and “everything outside those 17 belongs to the 10th Amendment and the states.”
Many of the principles of the Declaration of Independence, which undergird the Constitution, can be seen in the platform, Barton said.
“We just take a limited-government, Judeo-Christian, constitutional, Declaration framework and approach to all of the problems,” he said.
“It’s real consistent all the way throughout,” he said. “So I think it’s really, really good.”
The preamble to the platform opens:
We believe in American exceptionalism.
We believe the United States of America is unlike any other nation on earth.
We believe America is exceptional because of our historic role — first as refuge, then as defender, and now as exemplar of liberty for the world to see.
We affirm — as did the Declaration of Independence: that all are created equal, endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
We believe in the Constitution as our founding document.
We believe the Constitution was written not as a flexible document, but as our enduring covenant.
The Democratic Party preamble emphasizes unity, staring in part:
In 2016, Democrats meet in Philadelphia with the same basic belief that animated the Continental Congress when they gathered here 240 years ago: Out of many, we are one.
Democrats believe that cooperation is better than conflict, unity is better than division, empowerment is better than resentment, and bridges are better than walls.
It’s a simple but powerful idea: we are stronger together.
What your party will do
While presidents and candidates aren’t necessarily bound by their party’s platform, the document reflects the will of the party’s base and can by used by voters to keep their elected officials accountable and to guide them in selecting candidates.
Barton explained that regardless of what any one candidate says, “this is what your party will do when it’s in office.”
“You’re always going to have candidates who say too much or not enough about the platform, whether they disagree with it or would go further, but this is where the institution of that party will move,” he said.
“One of the things I love doing is taking platform comparisons side by side, for me on conservative issues. What do they say about God? What do they say about life? What do they both say about marriage? What do they both say about national security? And you will find vast differences,” he said.
“So you may have a candidate who says really good things, but his party may not believe that, which means when he gets in Congress, it’s going to go the way his party wants, not the way he wants.”
He said every citizen, whether Republican or Democrat, ought to read both platforms and compare them.
What politics is all about
Barton pointed out that the closer one gets to the local level, the more the Republican platform is followed, noting 42 percent of Americans identify as Republican, but the party has 54 percent of the Senate, 57 percent of the House, 62 percent of the governors and 68 percent of state legislators.
“So, what that means is the higher up you go, the less they follow the platform. But at the state level, the local level, the platform means something. They follow those principles,” he said.
The nation votes 26 percent higher Republican than identifies Republican at the lower levels, he said, “because they like those principles, they like family, they like life, they like those things.”
That translates into frustration among the base with the federal government, which “tends not to follow those principles.”
“So, that’s always the fight that we as conservatives have, in the primaries, trying to get people in office, replace those that won’t follow the principles with those that will,” he said. “That’s what politics is all about on the internal side.
“You try to get more people in the primaries that are closer to what your platform says,” he explained. “That’s where you try to move it.”
Law of history
Barton offered a historian’s perspective on the formation of the platform.
“It’s a law of history that you will craft your public policies to reflect what you believe your history to be,” he said.
He cited Orwell’s adage that “he who controls the past controls the future” and “he who controls the present, controls the past.”
“So, the people right now are the ones who write what history looks like, and they change history to make it be what they want their policies to be,” Barton said.
He pointed to some who insist that America was never a secular nation because they don’t want it to be secular today.
But that is not the historical truth, Barton insisted.
“Now, you can say, ‘I don’t care what history said, I don’t want it to be religious today.’ That’s a different argument,” he said.
Some, however, try to use the Founding Fathers to assert American is a secular nation.
“What I try to do is make sure history is accurate and correct,” Barton said. “And then you get policies based on that. And if you don’t like history, then say, ‘Alright, in this area I reject it and will do something different.'”
He said people don’t realize the Founders addressed issues such as abortion, homosexuals in the military and bailing out private businesses deemed to big to fail.
“We think that’s a modern argument. It’s not,” he said. “It’s the technology that changes. Not the argument that changes.”
He noted the Founders also dealt with whether or not Islam was a religion of peace, citing Washington’s and Jefferson’s determination to eliminate the Barbary Pirates.
Asked if he has had any feedback on the impact of his historical research, Barton said he’s “told regularly, by people in Congress and by people in state legislatures, that they got inspired to run because of hearing me.”
“Hopefully that makes a difference,” he said, “hopefully they’re the good guys.”