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Democratic Issues Platform Reflects Obama, Clinton

  • Chris Hannas

FILE - Supporters of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton hold signs and flags, March 22, 2016, during a campaign rally at Rainier Beach High School in Seattle, Wash.

FILE - Supporters of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton hold signs and flags, March 22, 2016, during a campaign rally at Rainier Beach High School in Seattle, Wash.

Republicans are casting a possible Hillary Clinton presidency as another term for the policies of the country’s current President Barack Obama. The platform of party positions put forth by the Democratic Party at its convention in Philadelphia suggests Democrats would be just fine with that.

Obama "still enjoys great favorability, so I think that it’s not that it’s necessarily emblematic of one person, but it’s of the philosophy of where the party approaches, especially on foreign policy issues,” Democratic strategist Penny Lee told VOA.

The foreign policy section of the platform in part reads like a list of highlights from the past eight years that the Obama White House might write.

It supports the agreement the U.S. and five other world powers implemented this year to curtail Iran’s nuclear program in response to fears Iran was working to build a nuclear weapon.

It says the U.S. would be safer in a world with fewer weapons of mass destruction, harkening back to a 2009 speech Obama gave in Prague calling for a worldwide commitment to move toward a world without nuclear arms.

"As the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon, the United States has a moral responsibility to act," he said. "We cannot succeed in this endeavor alone, but we can lead it, we can start it.

"So today, I state clearly and with conviction America's commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons."

IS, Guantanamo, interrogation methods

The Democrats want to confront Islamic State by leading a coalition effort against the militants, uniting the Syrian opposition and working toward a political transition in Syria. Their platform also calls for working to help “innocent people who are fleeing persecution while ensuring rigorous screening and vetting.” They oppose Republican Donald Trump’s proposal to ban Muslims from entering the country.

FILE - The sun rises over the Guantanamo detention facility at the Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base, Cuba, May 13, 2009.

FILE - The sun rises over the Guantanamo detention facility at the Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base, Cuba, May 13, 2009.

The party also retains its commitment to closing the U.S. detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, something Obama made a priority when he took office in 2009. While many of the hundreds of detainees have been transferred to other countries, more than 70 still remain.

The platform condemns Trump’s statements signaling his willingness to allow the military to conduct enhanced interrogations of detainees that amount to torture.

“We will always seek to uphold our values at home and abroad, not just when it is easy, but when it is hard,” the platform reads.

Obama banned the methods, but Trump says they would be a necessary tool to gain intelligence.

The Democrats also highlight climate change as “a real and urgent threat to our economy, our national security, and our children’s health and futures.”

FILE - President Barack Obama and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton embrace during a campaign rally, July 5, 2016, in Charlotte, N.C..

FILE - President Barack Obama and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton embrace during a campaign rally, July 5, 2016, in Charlotte, N.C..

Clinton's influence

While the Democrats feature many Obama policies, they also point to the influence of their nominee who served as his first secretary of state.

“I think it makes sense that the platform reflects a number of priorities of this administration because Secretary Clinton was the secretary of state in the administration,” Democratic strategist Winnie Stachelberg told VOA. "I do think one key piece here on foreign policy is that Secretary Clinton has had such deep experience in the foreign policy arena as being a senator, a first lady and secretary of state that I think it is a particularly deep and compelling roadmap of how she would govern.”

On trade, the broad descriptions in the Democratic platform signal at least some similarity between the country’s two major parties.

It says the U.S. should develop trade policies that support jobs at home and should be ready to review existing agreements. It also calls for holding countries that manipulate their currency and use other unfair trade practices accountable. Those basic ideas are in the Republican platform as well.

“That would be great to find some ways in which they can work together,” Democratic strategist Lee said. But she was pessimistic about that actually happening, blaming Republicans for blocking work in Congress.

“It’s really hard to make progress or get anything done when you just have an incredible loyal opposition just because they want to oppose something.”

Some key differences between the parties show up in the section on national defense where Democrats urge an end to wasteful defense spending, support the opening of combat positions to women and welcome anyone joining the military regardless of religion, sexual orientation or gender identity.

Former Democratic Presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders takes the stage during the first day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, July 25, 2016.

Former Democratic Presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders takes the stage during the first day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, July 25, 2016.

Sanders' impact

Domestic issues show the clear influence of Senator Bernie Sanders, the chief challenger to Clinton in the race for the Democratic nomination. Sanders remained in the race through the final primary election and earned slots on the committee that drafted the platform.

The committee agreed that the national minimum wage should be raised to $15 per hour and that work needs to be done to make college more affordable, both of which were demands from Sanders during his campaign.

“One would not call this a platform fight, but it is true that there were discussions and debates and meetings and conversations about the Democratic platform that people hadn’t seen for decades,” Stachelberg said. “And the reason is because Senator Sanders stayed in the race and was able to have a say in the platform."

The platform urges equal pay for women, reforms for Wall Street and tax increases on the richest Americans. It also calls for criminal justice reforms, abolishing the death penalty and supporting comprehensive changes to the nation’s immigration policy.

“The Democratic Party supports legal immigration, within reasonable limits, that meets the needs of families, communities, and the economy as well as maintains the United States’ role as a beacon of hope for people seeking safety, freedom, and security,” the platform says.

Stachelberg said the platform makes a “bold statement” about the party’s priorities.

“I think that that’s what this Democratic platform does in specifics when it comes to counterterrorism, when it comes to defeating ISIS, when it comes to Syria and other domestic issues.”

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