Politics

Party Platforms Matter

| by Mark Jones
Flags wave at the Democratic National Convention in DenverFlags wave at the Democratic National Convention in Denver

Political platforms will always remain pertinent to the election process for candidates and voters alike.

Many critics argue that platforms are irrelevant today.  Voters are either Democrats or Republicans, and they will vote one self-proclaimed way or the other.

This stance, however, does not give due credit to the American voting population.  The United States of America was founded on the idea that citizens of the country should have a voice in their government’s proceedings.  To say that voters carry a label for life and blindly vote in one direction discredits everything that the founding fathers worked to accomplish.

Platforms are not just a formality.  When a candidate uses a platform to outline promises to the American people, he or she makes a promise about future decisions and personal beliefs.   Americans should be able to trust platforms when making important voting decisions.

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Platforms force candidates to take a stance on important issues.  Nowhere has this point been made clearer than in preparations for the upcoming Democratic National Convention.  

Bernie Sanders hesitated to endorse Clinton until she promised to change some of her proposed policies.  After adopting some of his ideas, thereby moving plans to be outlined in the Democratic platform further left, Clinton gained the official support of Sanders.

The Democratic Party would be wise to include some of Sanders’ ideas in their platform, set to be released on July 25. Fervent Sanders followers will be more apt to offer votes to Clinton if she can promise the American public many of the promises that the ultra-left-wing liberal proposed during his campaign.

Platforms allow voters to align themselves with real beliefs, not just parties or specific individuals.

Of course, the argument against platforms often includes the idea that political leaders fail to act in ways consistent with originally outlined platform goals. Recent studies in political science, however, prove otherwise.

Lee Payne, an associate professor of political science at Stephen F. Austin State University extensively studied Democratic and Republican Party platforms from 1980 to 2004.  After reading every platform, he compared their goals and standards to actual outcomes in Washington D.C.  In contrast to popular criticisms of party platforms, Payne’s research revealed that political leaders acted in line with their platforms more than 80 percent of the time.

Furthermore, the exercise of forming a political platform forces a party to band together to propose a list of intentions to offer the American people before a presidential election.

In a recent study conducted by the Pew Research Center, researchers found that fewer than 40 percent of Republican voters believe that their party will unite behind Donald Trump.  Leaders, voters, and party members may be able to unite, however, behind a well-thought-out platform.

The Constitutional Rights Foundation points out the importance of political platforms in campaigning.  In a process that is so convoluted by media, accusations, and other extraneous information, a platform presents a clear set of ideals for candidates to address in debates and speeches.

Platforms are not a waste of time.  They are an important exercise for party members and presidential candidates.  Additionally, they represent knowledge that voters deserve to take into account when entering voting booths.

Political platforms are here to stay. 

Click here for the opposing view on this topic.

Sources: Pew Research Center, Vox, Constitutional Rights Foundation / Photo credit: Kelly DeLay/Flickr

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